| I think I climbed Pigeon & Turret
So you're feeling pretty good about a recent trip. You're thinking it might even be trip report material. You know...cool peak, unusual route, difficult conditions...maybe all of the above. Word of advice...don't read a Steve Gladbach report right before you write it. And definitely don't read a Steve Gladbach report and then watch an episode of "I Shouldn't Be Alive".
Despite those odds...here it goes anyway.
I turn on my out of office email message and leave work...FREE!!
I left the Springs around 8am bound for Silverton. John Grisham's Street Lawyer kept my mind occupied for the 5 1/2 hour ride. I got to the train depot with plenty of time to spare...plenty of time to admire all the young, fit people who were hanging out not taking pictures of the train.
Of course I joined them...
At 4:15pm I was the lone hiker dropped off at Needleton. After waving to all the tourists wondering what the hell I was doing, I put my pack on and started the quick hike to my campsite.
Lower Camper's Meadow...8260'
After setting up my tent I had a little fun, stolled the banks of the Animas, checked out the confusing start to the Ruby Lake Trail, ate some cheese & crackers, watched the clouds roll in, and listened to the coyote and elk. Damn I love this sh*t.
Not a great start to the day. I woke up around midnight to a huge thunder and lightning storm. I went to sleep thinking, "I'm glad we got that out of the way. No way it will rain all night."
When my alarm went off at 5am it was pouring. I took my time getting ready, hoping it would stop raining by the time I was ready to leave. It didn't. I started off at 6am in miserable conditions.
At 6:45am I reached the aspen with the columbine carved in it. This is where you turn off the Ruby Lake Trail and start the fun bushwack into North Pigeon Creek. This bushwack is even more fun when all the bushes are soaking wet. It didn't take long for the water to make it through my boots and into my socks. Sweet. I can't wait for it to get colder so I can get frostbite.
I kept looking for a sign. Hell yeah..those are my initials in the aspen...bring on the sun.
Not so much
The rain changed to snow around 11,000’.
This meadow is at 11,700’. I’m guessing the view of Pigeon’s west face from here would be pretty incredible. The route up Pigeon heads left of the cliffs…to get to Turret you head up the scree field right of the cliffs.
At this point I was getting really concerned about my feet. I could feel the water sloshing around and now it was getting cold. The only thing I could do was switch out my socks. This helped a little, but my boots were still soaked.
Now for the fun part…finding my way up Pigeon in a whiteout. I know the route basically goes up the West Face and eventually slightly left and onto the North Face. The GPS was useless at this point and the compass was only slightly helpful. I just told myself to only climb up what I could climb down. This was easier to do than I expected. The climbing was fun and I only found 1 section I would consider to be class 4…and even that was avoidable.
I would guess this was at around 13,300’. The class 4 section started up towards that little cave and traversed left.
Summer in Colorado
At 10:36am I reached the summit of Pigeon. The only reason I know is because of my GPS. No summit register in sight.
Thanks to the soft cushion of snow, I made quick work of the descent back towards the meadow. Here’s a picture taken on the descent.
Decision time…to Turret or not to Turret? It was around 11am and the skies were showing signs of clearing. I wasn’t catching the train till the next day, so time wasn’t an issue. But I was still worried about my feet. I couldn’t feel any of my toes at this point. I decided to take a little break and try to dry out a little before attempting Turret. When I took my socks off I was able to wring the water out of them. That was kind of scary, but made a big difference later.
I was able to locate a faint trail and a few cairns that went under Pigeon’s cliffs and around towards the Pigeon Turret saddle. As I passed up and over a ridge on Pigeon’s south side the wind picked up, I started to hear thunder and it started to snow again.
Near the saddle
During a brief clearing I was able to get this shot of Turret. The route hits a ridge and heads left of this face.
I’ve been reading Steve House’s book and couldn’t help but think about the possibilities he would see…climb that skinny piece of ice there, traverse left on that 2 inch wide ledge, climb over that roof…summit. No big deal. I was starting to think of declaring my day an “Epic”. He would probably laugh at that. At least he might appreciate my “fast and light” approach.
Back to the business at hand. The elevation gain was starting to get to me and my pace was slowing. This was not ideal because the thunder was getting closer. I really wasn’t worried about it though…there was no sign of lighting and it was snowing. There can’t be lightning when it’s snowing right?
As I got close to the summit, I could hear the all to familiar sound of my ice axe buzzing. At 12:47pm I reached the summit of Turret, raised my camera to take this picture, I heard the camera buzzing.
Hmmm…that’s a first. I quickly ran down for some cover in the rocks so I could shoot a quick video for my wife. As soon as I turned off the camera the sky lit up. It was incredibly bright, but I didn’t see any bolts. The thunder came immediately after and it was deafening. I’ve always felt like I’m in a movie…like I’m always being watched or video taped. If that is true, can someone please send the video of me on 9/17 from 12:47pm till 1:08pm. It would be something to see. I ran as fast as I could down that mountain…it was now hailing sideways, thunder, lightning, wrong turns, tripping over rocks, yelling at nothing. It would look like the final scene in the Truman Show…except on a mountain instead of the ocean.
In 21 minutes I was back down at the meadow at 11,700’. The thunder had pretty much stopped but it was snowing hard now and that was ok. It felt like a powder day in the middle of winter. My tracks from earlier were completely covered and the trees were all white. I was safe, proud and excited about getting back to my tent. Down I went.
When I got back to the bushwack section, it was pouring again. I must have fallen 20 times before getting back to the Ruby Lake Trail.
Like walking through a mile long car wash
At 2:35pm, 5 minutes outside of camp, the sun decided to make an appearance. Thanks for coming out!
After putting out all my stuff to dry, I headed to the river to find the well-earned beers I had stashed on Friday. I drank my beers and watched all the clouds float away. Unbelieveable. How was this the same day?
Woke up to a perfect morning. The train wasn’t scheduled until 11:45am so I had plenty of time to continue my drying operation and pack up camp.
Here is the only picture of Pigeon I was able to get on the whole trip. This was taken from the hill above the Needleton Bridge.
This is my 3rd time catching the train out of Needleton / Elk Park. Is that train ever on time? It was 30 minutes late this day, and it’s hard not to let bad thoughts of being stuck there creep into your head. But it did come and I enjoyed my hour and 15 minute ride back to civilization.
Just another incredible view from the Durange to Silverton Train
My ride back to the Springs was not completely uneventful. Just when I was thinking it was nice to be in my car, listening to the Broncos, seeing people….I get screamed at by some deranged “Ordained Minister” motorcycle rider for riding too close behind him. He said f*ck at least 20 times in our brief encounter. He must put on one hell of a show in church.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):