| Ridge Runs in the Gores
Sunrise over the Gores
Boulder Lakes 13ers (from Pitkin) :
Climber’s Point (13,005)
Mount Solitude (13,090)
Vista Point (13,075)
Climbers : D Baker, Mtnfiend, Lordhelmut and Rijaca (day 2)
Solid weekend in the Gores. The forecast on NOAA looked pretty abysmal, but then again, monsoon season is upon us in Colorado, so nothing really to get worked up over. Darin has been in Texas, working out in the hot sun against his will, deprived of his peak bagging. Fortunately, he was able to get his checkbox fix in the Eagles Nest Wilderness outside Vail, Colorado, so hopefully that will hold him over for a couple of weeks, months, years, etc.
Speaking of checkboxes, hows this? :
Ice Lakes Basin plans fall through after 2 months of planning at last minute : Check
I talk Rick in to hitting the Gores as a Plan B on Friday morning : Check
I meet Rick at his house 7 minutes late, despite Friday traffic, bags fully packed : Check
Jimmy Johns : Check
Find Darin in Pitkin Creek : Check
Happy Campers : Check (in more ways than one!)
Isn’t it just great when plan B’s go this smoothly? I’d like to think so. That’s why the Gores are so amazing. Not only do they offer a plethora of plan A’s, but they provide a close, bang for your buck, plan B. Its like the Cal Ripken Range, you can always count on them to deliver, and in this case, rain or shine.
Anyways, with regards to the weather, I could only help but think of a famous Blazing Saddles quote.
"Weathermen? We don't need no stinkin' weathermen!"
With that being said, the overcast skies and light drizzles Rick and I experienced on the approach were much welcomed. We found Darin around 9:30pm, just as we donned headlamps and pitched camp, making home for the next 48 hours.
With a high percentage of t-storms, we woke up at 3:45am, and hit the trail around 4:50am. We experienced sun for the majority of the morning and were treated to views like this :
Vista "Pinnacle" alpenglow
Our destination for this morning was “Usable Pass”, between Peak W and “Vista Peak”. Jon Bradford’s Summitpost page does an excellent job of describing this region in detail and the origins of the naming of “Usable Pass” is unknown, at least to me. The mysterious “Ormes Atlas” seems to hold the key to a lot of answers in the Gores. To quote Jon “The process of educating one’s self about these mountains is quite rewarding. Hand label your maps”. This couldn’t be more true. My Trails Illustrated “Vail, Frisco, Dillon” map, which contains a solid 85-90% of the range, is weathered and littered with labels. I don’t even want to think about how awful that would be if I lost it.
We chose this approach due to time constraints and schedules. Darin was planning to meet Nancy (Sunny1) and Ricky (Rijaca) Sunday morning and Rick and I had 2 full days to work with. Boulder Creek is a drainage none of us had explored, but it’s a logistical headache and much longer. While I often have vivid dreams about the utopian landscape that are the drainages of the Eastern Gores, and I view these areas in the same regard as places such as the Weminuche, I realize there is a time and place for them. Last minute, 2 day plans are not one of them. Anyways, it’s a place to explore in the future.
Back to “Usable Pass”. Mike Rodenack (Chicago transplant) and Scot Osbourne (Floyd) had suggested this as a viable alternative to Boulder Creek and raved about the views from Pk.X. We were all very excited for the view and it certainly did not disappoint.
Peak X from Usable Pass
When you climb in a range long enough, specially one as small as the Gores, you have the tendency to become complacent with the amazing things around you. I’d like to think that wasn’t the case for me personally, but even if it was, the X/Y/Z ridgeline revived any emotions I had buried deep down. I could tell Darin was enjoying himself and Rick was just eating up the scrambling.
The views along the way were otherworldly, even for the Gores. I wish my diction could do these peaks justice, but I was a history major, so I’ll just let the next 2 shots do all the talking :
Slate Creek group in the morning
Closeup of Peak Q
Darin beginning the X/Y/Z ridge
We reached the summit of Peak X around 8am, a little over 3 hours from setting off. The views were sublime and the summit register was brand spanking new. Joe Kramarsic refers to X as one of the most remote peaks in the range, unfortunately it didn’t feel that way, since we approached it from Pitkin, but we were able to find that sense of solitude on Peak Z later in the day.
When viewing the X/Y/Z ridge from the South, mainly from Keller, the obvious obstacle appears to be the descent off X towards Y. Luckily, we found a weakness in the northern slopes around the slabs that make up the east face of the peak.
descent off X
The aesthetics of the ridge began immediately. The scrambling was never too difficult, the exposure never too intense and the route finding never too complicated, but when you group the above average-ness of them all together, you have yourself one damn fine Gore ridge run.
looking back on X
Rick and the Partners
"F**king Quintana, that creep can roll man" (Rick showing how its done)
After we crested Peak Y, which is nothing more than a mid-sized hump along the ridge, we were stopped dead in our tracks at a prominent tower, just above an obvious notch with Peak Z’s westerly grass/talus slopes. We descended around 200 feet to climber’s right, making some stout, 4th class moves to a talus field below. Just be sure now to kick rocks down at this section.
Looking back on impassable notch in ridge
This was the only section of the day where we had inherent dangers, but easily avoidable. We easily regained the vertical back to the saddle and then slogged up to the summit of Peak Z, with a few sections of easy class 3, unexposed sections to boot.
approaching Z's summit
We reached the summit of Z around 10:15am or so and took a nice long break. The sense of solitude was ever greater than X and the views of the Northern Gores could bring the hardest of the hard to tears. It’s comical to compare the view from the summit of Vestal to just about anything in the state of Colorado, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Z is a worthy adversary. The Gore is the Weminuche’s long lost forgotten cousin anyway.
Now the real fun began. It was time for Pk.Z “prime”. I hate to step on the toes of those that have come before me, but this peak shall now be referred to as Pk Z Prime”time” or “Deion Sanders Peak”. This goes against the very essence of the reclusive Gores, As Mr. Sanders was a loud mouth, punk ass, Florida St Alum who probably majored in impregnating women, but it just stuck. Just as Deion felt he deserved a salary that equaled a QB’s, Z-Prime probably feels it deserves just as much respect and attention as its larger, ranked neighbor. We felt like multi-sport athletes, scaling the knife edge that is Z-prime. This peak was flat out fun.
"Deion Sanders Peak"
Long way down
It was approaching noon and storms were starting to enclose on our location. We descended the talus slopes of the Z group to the Upper Boulder drainage, threw on our rain shells and made way for “Usable Pass”. Around 1pm, the rain really started to pick up and the thunder was getting close. Lucky for us, after refilling on liquids at a fine high alpine lake, we were fortunate enough to find a perfectly placed alcove in the cliff bands to wait out the storm.
We placed our poles a couple yards away to be safe and then lounged for a solid 35-40 minutes, waiting out the storm.
Storm a comin'
really cool lake in Upper Boulder
Waitin out the storm
I had my ipod touch with me in my pack, so we listened to some Jethro Tull, which fit the mood perfectly, as the weather rolled through. The thunder never really threatened and the rain subsided long enough for us to make a run for “Usable Pass”. After a brief talus traverse, we reached the base of the scree covered pass, traversed a quick snow slope and were munching on the remainder of our snacks at the pass proper in no time.
regaining Usable Pass
The descent went smoothly and we were able to scout out a descent option from Solitude for Sunday before making our way back to camp.
Home sweet home
After a quick nap and tortolini meal (w/ grated parmesean and srachi sauce), we waited out the rain and then reconvened at camp, reminiscing the day. It was refreshing to see the excitement on Rick’s face, being a recent Gore convert. The excitement of the range was apparent and we spent the remainder of the evening talking about future endeavors, past adventures and how fortunate we were to be there.
An eerie mist combed through the basin before the sun went down and not too much later, the rain brought the pain. My newly acquired REI ASL 3-man tent deflected the moisture admirably and we slept in dry comfort for the remainder of the evening. Word to the wise. Anyone looking for a solid sleeping pad, be sure to check out the Big Agnes Q-Core. It’s the first pad that actually rivals a mattress at home and weighs in at a feather light 23 ounces. Easily, the best inflatable pad I’ve ever owned.
Alarm went off later on Sunday, 6am. We descended the trail to the 2nd waterfall crossing along the trail to meet Nancy and Ricky. They showed up around 7:30am. Nancy wasn’t feeling it on this day and decided to take a hike to the lake, while Ricky rounded out the group to 4 and we were off.
The ascent goes up a large, obvious gulley between Skiers Point and Climbers Point. It goes on forever. With Ricky joining the group dynamic, conversations were revived with tales of adventure throughout the state of Colorado, as well as epics on Gannett Peak and beyond. It’s always refreshing to hear perspectives from fellow adventurers, at the very least, it keeps your mind occupied and not so focused on the slog at hand.
The views of the surrounding peaks were unique :
Spider and Fly
Ridge to Climber's Pt
We all reached “Climber’s Point” soon enough and enjoyed views down in to Boulder Drainage and the peaks to the South. The snowfield on the north face serves as the headwaters for Boulder Creek and the naming of the unranked peak was listed, yet again, on Robert Ormes “Tenmile Atlas” (I really need to add that to the never ending collection of maps).
The traverse over to Mount Solitude was straightforward, with some serious cliffs to our right.
But the climb to the summit was nothing more than a walk up and Ricky and Darin were awaiting Rick and my arrival.
Ricky and Darin on Solitude
We really took our time on Solitude. With the weekend coming to a close, it was a nice ending to an already solid weekend of ridge runs and luck with the weather. I ate the rest of my Amish Swiss cheese and salami, while Ricky and Darin shared their almonds and Stacks Salt n’ Vinegar chips respectively (Lays Stacks are sold primarily at Walmart I found out from Darin. This is exciting because Stacks hold up better than Pringles and have a more powerful taste for the backcountry).
Darin and the Gore IMAX
We finished off with a little icing on the cake on “Vista Peak” which made perfect sense since our descent route came directly off its Western slopes.
And what is a Gore report without a Peak Q close up to round out the tale…..
one scary peak
The descent went flawlessly, sans Rick accidently kicking down a fridge sized rock at Ricky and Darin. We arrived at camp, broke down quickly and made the quick trek back to the cars. We all shared a meal at Lost Cajun in Frisco (home to some of the best gumbo in Colorado) and then parted ways. Rick and I decided to take 285 home, due to the 3.5 hour drive time posted at Copper Mountain (took us 1hr and 50 min from Breck to Golden).
Gores delivered again, I guess that this must be the place…..
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):