| Solitude amongst the din
With my focus and desires changing from 14ers to 13ers and more importantly, photography I spend a lot of time combing through trip reports looking for the next hike that will oblige those needs nicely. I had come across one a while back for a nice little loop of Squaretop, Argentine, and Wilcox and, in particular, remembered that it looked like a great area to see some 14ers from a different vantage point. I also remembered that when they were done they had LaMars and IPAs…
Anyhow, it inspired me to get up there on Sunday and what with all the recent talk and popularity of Dale’s Pale, I decided it was high time I toted one up to a summit too. This, however, was not the only new item I brought with me nor was it what I was really excited to put to use. I had recently picked up a new Hoya circular polarizer filter and a nice little carbon fiber tripod (pics and review in the tripod thread on the board) that weighed in at just under 3lbs with a trigger grip ball head and it was even higher time that I started shooting with these two essential pieces of gear.
The drive up Guanella was uneventful save for about a hundred cars filling almost every turn off and campsite imaginable. No doubt these were the sleeping crowds preparing to assault Bierstadt or get a jump on some great fall colors photo opportunities. I drove right passed the Silver Dollar Lakes turnoff and ended up at the Guanella Pass parking area before turning around. There were two headlamp light dots about halfway up Bierstadt and maybe three cars in the lot. I turned around and quickly found the turn off and headed up the single lane road. I was the only car in the small parking area and I knew I was in for a day of solitude and my own pace. On went the headlamp, and into the forest I dove.
The trail is easy and gently rises up out of the forest after about a half mile. It was still dark but with enough moonlight that in the wide open I could take off the headlamp and see the the area and the silhouettes of Argentine and Wilcox up the valley. I walked probably another half mile until I found a nice little clearing just off the trail with enough time to shoot argentine in the early morning wisps of sunlight.
I hung around in this spot for a while because the vantage point was so good for so many different shots. Also, truthfully, I had a great view behind me of the steep gully up Squaretop to the shoulder that I knew I would be climbing shortly and I’m a pretty decent procrastinator so…
Argentine (left) and Wilcox (right)
AS it turns out, the 1000 feet up to the ridge wasn’t as bad as I was thinking it would be; just rocky, grassy, and steep. The views at the top were worth another stop too.
Looking out past my immediate area was nothing but a haze fest from the fires in neighboring states and I was kinda bummed about the photo opps I thought I was going to get at Bierstadt/Sawtooth. At this hour in the morning, there was nothing to shoot that way anyhow since the sun was coming up right over it. Instead I took a pause on the accent of Squaretop to try and take advantage of the smoke and met a new friend whilst doing so…
Making the most of the haze - Pikes Peak JUST barely there
At the top of the ridge I was greeted with a half mile stroll to the actual summit of Squaretop where I took a quick snack and tried to take some self shots with the iPhone to text to my wife. After the pause, I headed down and on towards Argentine.
Looking back at Squaretop from the saddle
On the saddle I had great views of Decatur and Shelf Lake to the west, Grays and Torreys to the northwest and to the east, Wilcox and off in the distant haze, Bierstadt/Sawtooth.
Grays and Torreys proud to make an appearence
Wilcox and Murray Lake
On the summit of Argentine, I had the honor of meeting Randy from Boulder who came up from Horseshoe Basin. We sat around chatting for probably forty five minutes about mountains, our wives and their back surgeries, and his almost completing the 14ers twice at 62 which is just impressive. After a cold slice of buffalo chicken pizza, some turkey jerky and an apple, I parted company with Randy and headed on over to Wilcox.
Power lines on these higher mountains seem so out of place and ugly so I tried to make the most out of them.
After leaving Argentine at 10:45 I finally summated Wilcox at 12:15, plopped down on the east side facing Bierstadt/Sawtooth and actually really enjoyed my Dale’s! Also, the haze was starting to clear up a bit so I locked it down on the tripod and fired off some images of the gnarly looking Sawtooth.
The slope down to the forest was gentle and easy and as I kept descending, the haze kept clearing out so I took one last shot… it’s not called the Sawtooth for nothing, that’s for sure…
I ended up heading right at Naylor Lake and popped out at the larger building and walked down the dirt road. I actually passed a guy in a truck who had locked the gate down a ways and he just waved at me as I passed. Still, there are signs that say private property, I may have just been lucky.
Once back on the paved road I was flung knee deep into the throng of people driving up to the pass and the other half of them pulled off everywhere looking for shots of aspens. Oddly enough, I spotted this grove out across the valley that no one was bothering with so I decided to. The 105mm end of my lens comes in pretty handy.
Once back in Georgetown, I stop at the small consignment mountaineering hut next to the gas station and almost buy a Moonstone 800 fill expedition coat for $175 but decide that my wife would kill me so I pass. All in all, an amazing day - 11 miles, 3600 or so feet and a good workout with the camera. Thanks for reading!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):