| Hoosier Ridge, Red Peak, and (almost) Red Mountain
Saturday was a beautiful day for a hike. Not warm -- it was 20 when we left the trailhead at the top of Hoosier Ridge, and never got above 30 even in the afternoon -- but sunny and clear and (for most of the day) minimal wind. And Rich and I had a fun hike ahead of us.
From Hoosier Ridge, we headed east through the trees. The snow was hard enough that we didn't even need spikes, and our snowshoes stayed on our packs. We brought them for the return trip through treeline on the afternoon, when the snow was slushier. But, for now, it was just a really fun walk in the light woods. (photo #1)
The ascent onto the ridge was a little over a mile horizontal and over 1000 feet vertical, but it never really seemed steep. Once we got out of the trees, we were walking over grass most of the way. There was, intermittently, a faint trail or a couple of cairns, but for the most part we just made our way up the slope. Once we got up on the ridge, we could see the many (mostly snow-free) sub-peaks of the ridge stretched out before us, with snow-covered Red Mountain at the end. (photo #2)
But the views were better than just the ridge. To the south were amazing views of centeniel 13er Silverheels, and to the east Quandary, the Decalibron, and more than a dozen other 13ers. With a crystal-clear day, the views were amazing. We could even see the distinct mass of Pikes Peak in the distance to the southeast. (photo #3 and photo #4)
We were going to count the sub-peaks, but quickly lost interest in that game. None of them were too steep, just short climbs followed by even shorter descents. We got periodic bursts of wind, but nothing too strong at all. There was some snow in places, but nothing that ever made us consider getting out our spikes. The terrain was wonderful -- grass and packed dirt and rocks, none of the endless tallis fields associated with some ridge hikes. This was a very pleasant hike, and easy on the feet and ankles.
We made it to the broad anvil-shaped sub-peak with the wind shelter, and took more pictures looking straight on at the east ridge of Quandary. From here, we could see Red Mountain more clearly to the side of the official summit of Hoosier Ridge. The route was obvious, but there was one point where it was obvious that a bad-looking cornice was going to have to be crossed. We were not sure it was going to be doable, but decided to try for it first. We skirted Hoosier Ridge's main summit (we would get it on the way back from Red Peak) and made our way to the saddle. (photo #5)
We met up with two other hikers, John and Valerie. They had turned back at the cornice we had seen from a distance, but were willing to go up again with us and see what we thought. Donning spikes or snowshoes, we made our way half-way up Red Mountain, to where the cornice loomed. It was only a 30' stretch to get up a slope and across the cornice, but it didn't look too good. On the left was a steep drop-off; to the right the cornice was large. There was an optimal spot to try.
I got out my ice axe, and started cutting stairsteps in the rock-hard ice. These were essential anyway... there was no way to get a grip on the steep degree slope, even with microspikes. Every few steps, I dug deeply down to the rock, and found the ice to be very solid all the way down. After about 30 steps, the slope started to get much steeper, now only about 10 feet from the top of the ridge. With the slope change, I dug again to see how the snow looked, and found that beneath a thin surface, the snow was very soft. This meant that the snow above me was not going to be stable. I was turning around to go back down when I heard a crack to my left. That encouraged me to go back down more quickly, but still carefully down the steps I had made.
Oh well. Red Mountain would have to wait. It will be there some other day. (photo #6)
John and Valerie headed back, having already got Red Peak earlier in the day. Rich and I again skirted around the Hoosier Ridge main summit, and made our way across the flat red rocks and grass over to Red Peak. (photo #7 and photo #8 ) By now, clouds were building to our west, threatening wind and flurries. Further to our west, Boreas Peak rose impressively.
After stopping to eat on the summit of Red Peak, we made our way up and over Hoosier Ridge's main summit and began the hike back. (photo #9) Now the wind was blowing -- not a knock-you-over sort of wind, but still a 30MPH-right-in-the-face-sometimes-bearing-ice-crystals sort of wind. Balaclavas are wonderful things. (photo #10)
It seemed longer going back, but I know it was just fighting the relentless wind in our faces. We tried to skirt a couple of the sub-peaks, but decided that was more trouble than it was worth. Better to have a little bit of extra elevation gain than to deal with loose rock on a side slope. It was an uneventful journey, but we were very glad to see the last sub-peak of the ridge.
As we descended and approached treeline, we began to posthole badly. Well, that's why we carried the snowshoes all day. So, a very fun day of hiking finished up with a little over a half mile of great snowshoeing.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):