Quite possibly the best day ever...
After receiving favorable reports, I decided to attempt Uncompahgre Peak the following day. It would be my first fourteener. I booked a hotel room in Silverton and went to bed early.
I left the in-laws house in Cortez at 5 am, and made good time through Durango, but ran into millions of bicyclists for Ride The Rockies when I reached Poncha Springs. Wolf Creek Pass was slow going with bikes everywhere, a rolled over semi, and cops. Turning off at South Fork, I drove through Creede, stopped at the Alferd Packer Massacre Site (Really, who builds a house at a spot like that?
), and rolled through Lake City.
Turning off from Henson Creek Road, I made the rough drive up Nellie Creek Road, giving the 4wd a good workout. My 12 pm start time would normally have been a very bad idea for Uncompahgre Peak, but the weather was on my side today. I passed 7 others hiking down as I was going up, then had the place to myself. Arriving at the south ridge, I surpassed my old high altitude record of 12,890 feet, and kept on going. The chute section near the top definitely grabbed my attention. I soon made the top, where I hung out with curious marmots for almost an hour, sending texts to family and friends, taking photos and video, and just enjoying every minute of it. No summit register to be found...
I started down at 3:30 pm and made good time, even getting to try a short glissade for the first time.
I reached the Nellie Creek Trailhead a little after 5 pm, then drove back to Lake City. Wow, what a hike! I enjoyed a good burger at Southern Vittles restaurant before I began part 2 of my adventure...
I left Lake City at 8 pm, and began the backroad shortcut to Silverton along the Alpine Loop road. The canyon of the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River was mind blowingly beautiful. I passed the trailheads for Handies, Redcloud, and Sunshine Peaks (You drove a car up the shelf road, Jim?! you're crazy!
) and several old buildings.
Arriving at the turnoff for American Basin at dark, I shifted into 4wd again, and started up the nasty Cinnamon Pass Road. Crawling along at 5 to 10 mph in 4wd in the San Juan Mountains at night while squeezing past huge snowdrifts and negotiating hairpin switchbacks on the side of a mountain might seem crazy, but I had a blast!
I reached the end of the Cinnamon Pass Road at the Animas River, then proceeded to explore the ghost town of Animas Forks for a bit by moonlight. I tried to identify the long vanished route of the Silverton Northern Railroad along this last stretch. It amazed me that a railroad ever made it through that rough country to Animas Forks. I finally reached Silverton at 11:30 pm, and checked into the Triangle Motel. I reviewed my options for the next morning, then fell into a coma sleep.
What a great day it had been!
I think it is safe to say that Uncompahgre Peak was the most exciting hike I have ever been on. I can't wait to go back.
Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70PdKRIKYcI