This was very spur of the moment, and I made the drive primarily so I could get away from town and out of the house. Also, while the forecast for the weekend was once again for a high chance of storms, I knew that like last weekend, with the cloud cover they would be later if at all. It was extremely wet and humid, as well as cloudy, cool to cold, and surprisingly windy, too. The weather wasn't completely intolerable, but it reminded me of why I stopped liking Colorado in the summer of 2008, why I hadn't been back until this past winter, and why I prefer Arizona, California and New Mexico, over Colorado with it's high, cold, wet mountains during what should be the warm and dry time of year. Alpine flowers and vegetation are lovely, but best on the monsoon break days and you can't build a hike/ trip/ mountaineering day around that.
The plan, for about a year, has been to summit Lavender Peak, which is next to Hesperus. Last fall, it was early snow, then a few weeks ago it was a fire, today, it was the classic Colorado summer weather and a poor route description. I got my info from summit post. In the description, the road into the basin is given as a named road, but there is no sign with any names on it, and it is in fact a numbered road, "499". I figured that out last time. Today, the issues with the description stemmed from references to finding a use trail at the end of a long switchback near 10,800', where there are metal pipes by the road. Well, there are numerous long switchbacks, and there at least 3 with metal pipes in, on, or near them. Also, with the eroded nature of the area, guessing elevation is harder than it seems, and the social trail not so easy to locate until you are coming down and you are able to judge the ends of the switchbacks a little better. Going up, I thought I was higher than I was, coming down, lower than I thought. Relating appearance of the area to normal elevation cues was not useful.
Either way, I don't think it would have worked out. I don't know how good the trail was, but from what I could see, the approach involved a lot of talus. I hate loose talus. If it is anything like the sides of Hesperus, and the rock on the north side of the basin looked a lot like Hesperus, this would be anything but a fun approach. Plus, there were dark clouds moving by pretty fast, and my optimistic hope for the day was continually being over ruled by my fear of cold wet rain on slick, exposed rock. Plus, lightning. Also, the basin looked a lot less vegetated than I hoped, and I was ending up in some pretty good alpine tundra as the hike wore on.
Basically, I went all the way up the road to the mines, and only once there did I know I had gone too far. I was not upset, as I kept thinking the sky would open up with lightning and hail over the highest peaks, or where I was planning on being. So, I ended up hiking a steep slope, cresting a ridge, and summiting a point (the map dex puts at 12,503') a little south of Diorite Peak. Looks like Humphrey last month, and Trico Peak in January are still the highest I have been this year. Eh.
I spent barely any time on my summit as a small cell was fast approaching from the SE. That and there was a cold feeling, very wet breeze coming over the ridge and peak. The little cell did nothing more than spit, but it greatly slickened the vegetation and made descending the steep slope a challenge. There was a little light rain and lightning once within a mile of my car parked near a large side road at 9,463', but the area I planned to be stayed dry all day and into the early evening. Oh well. It actually cleared nicely for most of my descent between the upper slopes and the bottom of the basin, but I had lost interest in Lavender, wanted BBQ in Durango (which was good, but still not as good as the stuff in Cottonwood or Mesa) and I feel I have lost interest in Lavender all together.
The Basin from which Lavender is approached from might be fun in ideal conditions, but luck has not given me that this year. If I am to journey to Colorado later this summer or early fall, I doubt I will want to waste time on this again. Seems if I am to get up higher than I have already been this year, it must before the snow falls and after monsoon season. Also, I'd like a trail for all but any scrambles I do. I don't care if I just missed a solid use trail, I don't want to waste time crossing what has potential to be a ankle and knee killer, just to get this fairly unimportant monkey off my back. So, I'm done with Lavender and the La Platas for a long time. Not sure about a 14er, now.
AEG should be very accurate given that I used the DEX Map, but mileage is a guess based on time and how the road/ trail felt. I did manage to actually enjoy the outing, despite my write-up. I got some good exercise, got out of town, had some pretty good BBQ, and had my memory refreshed. Probably the biggest plus of this was being sensationally reminded of what made monsoon season and the wet times in the summer of 2008, seem so nasty when I discovered California that September.
||Wildflowers Observation Substantial