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I was parked at the end of County Rd 52 at over 11,000ft where I'd spent the night camped in my van. I was hoping to climb rugged Storm Peak from the north side, a route I had exactly no beta on and was more or less winging it, based on my own visual observations from the day before. One might say I failed miserably in the effort, except it wasn't miserable at all. So instead, I'll say I failed with a smile on my face. I spent some two hours on the attempt, initially with great success as I climbed the steep, grassy slopes to gain the NW Ridge at over 12,800ft. The ridge proved to be comprised of loose, broken rock that made it not a little dangerous. Eventually, finding myself in deteriorating conditions with the ridge ahead only looking harder, I called a retreat before getting in over my head, less than half a mile and 700ft from the summit. Down I went. I took an alternate way down, looping to the east so I could go by the snow tongue I'd watched the two guys skiing on the day before. Their turns stood out nicely as white curves in the otherwise dirty snow. As I returned to Lake 11,300ft where I'd parked the car, I was formulating a new plan to occupy myself with the rest of the day.
Back at the van, I drove the road a few miles back down to Goldstone where I'd spent the previous night. I had decided to pay a visit to Red Mtn #2 and Red Mtn #1, a moderate outing that I could easily manage despite the mis-start. I had visited Red Mtn #3 the previous year, so these two, to complete the collection, had been in the back of my mind for a while. All three peaks lie on the high ridge between paved US550 (the Million Dollar Hwy) to the west and the gravel/dirt County Rd 110 to the east. County Roads 11 and 20A, part of the Alpine Loop 4x4 network, goes over Corkscrew Pass just south of Red Mtn #1. My plan was to ride my mountain bike to the pass and hike the summits from there. I spent about an hour and a quarter on the bike, climbing 2,000ft over the course of 3mi on County Rds 10 and 11. A rusting post from an old gate gave me something to lock my bike to on a spur road just above Corkscrew Pass. The area was busy with Jeeps and OHVs going up and over the pass in both directions.Red Mtn #2 lay to the west along a connecting ridgeline about 2mi in length. I waited for the dust to settle from one caravan going past me before starting off along the road heading south. Rather than keep to the road, I left it to avoid the vehicle traffic, going over Pt. 12,429ft before turning west to follow the ridgeline. There are spur roads going all over the place around this area, but none along the ridge I followed which would give me some solitide for a few hours. The rock here is quite colorful, as the names suggest, and was the scene of a great deal of mining activity at one time. The spur roads are leftover from this time, currently utilized by the off-road folks in their Jeep explorations.
Though somewhat long, the ridge to Red #2 is fairly easy class 1-2 over compact talus and scree. I spent an hour and twenty minutes in the effort, enjoying the fine views along the way. Pt. 12,596ft is reached enroute, with a spur ridge heading southwest to Red #3, the highest of the group. It would have been an easy extension of the route to add, and would have done so had I not already been there. From the summit of Red #2, one can take in the lovely views of the high, 13er-laden ridgline to the west that separates Red Mtn Pass and US550 from Telluride and Imogene Basin. To the east, Corkscrew Gulch rises to form the large basin between Red Mtn #2 and #1. Tiny vehicles could be seen winding their way up the switchbacks to Corkscrew Pass. It occurred to me that I might make a loop of things by dropping down into the basin rather than follow the ridgeline on the way back. The only trick was finding a suitable place to drop down on the east side of the ridge where much of the slope was steep, hardpack. I found such a place not far back at a saddle where only the first hundred feet or so had some difficulty. Once off the hardpack, I found grassy slopes that got easier as I descended, soon becoming a very pleasant cross-country jaunt out of a Sound of Music scene. At the bottom I had a dry ravine to cross, not much of an obstacle, and was soon at a roadside restroom stop along the 4x4 route. Though it looked imposing from a distance, the road took less than 30min to ascend, the only real annoyance was the dust kicked up by the Jeeps slowly making their way up and down the switchbacks.
Once back at Corkscrew Pass, I turned north to climb the tedious talus slopes up to Red #1. A use trail helped a good deal with the footing and it was thankfully a short distance to the top, only a quarter mile. With its striking colors, the Northwest Ridge looked like it might make for an interesting descent (or ascent) to (or from) US550 about two miles distance. To the northeast rises the much higher Brown Mtn across Copper Gulch about 1.5mi distance. It was only a little past 1pm and I should probably have continued on to Brown Mtn since I had plenty of daylight, but I was feeling lazy and decided to call it a day. I hiked back down the use trail to Corkscrew Pass and my bike a short distance away. The downhill ride was really quite enjoyable, taking only 20min to cover the 3.5mi back down County Roads 11 & 10 to Gladstone and my van. It wasn't yet 2p and I felt a little guilty for quitting early. I drove back to Silverton where I found a BBQ place with WiFi where I spent the next three or four hours, eating my fill of pulled pork, uploading photos, checking emails, researching more places to hike in the area and generally getting over any lingering guilt...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Red Mountain No. 1
This page last updated: Wed Sep 7 13:50:08 2016
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