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The day after our outing to Ingram Peak, Steve decided to take the day off. Eric and I made plans to drive up to Ophir Pass, about an hour's drive south of where we were staying in Telluride, CO for the week. There were peaks on either side of the pass that we could climb, but without much beta on the various options, we figured we'd wing it when we got there. The crux turned out to the drive to Ophir Pass from the west where the road is roughest. There is a section across a cliff area that makes a steep, ascending traversing, fairly rough and just barely managed in our Suburu Forester. Eric did a superb job of keeping the under-powered 4cyl engine from stalling and it was with some extra sweat and white knuckles that we arrived at the pass around 8:40a. The east side of the pass we soon noted was a much easier grade without the rough rock that the west side seems to relish in. Eric even considered driving back that way, but I convinced him it would be hours longer to go over Red Mtn Pass and back through Ouray/Ridgeway.
Looking up the north side of the pass one is struck by the difficult-looking cliffs that guard Lookout Peak from this side. I'd have guessed a peak with a name like that would have an easy access, but staring at it did nothing to change our initial view. Turning south was easier, but not significantly so. South Lookout Peak, which we wouldn't be able to see until we'd climbed up almost an hour, turns out to be equally impregnable from the north, perhaps more so. Luckily there is an intermediate peak named V 1 little more than a mile up from the pass that would do nicely for the consolation prize. It has only 275ft of prominence and doesn't quite reach to 13,000ft, but it makes for a nice half day outing, about all we were looking for today.
There is a use trail that climbs up from the pass through the intial talus slopes, making this much easier than without, but unfortunately it disappears upon reaching Crystal Lake in about 20 minutes' time. Not having looked closely at the map, this delightful, rockbound lake caught us by surprise. It's quite large and seemed out of place where we expected only talus and boulders. There was little vegetation on the North Ridge we climbed from the lake, at least in the beginning. We bypassed what looked like a cliff section on the ridge by moving right onto the west talus slopes before climbing back up more tedious, shifting rocks and sand back to the ridge. On the way down I would explore the ridgeline more directly and found that it goes at easy class 3, to some surprise. An old snowbank across the ridge caused us to divert around it, as it was too hard to ascend without crampons or ax. Above this we reached a false summit, finding the true summit still another 1/5mi to the south. Some difficult pinnacles along the ridge here were avoided by dropping left onto the grassy east side and traversing around them. The final climb to the highpoint was a loose class 3 chute, not all that scary if one takes the time to exercise caution and look for the best holds. This was about as tricky as the slope Eric balked on several days earlier on Palmyra, but today he seemed more motivated and pressed on in fine style.
It was about 10:20a when we reached V 1's summit, about an hour and a half's effort from the pass. I had hoped maybe we could continue to South Lookout, but we had two problems - the weather was conspiring to soon drive us off the mountain, and secondly I had no idea how to get up those last several hundred feet to South Lookout's summit. More research was needed and it was easy to call a retreat to our outing. We spent about an hour on the return via much the same route with the exception of the more direct line along one cliff section of the ridge as mentioned earlier.
It wasn't yet noon as we were driving back down from Ophir Pass, finding the downward direction much easier and happy the rains would hold off until we got back to Telluride where we hunted down Steve to continue with our afternoon vacation antics...
This page last updated: Mon Sep 12 11:57:40 2016
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