Lookout Peak P750
Telluride Via Ferrata 3x

Sat, Sep 7, 2019

With: Eric Smith
Ingrid Dockersmith

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
Telluride Via Ferrata previously climbed Tue, Jul 31, 2018


Lookout Peak

Lookout Peak is a Colorado 13er overlooking Ophir Pass to the north and is featured in Cooper's Colorado Scrambles. It makes for a relatively short outing, less than three hours and would work nicely since Eric was scheduled to pick up his sister around mid-morning. I figured I could get Lookout done and be back in Telluride before they returned from the airport. I was up to my alarm at 5:30a and soon out the door of our hotel in Telluride. It wold take about an hour to drive up to Ophir Pass from the west with about 3mi of fairly rough road requiring high-clearance and 4WD. There were a few flashes of lightning well to the west during the drive, not a great sign so early in the morning. Driving east towards the pass was more promising with what looked like blue skies in that direction.

I parked about a quarter mile east of Ophir Pass and was on my way by 6:45a. There's no regular trail, but there are use trails for much of the mile-long ascent and lots of ducks, too. They more or less take the guesswork out of the route-finding challenges. For about 2/3 of the distance and half the elevation gain, the route goes up pleasant grass & rock slopes. There is a small tarn just north of the pass that is hidden from the road that one goes by. When I was high enough to see over Ophir Pass to the west, I was dismayed to find that the lingering thunderstorm from that direction was making its way east up the canyon. Combined with the sun making its morning appearance from the east, it made for some fine rainbow scenes, but gave away the oncoming precipitation. I was probably 1/3 of the way up when I felt the first drops of rain, so I quickly put on my rain gear, tossed my electronics in my pack and put on its rain cover. A thunderclap and flash of lightning told me it would be folly to continue up, so I hunkered down behind a large rock to see if I could wait it out. Though on the leeward side, the rain found me anyway as I lay down with my body pressed up against the rock. How long could this last? I figured I could wait out a while, at least until I started to get cold and shiver which would probably send me running back down to the jeep. I had been sitting there quite still for perhaps 10min when a red fox suddenly came walking past me from the blind side of the rock. It took notice of me immediately but I didn't move a muscle, the wet and forlorn-looking fox not 10ft from me. After a few seconds it decided to keep going in its intended direction of travel and was soon out of sight. That alone made my waiting in the rain totally worth it.

I was pretty lucky to find the storm a small one, passing over me in about 20 minutes' time with some clearing behind it. There were other storm cells further west, but it looked like I might have about 40min or so at least of good weather to get me to the summit and starting back down before I might get more rain. After following the grassy slopes up as far as they would carry me, I moved left (west) to the South Ridge where the route becomes more of a scramble. There wasn't much solid rock on any of the route, but it didn't seem dangerous, either. The ridge flattens just before the summit rocks where the guidebook says to expect "some challenging route-finding" but again the ducks seemed plentiful and the route more or less obvious. The many small ledges that one ascends here are all covered in gravel, but even wet they seemed to still have decent footing. It was 8:10a when I reached the summit, a small, rounded knob covered in talus. The sun was doing its best to come out from behind clouds, offering a changing palette of views even during the short 10 minutes I was at the summit. Silver Mountain, really just the long ridgeline that separates the Ophir and Telluride valleys, had a moment with strong sunlight that was particularly striking. There are also nice views to the north looking into Bridal Veil Basin and northeast into the Mill Creek drainage. A PVC register held a few pages of entries, none of them more than a year old.

I managed to reverse the entire route in about 40min, without getting another drop of rain. As I was driving back over Ophir Pass there were some more sprinkles, but really very little. The sky would continue to threaten throughout the day, but the weather held out and we were able to enjoy a full day.

Telluride Via Ferrata

Ingrid's plane was delayed for several hours and it wasn't until 12:30p that she arrived, and a short while later before they got back to the hotel. We chatted a while before deciding the weather looked good enough to give the via ferrata at the east end of town another go. Eric, Steve and I had done it each of the past two years and Eric wanted to let his sister enjoy the fun. With his hand still recovering, Steve was not in any shape to join us, so we left him to walk around town while the three of us drove the jeep up Bear Creek Rd to the start of the route. Eric led in front the whole way, with me taking up the rear and Ingrid between us. She was fairly timid walking along the narrow cliffside trail when there was no cable to clip into, but with plenty of rock climbing experience, she had no issue with the gear we used to protect the more exposed sections, including the crux where one uses iron rungs for foot and hand holds across a 60-foot section of vertical wall. We had an additional surprise this year when about 2/3 of the way along the route we came across a group of 12-15 young lads and lasses working a set of three slack lines that they had set up between various rock outcrops along the via ferrata. The lines varied in length from about 50-150ft and were strung over drops that went down hundreds of feet. We were struck by the somewhat cavalier way most of the group were sitting about the rocks, feet dangling over the edges as though they were at home here as the surest of mountain goats. This was in contrast to our helmets and other safety gear that we used to basically walk along trail built into the cliffs. Those performing on the slacklines appeared exceedingly skilled. They had safety lines to save them from the inevitable falls they would take while walking back and forth on the lines or doing stunts. One guy in particular was able to do all sorts of tricks on the line and could recover from a fall and get back on the line with uncommon speed. We found it quite entertaining though most of their group were spending time on their phones rather than watching those on the lines. One would expect that of this generation, I'm told.

After watching our fill, we continued north along the route for about another ten minutes to where it becomes more a trail and the more technical stuff ends. Here I left Eric and Ingrid to return back the way we came, while they continued down the trail. My return went much quicker, using the safety lines only where I thought them most needed, taking about 30min while the outbound time was two hours. After returning to the jeep I drove back down the Bear Creek Rd where I found the other two waiting at one of the lower switchbacks in the road. We loaded everyone onboard and headed back to Telluride for less strenuous activities...


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