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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Serendipity on the Mountain; Breaking Glorious New Ground on the Shoulders of Trico Peak

Sara N. Dippity found us wandering around in the mountains yesterday, and stopped to say "Hello." It's been a while since our paths crossed. Then again, maybe I'm underestimating her cunning ways of slipping in and out without notice, you know, all those little things in life that we sometimes take for granted. The "thing" with "Sara" is, she only meets you halfway. It's up to us to get out of our chairs or cars.

On an ordinary mid-June day...  Wait. There I go again, taking things for granted. There are no ordinary days around Lovely Ouray.

On a sun-kissed morning, not a single dark cloud in the sky or in my mood, Bobbie and I got out the door early. Our calendar is clear; the "diem" is ours to "carpe." I point Subie's grill up the switchbacks of Million Dollar Highway (not adjusted for inflation, of course) toward Red Mountain Pass. Snow is coming off fast now, so we should be to hike the as yet unplowed Black Bear Pass Road, and have it pretty much to ourselves. No obnoxious line of ATV's zipping by, loud motors buzzing our heads like Africanized Bees, stinging our solitude and tranquility to a bitter, utter death. I digress...

And to think, we almost didn't go. "Ride The Rockies" was scheduled to bike from Durango, through Lovely Ouray, and on to Ridgway on that day; 2,000 cyclists plus a massive support crew. Not being one to live in fear of what might happen, we threw caution to the wind and beat crowds and congestion to the punch at the intersection of Red Mountain Pass and Black Bear Road. 

We've spring-hiked Black Bear before, and knew we would be turned back by a precipitous slab of snow near the top. The last time we ended up hiking up and around the impasse, detouring to a ridge top where snow had been kept to a minimum by winter winds. As we approached the impasse this time, we happened to notice a faint trail circling around and behind the mountain directly above us. We figured it was an old mining road of some sort, now overgrown with grass and tundra. The old road hugged the ridge top, where wind and sun had made it passable. We scrambled up, just to see where it went.

About this time, Bobbie connects "dots," says she knows where we are. Turns out we're on a ridge that separates Senator Beck Basin from Black Bear Basin. Of course! The higher we climbed the more obvious it became, until we spotted Senator Beck Mine to the north, and the ridge above it that we've climbed so many times before to access Ptarmigan Lake. 

Patches of snow grew in size as we ascended the ridge between "Beck" and "Bear;" for the most part they supported our weight and were not unpleasant enough to turn us around. Bobbie and I both know that there's a 13er, Trico, on the ridge we are ascending, one that she has mentioned we should try to summit. Neither of us declares that intention, but secretly wonder if this might be the day. In June, of all things. 

Soft and supple tundra finally gave way to talus, and talus to rock...really rotten rock. The ridge swept upward in dramatic fashion, and our hike suddenly morphed into a climb. The rock towered over us with the impending doom of Tax Day. It was a waterfall of boulders at their tipping point, so loose and rotten we dared not tug, let alone, touch, anything above us out of fear of bringing down "the house." The going was extremely slow and cautious, staying together, measuring every step.  

Forget Trico, the views from the ridge alone are worth the effort and risk. All the Red Mountains glowed in the sun, as snowcap after snowcap faded into the curve-of-the-earth. 

I wouldn't exactly call it "knife-edge," but the ridge narrowed. There were places where we tiptoed across unstable snow that fell precipitously away on either side, which made it challenging...which made it exciting...which made in fun. It's hard to explain. There's something magnetic about being someplace you've never been before, a pull to see what's around the next corner or over the next rise. Endorphins flow, "dots" are connected, memories are made. 

We pulled up for lunch on a final sub-peak off the shoulder ridge to Trico Mountain, 13,330 feet.  I'm guessing we were nearing 13 K, but in the vastness of our airy, top-of-the-world perch, it's difficult to gauge distance and elevation. I studied the connection ridge while chomping an apple. Lord, the rock was about as rotten as I've ever seen, and, if anything, Trico's "spine" narrowed, and would require several more traverses across crests of snow that fell away sharply. With a slow descent through rotten rock already waiting behind us, this time requiring leading with feet that are all but blind, well, it nagged us enough to call it "victory enough," especially for a mid-June outing. 

Bobbie working her way toward Trico Peak

And here I am the next morning—in the waning afterglow of yesterday—reflecting which of over a hundred photos to post and which to "kill." We "seized the day," caught a little "Sara," dodged a bullet or two, and broke some new ground. I can't ask for anything more, and wouldn't settle for anything less.

Oh how sweet, my life turned into a dream I once had as a child...

Mark and Bobbie...breaking "new ground," connecting "dots," and basking in glorious vistas found at the top of the world


  1. Incredible! There are no ordinary days with you two! Thanks for taking us to Trico. "Sara" seems to watch over you. Cheers! -scamp

  2. It is amazing that you still have new places to explore in your neck of the woods! What an exciting and beautiful day!

  3. Ok, we'll have to give you another "10" on that Research project, too bad there isn't a market for rocks.
    Stay Thirsty my Friends.

  4. Looks like you had a grand day in the San Juans! You guys are sure getting in some good hikes/climbs for so early in the season.

  5. "Oh how sweet, my life turned into a dream I once had as a child..."

    GREAT line

  6. To say "stunning photos" makes me sound like I am repeating myself, but I'm all out of adjectives. You may be growing weary of the snow patches, but I am enjoying the stark contrast. Is this the same "T-word" 13er that overlooks Columbine Lake?

    1. That is T-11, which we have climbed 3 times... it's south of Trico but in the immediate vicinity. Their are other T numbered peaks around there too. All seem to have loose, rotten rock in common. The view of Columbine Lake from T-11 is unparalleled. Thanks for your kind comment. I know that readers do run out of adjectives because I do too, when trying to write about our experiences and bring them along with us.
      You have a good memory :) Remember too that I wanted to take you up T-11...you were ready!
      Have fun, enjoy your "freedom," don't look back... and throw up a post when you get somewhere purdy :)


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