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Friday, June 1, 2018

Bad News/Good News: Senator Beck Trail to Ptarmigan Lake

As with Life, there are no shortcuts to where we're headed.

On a stellar Chamber of Commerce day (aside from the new constant of wind) Bobbie and I donned heavy packs and set off in search of Glory—as in splendor, as opposed to renown. 

This road gets worse every year, I muse as the car inclines toward the edge of an abyss. It takes all 9 inches of Sue Bee's ground clearance to avoid gashing a hole in her oil pan. Somehow I manage without damage and park in little more than a wide spot in the road, if one can call Black Bear's notorious Jeep trail a road. 

John Muir said that with every walk in nature we receive more than we seek. Of course that adage is a double edged  sword; mountains have a way of humbling, if not humiliating,  overconfident Geezers

There are no thunderstorms in the forecast and, with the exception of being blown off our ridge-line goal, we have the entire day to get to our 13,000 foot objective and back. Or not...as they say, Getting to the "top" is optional. Getting down, however, is mandatory. We'll see how it goes. 

Today's outing is Bobbie's first "over 10,000 feet" adventure of the season.  Thus, she is determined to take her time and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

I, on the other hand, have pushed the 13,000 foot range four times in four weeks, plus several long hikes to 10,000 feet. My legs and lungs feel strong, and for that I am grateful.   

I know from my summit hike to Red Mountain #1 a few days ago that we will encounter snow. Senator Beck Basin, however, has good southern exposure and is a natural "solar collector."  With this winter's paltry snowpack, we should be able to dodge most of the snow, sticking to bare, albeit muddy, ground. 

Silly how we leave our gators home on such early outings. Fortunately I have my crampons, in case we need to negotiate a steep slope of hard-pack. I figure I can "rope" Bobbie and drag her behind me to the summit ridge. Note to self: Purchase Bobbie a set of crampons as a wedding anniversary gift (June 21st).

In spite of Bobbie thinking she's a "slowpoke," we make good time up to the lower basin. We are forced to cross some snow here and there, soft serve shit that doesn't support our weight. So much for dry feet...

All the Zig and Zag involved with trying to avoid snow adds distance and time to an already long hike. We soon discover that snow inclined to the south, even slightly, will not support our weight, while snow inclined away from direct sun does. Our packs are heavy. I consider stashing them in order to make a fast run for the ridge...then think better of it.

The higher we go, the more we can trust the snow to support our weight. The occasional crotch-deep exception is jolting. We scream like little girls...as if we're falling into some vast crevasse on Everest only to end up crotch deep. Still, it's a lot of extra work to maneuver out of such break-throughs, especially when surrounded by soft snow. It saps strength, breath and motivation.  

I find a spot out of the wind to rest and eat an energy bar... followed by a Shot Block...followed by a Gatorade. I do love my carbs. After all this gluttony, the ridge looks further away. There is much snow to navigate from here to there, and most of it faces sun. 

We are high enough that the "chill factor" becomes, well, a "factor."  We each put on another layer. Bobbie will eventually pop her hoody and cinch it down over her face. Of course we are both wearing shorts.

Progress slows as we traverses vast snowfields, each step a "stomp" in order to "set" the edge of our boots. 

Finally the ridge-line is gained, along with the view we worked so hard for. TELLURIDE, and beyond, the LA SALS of western Utah. Such a clear day!

We run a mostly barren ridge like a couple of gleeful kids, happy to find it blown clear of snow by winter's vicious winds at 13,000 feet. 

Across a fierce, snaggletooth adjoining ridge, Telluride Mountain. To it's left, Imogene Pass.

Steering clear of the above cornice, we work the ridge, milking the views for all their worth...which, after the effort to get here, is like Gold. I want to see if Ptarmigan Lake is still frozen, so we traverse another snowfield.  

Yep. Still frozen. 

To the East a cluster of Red Mountains. Wow, I was on top of #1 a few days ago. Love connecting all these "dots."

The obligatory, celebratory Selfie. :)   A couple of tired, but gleeful, Geezers. 

The "Bad News" is that it's time to leave "glory" behind and head home. The "Good News?" It's not very far away.

Till next time...
mark and bobbie


  1. You are definitely on a blog roll, lately, Mark. SO much good stuff and great photos to blog about. Wonderful. Love that last shot best, of course!

  2. Agree with Sue Malone! By the way, why is your backpack so heavy? Mostly liquids? I really do love your photos and tales; can almost hear you guys stomping along in the snow, pausing every now and then to snap a photo to share your happiness with us, much appreciated!

  3. Wow! Two incredible, tired, old geezers:) Way to go! Beautiful!

  4. It's good to see that you guys are already heading into the high country, snow and all. I never seem to remember to bring gaiters either until my boots fill with snow. Great selfie of the geezers.

    1. One of these years you need to spend some time here again during hiking season...your daughter wants to visit lovely ouray :)

  5. Well done, prose, pictures, insights, you can try but it's going to be hard to top this day!
    Don't forget about June 21st, ok I 'll remind you on the 20th.
    Stay Thirsty my Friends

  6. A great walk, we owe John Muir such a lot.


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