Red Mountain Pass: Though bitter cold, the sun promises to shine...a good day to get high.
On the heels of several storms, snowplows manage to clear shoulders of Red Mountain Pass enough to accommodate vehicles from a smattering of non-weekend backcountry enthusiasts.
The We Four pile out of Sue Bee to engage in a bare-fingered war with cumbersome snowshoe bindings. It only takes a slight breeze to render my two-ply poly-pro-over-smart-wool sweater worthless. The imminent steep climb should push-back the nipple-rasing chill.
Ahhh. Wisps of milky cirrus clouds feather our high altitude azure dome. Up here, the landscape offers little in the way of color. It's as if we've been photoshopped into some ole Ansel Adams black-n-white.
Mounds of undulating snow sparkle in stark contrast to a seemingly night-black forest. We clomp up a packed snowmobile track, thankful to avoid yesterday's chore of breaking trail on sore legs.
As we rise above the black forest, pinnacled etch-a-sketch horizons slowly reveal themselves. The panorama refuels my imagination and spirit...sating a deep hunger for people-less wildness. Our sky-high ridge line destination slowly comes into view. It's an austere, windswept world...a life far and away from creature comforts.
It's been 3 years since Bobbie and I made ridge above Saint Paul's Ski Lodge, an extremely rustic backcountry home-base for cross-country skiers. At well over 12,000 feet, the ridge provides a good yardstick for condition level...especially after spending a couple months playing in Southwest Utah's low-land deserts.
It's to be expected, that there will come a time when we can't manage a summit to the ridge. When this happens it will be important to keep trying...to remember that something is better than nothing. The older one gets, the more resolve and patience it takes to strike "gold" in Colorado's stratospheric wilderness.
Snowshoes are oft ridiculed as slow-shoes by our back-county skier counterparts. Though "slow-shoes" get us to the "top" about as quick as skis with climbing skins, the disadvantage becomes real when it's time to go down. Oh, to be able to carve graceful turns...to swish down with a mixture of speed and adrenalin instead of clomp, clomp, clomping all the way back to the car, nursing bleeding toes, stiff shoulders, and an assortment of other miseries. Still, there is a general consensus that the rewards of pushing into high mountain winter wilderness always justifies the price of admission.
Our human reality is that neither growth nor gain is wrought from a life without pain.
We pass relics from past glory days of gold and silver mining. Believe it or not, as many as one thousand resident miners and families once populated this cold, snow-bound environment.
|Wind carved "waves"|
Gaining the summit ridge...
|A peek over into another drainage that feeds into Silverton|
|The long clomp down to the car...|
Mark, Bobbie, Caleb, and Kelli.