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Montezuma Peaks

Colorado Adventure | Sunday – Monday, August 5-6, 2018

After spending the weekend backpacking in the Gore Range with Diane, we parted ways on Sunday afternoon and I headed over to the Front Range near Montezuma to climb a few mountains as I continued my Colorado Adventure. After an early dinner in Dillon I drove up to Loveland Pass on the Continental Divide so I could hike to the summit of Mount Sniktau (13,234). Even though there had been storms earlier in the day and there were still plenty of clouds moving around, the weather was looking favorable for the climb and I was hoping that the clouds interacting with the light would make for some nice conditions. My legs were still pretty tired from our hike back down from Gore Lake in the morning so I was moving pretty slow, but the weather did hold out. However, once I reached the ridge I was struck by some very strong and brutal winds blowing across the Divide and I had to make use of a couple of rock shelters that I passed along the trail.

A view over the Loveland Pass Road and Arapahoe Basin as I started hiking up the trail.

Loveland Pass Road

A closer look at Lenawee Mountain (13,204).

Nice View from the Trail

Once I reached the first high point I had a pretty good view of Torreys Peak (14,267) and Grays Peak (14,270).

Torreys & Grays

Following the trail to the top of a subpeak on the way to Mount Sniktau.

Going Up

When I reached the next high point on the ridge I had a pretty nice view of Mount Sniktau.

To Mount Sniktau

I also had a good view over I-70 to the Eisenhower – Johnson Memorial Tunnels from up here and caught a little spotlight on the entrance.

Tunnel Spotlight

When I was almost on the summit of Mount Sniktau I had a good view over a small tarn below in Kearny Gulch to Baker Mountain (12,448) and Torreys Peak.

Kearney Gulch

The benchmark on the summit was hard to read.

Sniktau Benchmark

Looking back to Mount Sniktau as I followed the trail back down.

Mount Sniktau

Aside from the brutal wind, it was a nice hike across the alpine tundra.

Headed Back Down

After returning to my Jeep at Loveland Pass I drove back down and made my way over to the small town of Montezuma. I took a few side roads and then started driving up the bumpy Santa Fe Peak Road where I found a spot to camp near an old mine at 12,000 feet. There was a little lightning and thunder just before sunset, but it didn’t stick around too long. From my campsite I had a great view of the sun setting over the distant Gores. Shortly after sunset I was in my sleeping bag trying to get to sleep.

Warm evening light fills the Snake River Valley with Glacier Mountain (12,443) on the other side.

Warm Evening Light

Nice light on Santa Fe Peak above, although you can’t see the highest point from here.

Santa Fe Evening

Driving up the Santa Fe Peak Road above treeline.

Santa Fe Peak Road

Is there anything better than warm evening light up in the mountains?

Montezuma Light

The sun about to set over the distant Gore Range on the horizon.

Sunset Over The Gores

I slept terribly overnight. It was probably my worst night of sleep ever while camping and I’m not sure why? I finally got up about 45 minutes before sunrise and finished driving up the rest of the switchbacks to just below the summit of Santa Fe Peak. I caught the sunrise from the summit and had a 360 degree view of Grays Peak, Torreys Peak, Mount Bierstadt and Quandary Peak, although it was a little bit smoky and hazy out again. From the summit of Santa Fe Peak I followed the Continental Divide Trail to climb a few more thirteeners along the same ridge. The temperature out this morning was very comfortable and not too cold, plus there was only a gentle breeze. Along the way I would also be treated to views of Red Cone and Webster Pass, which was a very cool Jeep trail I drove back in 2009.

Hiking along the ridge on Santa Fe Peak just before sunrise. Grays and Torreys are the two tallest peaks in the distance.

Santa Fe Ridge

Sunrise from the summit of Santa Fe Peak (13,180) and a view of the ridge I would be following.

Santa Fe Peak Sunrise

Looking back at Santa Fe Peak from the summit of Sullivan Mountain (13,134).

Sullivan Mountain Summit

A view of Geneva Peak and Landslide Peak as I started hiking down the other side of Sullivan Mountain.

Geneva Peak & Landslide Peak

A nice view from the summit of Geneva Peak (13,266). The trail up to the summit was steep in places with a few sections of pea-gravel that were very slippery.

Geneva Peak

Looking over Josephine Lake and Geneva Creek to Silver Mountain (12,849) and Revenue Mountain (12,889).

Geneva Creek

From Geneva Peak it was a quick and easy hike over to Landslide Peak. Here’s a view of Geneva Peak on the left from the broad summit of Landslide Peak (13,238). From here I returned the same way I had come back to my Jeep on Santa Fe Peak.

Landslide Peak Summit

Hiking back over the narrower summit of Geneva Peak.

Returning Over Geneva

While hiking back over Sullivan Mountain I spotted a congregation of ptarmigan. While looking up what a group of ptarmigan is called, I learned they are also known as an ‘invisibleness” which I think is fitting since I usually only spot them after almost stepping on them!

Ptarmigan

Drving back down the Santa Fe Peak Road below Grays and Torreys.

Driving Below Fourteeners

The first mountain goat I came across that stuck around long enough for me to get a photo of.

Onlooker

During my drive back down I decided to stop one more time and hike over to the summit of Morgan Peak (12,474). It was a pretty easy hike to the summit.

Hiking To Morgan Peak

From the summit of Morgan Peak I had a nice view up Peru Creek to Argentine Peak (13,738) and Argentine Pass.

Peru Creek

I could also look down on Tiptop Peak (12,053) from here, whose name obviously doesn’t make much sense…

Tiptop Peak

One last view from the summit of Morgan Peak looking up Chihuahua Gulch.

Morgan Peak Summit View

Upon returning to my Jeep I came across a couple more mountain goats nearby.

Mountain Goat

Three Goats

After returning to my Jeep from Morgan Peak, I finished the drive back down to Montezuma and then stopped in Dillon for lunch. I was originally planning on heading over to Leadville and the Mosquito Range next, but the weather was looking dry on Tuesday and I thought it would be a good day to try and hike Mount Belford and Mount Oxford, two fourteeners in the Sawatch Range. I took a scenic route there by driving over Georgia Pass, which was a lot rougher than the last time I drove it, to Fairplay and Buena Vista. I fueled up my Jeep and drove over to Clear Creek where I found a nice campsite near the Missouri Gulch Trailhead. Since I slept terribly the night before, I was getting pretty tired and I needed to get up early on Tuesday, so I didn’t bother trying to take any photos at sunset and went to bed extra early. I was asleep before the sun even went down!

>> Montezuma Peaks Photo Gallery

4 Comments

  1. Stephanie
    Stephanie August 24, 2018

    Stunning photos. And love the ones of the wildlife!

  2. Michele Bullock
    Michele Bullock August 27, 2018

    Always love your lancsacpes and here you got some amazing light! Then you got some fantastic critters! So fun to see. Thanks for sharing!

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