Darley Mountain & Dolly Varden Mountain
Friday – Saturday, September 8-9, 2017
This weekend I wanted to climb a peak or two in the mountains since it would probably be my last opportunity this summer before I would begin spending most of my free time back in the desert of the Colorado Plateau. However, since I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately I didn’t want to travel too far from home either. After a little thought I decided to head back down to the San Juan Mountains near Engineer Pass so I could climb Darley Mountain and Dolly Varden Mountain within the Uncompahgre Wilderness. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in the area climbing a couple other peaks and it was nice to be headed back there again.
As usual, I left after work on Friday afternoon and stopped for dinner in Montrose before continuing on to Ouray. I then followed the Uncompahgre River up the Mineral Creek Road to Engineer Pass. I must say that over the last few years it seems that the road along Mineral Creek keeps getting rougher and rougher. I used to be able to get through this road pretty quickly in my Jeep but now I have to take it much slower. I think it would probably be quicker to drive all the way to Silverton and then follow the Animas Forks Road up to Engineer Pass these days. I made it up to Engineer Pass shortly before sunset and then hung around Oh! Point to watch the light show and take a few photos during sunset. When the light was gone I drove down the other side of the pass and found a spot to camp along Henson Creek for the night.
As I was driving up to the pass I caught these sun rays coming out of the clouds.
A touch of light on Wetterhorn Peak (14,015).
My Jeep parked at Oh! Point during a colorful sunset.
An evening view over the upper Bear Creek drainage to Darley Mountain.
I didn’t need to get an alpine start on Saturday morning, so I slept in until a little bit before sunrise which gave me just enough time to drive back up to Oh! Point so I could watch the sunrise from there. When the sun was up I returned to Engineer Pass and started hiking to the summit of Darley Mountain (13,260). I have actually wanted to climb Darley Mountain for a long time since it’s a prominent sight when driving up to Engineer Pass. I have had plans to climb it on more than one occasion before, but it always got bumped for something else or the weather didn’t cooperate, so I made sure to make it a priority and do it first this time. From the pass I followed an old closed road around to the east side of the mountain and then climbed a grassy slope up to a saddle where I followed the ridge to the summit. It was an easy hike and offered great views of the surrounding area. It helped that there were some nice clouds and light this morning, too.
The Sneffels Range at sunrise from Oh! Point with Abrams Mountain (12,801) in the shadows to the left.
Just my Jeep again…
Driving back to Engineer Pass and Darley Mountain.
Morning light on Engineer Mountain (13,218), which I hiked a few years back with Diane.
As I hiked around to the east side of Darley Mountain I was treated to an amazing view of the Uncompahgre Wilderness over American Flats and could hear the flock of sheep below.
Morning light across the Uncompahgre Wilderness…
Looking down into the depths of Henson Creek.
A closer look…
Bear Creek below and a little spotlighting on the Sneffels Range.
Following the ridge to the summit of Darley Mountain.
The sun came out and lit up the ridge during my descent.
Following the ridge back down to the saddle, you can see my Jeep parked at Engineer Pass in the distance.
One last view toward the Sneffels Range.
When I started the day I knew that I wanted to climb at least one other peak, but I wasn’t sure which other one to do and I was going to decide on the fly based on the weather. As I came down from Darley Mountain the sky was clearing out and weather looked good (even though the forecast had predicted early thunderstorms when I last checked on Friday evening), so I decided to hike the Ridge Stock Driveway Trail out to American Lake and then to the summit of Dolly Varden Mountain (12,932).
Coming down Darley Mountain I could see Courthouse Mountain (12,152) and Chimney Rock in the smoke past Wildhorse Peak (13,266).
Hiking below the summit of Darley Mountain.
Looking back at Darley Mountain.
The junction of the Horsethief Trail and Ridge Stock Driveway.
American Lake & Wildhorse Peak.
View from the summit of Dolly Varden Mountain overlooking North Henson Creek to Wetterhorn Peak and Uncompahgre Peak (14,309).
Overlooking Cow Creek to Coxcomb Peak.
On my way back down I hiked around the shore of American Lake. That rocky ridge poking up just left of center is known as The Dragon’s Back.
Wildhorse Peak reflected in the rippled water of American Lake.
Looking back at the gentle northern slopes of Dolly Varden Mountain from American Flats.
A view down Bear Creek towards Ouray as I returned to Engineer Pass.
After returning to my Jeep I was pretty hungry, so I drove down to Silverton and had an early dinner at Handlebars. Then I drove over Red Mountain Pass back to Ouray and saw a few early fall colors along the way.
A touch of yellow along Mill Creek.
Stormy weather overlooking Ironton.
The colors were definitely beginning to change near Crystal Lake.
After returning to Ridgway I decided to go for an evening drive up Cow Creek Road since it is one of the few roads in the area I had never driven and I’ve been thinking about hiking the Cow Creek Trail.
The Stormy Cimarrons
Driving along Cow Creek.
Looking up the Cow Creek Road shortly before sunset.