Saturday & Sunday, August 18-19, 2018
Originally, Diane and I were planning to climb Stewart Peak in the La Garita Mountains together this weekend, but she wasn’t feeling well when we got up on Saturday morning, so I changed plans and headed down toward Silverton by myself instead. When we woke up on Saturday it was actually raining pretty good in Grand Junction which is something we haven’t seen much of in quite a while! I checked the weather in the mountains and found out that it was storming there as well, but the storms were expected to wind down later in the day and Sunday was supposed to be pretty dry. Since I had to wait for the storms to die down a bit, I left home later in the morning and then made my way to Red Mountain Pass where I decided to stop and hike up into Spirit Gulch on an old mining road that is no longer open to vehicles. Although the storms were not completely over with yet, I figured this would be a safe enough hike to get warmed up on since it wouldn’t be up on an exposed ridge.
There were low clouds surrounding Twin Peaks (10,798) as I drove through Ouray on my way to Red Mountain Pass.
More low clouds were floating though the area as I started my hike up into Spirit Gulch.
I passed by the remains of the Barstow Mine along the way.
Beautiful rugged peaks towered above.
Following the old mining road higher into the gulch.
There was a nice view across the valley to Red Mountain #1 (12,592) and Brown Mountain (13,339).
There were just enough breaks in the clouds to create this dappled light in Spirit Gulch.
Looking up to the very head of Spirit Gulch.
Why are those rocks on the other side of the gulch moving? As I neared the upper end of the valley I scared up a large herd of elk that quickly crossed the gulch and headed back down the other side. It was a sight to see!
I took the following two videos of the elk getting away from me with my phone.
From the highest point of the old road, and my turnaround point for this hike, I could see many peaks in the distance including Darley Mountain (13,260), Abrams Mountain (12,801), Wildhorse Peak (13,266) and Wetterhorn Peak (14,015).
While I was hiking this trail there had been a few waves of storms that rolled through the area, but there was no lightning or thunder. Mainly just some light rain, wind and a little graupel on my way back down. I did end up having to put my rain jacket on for part of the hike, though.
A little spotlight on Red Mountain #3 (12,890) as I hiked back down to the trailhead.
When I returned to my Jeep at the trailhead I finished the drive into Silverton and grabbed some dinner at Handlebars. Afterwards I drove up the Kendall Mountain Road so I could take the short hike to the Kendall Mountain Benchmark 2 (13,066) summit. The last time I drove up this road I had to use my winch when my Jeep slid off on a snow drift. I didn’t have to worry about that this year!
Following the faint rocky trail to the summit of the Kendall Mountain Benchmark 2.
There was a pretty nice view from the summit.
The 1931 Kendall 2 Benchmark.
Looking down on Silverton from near the summit.
Looking the other direction towards Molas Pass.
Headed back down Kendall Mountain Road.
I stopped along the road above Swansea Gulch for a different view of Kendall Mountain (13,338).
A rock glacier in Kendall Gulch.
When I reached Silverton again, I headed up towards Molas Pass to find a spot to camp so I could climb Sultan Mountain and Grand Turk on Sunday morning. Along the way I had this nice view of the Grenadier Range shortly before sunset.
Since I was in the area, I made a quick stop at Molas Pass at sunset since I usually just drive by.
I found a spot to spend the night above Molas Park and went right to bed. I slept very well overnight and was very comfortable with the temperature not dropping below 40 degrees. I woke up about an hour before sunrise and drove over to the Little Molas Lake Trailhead where I started hiking down the Colorado Trail. I didn’t stay on the Colorado Trail very long and soon found myself route-finding through the trees in the early morning dawn light. I broke free of the trees just before the sun came up and watched the sunrise over the Needle Mountains.
Early morning colors over the Needle Mountains.
Warm morning light covered the landscape as I hiked below West Turkshead Peak (12,849).
After crossing a grassy gulch I found a trail on the other side that would take me up through a saddle between two 12ers.
Once through the saddle I had a nice tundra hike to the ridge that would get me to the peaks. Looking back over Turkshead Peak (12,734).
Even though the storms the previous day had cleared out the smoke for a little while, it came back with a vengeance this morning! It still wasn’t as bad as during our hike to Verde Lakes earlier this summer, though.
When I reached the ridge there was a pretty great view over Bear Creek from the Spencer Saddle.
Bear Mountain (12,987) is the prominent mountain on the other side.
Another look back over the terrain I had just crossed with Potato Hill (11,871) and the West Needle Mountains in the distance.
Following the ridge to Sultan Mountain on the left and Grand Turk on the right, after summiting Spencer Peak.
Looking back to Spencer Peak (13,087), the first peak I climbed along the ridge.
On the summit of Grand Turk (13,148) looking at Sultan Mountain. Though it had been windy and cold along the ridge this morning, it became very windy when I reached the summit of Grand Turk.
Overlooking Deadwood Gulch as I hiked between Grand Turk and Sultan Mountain.
From the summit of Sultan Mountain (13,368) I could barely see Silverton through the thick smoke. I could actually start to smell the smoke in the air as I climbed to the summit.
Following the rocky trail back down from the summit. On the way back I was able to follow a trail that bypassed the peaks I had already climbed saving me the additional elevation gain.
One last look at Grand Turk and Spencer Peak as I made my way back to the trailhead.
When I returned to the Colorado Trail it was pretty busy with day hikers and mountain bikers and the parking lot was pretty full. Of course, when I reached the trailhead all the smoke I had been seeing all morning seemed to have mostly cleared out, too. I guess that’s what I get for getting an early start! That’s OK, it was still a nice weekend hiking in the San Juan Mountains!