Route: Tour de Ouray (Northeast ridge up, East ridge down)
Distance: ~8 miles
Elevation: ~4,500 ft (inconclusive due to barometric fluctuations caused by strong wind gusts)
Time: 9 hours (at a very leisury pace)
Group: Jane (wildernessjane), David, Ilene (ilene), Jason (jdorje) and Natalie (nkan02)
Sometimes waiting for the perfect conditions to hike the peak is half the fun. I have heard that Mt. Ouray makes for a wonderful Fall hike, so this weekend the time has finally come to check it out. Jason expressed interest in the hike and Jane, Dave and Ilene jumped on board as well. The consensus was to make the Class 1 hike a bit more challenging, so we picked the NE ridge as our ascent line, and the East ridge (rated *classic* - always a good sign) - as our descent route. The last trip report on the same loop dates back to 2007.
We parked on the north side of the Grays Creek, which makes for a decent camping spot, complete with a fire ring. Had no issues finding the trail at dawn (it parallels the creek) and started hiking at 6.40am. For a change, the forcast called for zero chance of precipitation, with wind gusts up to 30 mph (more on that later).
Right off the bat we knew we were in for a treat. Aspens were in full glory.
After about 1.5 mile approach (short by any 13er standards) we took the shortcut described in the Roach guide book as route 16.3V1. It was surprisingly easy to find. We left the trail prepared for somewhat unpleasant bushwack, but immediately spotted the ridge, which wasn't hard to get to.
Gaining the ridge
The route towards Pt 12,761 becomes obvious fairly soon
Looking back at the beginning of the ridge. Photo credit: David
Jane and Ilene on the ridge to Pt 12,761. Talus didn't become bothersome until the very top of the ridge. We were able to "milk" some short snowfields to save energy
Ilene and Natalie on the ridge. Photo credit: David
Jane and Ilene on the ridge with the Sangres, blazing aspens and bristlecone pine forest in the background.
Devils Armchair and the ridge to Mt. Ouray
Gaining Pt. 12,761 turned out to be a relatively easy task. Gaining the summit ridge to Ouray proved to be a different story. After refueling and putting on extra layers (winds on the ridge really picked up), all 5 of us set off. Jane and I were blown off the ridge almost immediately, so we quickly dropped to the left (east) side of the ridge for awhile.
Despite the winds, Jane is having great time
The ridge quickly becomes a bit more technical, especially with new snow on the north side
Traversing multiple ribs took time. We dropped some ways below the ridge, trying to avoid the wind, but not being very successfull at that.
View of the ridge past the difficulties
The higher we got, the stronger and colder winds got
Ilene was having a bit of trouble on the ridge, feeling dizzy and being pushed around by the wind, so Dave and Jason stayed behind helping her out. I waited for the trio on the saddle, while Jane continued on to the summit battling strong winds.
Jane on the saddle with Ouray
Upon seeing this, I put on a layer #5 - a puffy coat. Jane and I were just discussing that we hiked in t-shirts the weekend before. Where did the summer go?
Meanwhile, the rest of us regrouped and continued on to the summit
I tried to scout an easier line, but it wasn't always the case. The snow and strong winds made things a bit tricky.
Dave and Ilene near the summit
Frequent and strong wind gusts caused barometric fluctuations that marked the summit to be as high as 14,075 ft on my GPS. Ha! I'll keep the GPS in the pocket next time.
Dave, Jane, Ilene, Jason. It felt wonderful to make the summit, and the 360 degree views of snowcapped peaks were stupendous, but the winds were too strong, so we didn't linger for long.
Getting ready to head down
Descending the East ridge route. It is likely rated "classic" for the views. They do not disappoint.
Admiring "Devils Armchair" from a different vantage point
We were not able to find a trail back into the drainage, and picked our way through talus and some grassy patches.
However, around 11,800 ft we spotted some cairns in the basin that led to the trail, and soon found ourserves back in the bristlecone pine forest.
Sometimes the trees don't survive
The road back to the car was paved with gold from Chief Ouray
Mt. Ouray on the drive out
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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