| A Hike in the Clouds
For the second year in a row, some friends invited my wife and me to spend the Labor Day holiday in Pagosa Springs. And for the second year in a row, I made a side trip to climb a mountain in the Lake City area. This year I chose Redcloud Peak, primarily because there is 2WD access to the trailhead, and I didn't want to hassle with renting a jeep.
The drive to the Redcloud Peak trailhead takes nearly an hour from Lake City, but I didn't have any difficulty in the Pontiac rental car that I was driving. I saw a variety of 2WD vehicles at the trailhead, including a Toyota Prius. At the trailhead there is ample space for camping, and even a couple of restrooms. So on Saturday afternoon I set up camp in my new-to-me Marmot tent, drove into Lake City for dinner, and returned to camp for some star gazing before bedtime. The night was clear, and I was amazed at the number of stars you can see on a clear night far away from city lights. The camping area with my tent:
Although the night was clear, the morning dawned gray and chilly. Clouds obscured the tops of the peaks surrounding the campground. But the clouds appeared to be benign, and I was hoping they would burn off by mid day. I started my hike around daybreak.
Shortly before passing tree line, the trail was obscured by a bank of snow. Judging from the debris on and around the snow bank, it looks like the result of an avalanche. The flow of Silver Creek had carved a tunnel in the snow bank:
You can either hike around the snow bank or walk across it, depending on your comfort level with hiking across a snow tunnel.
Shortly after passing tree line, I looked around and saw that the tops of the peaks were still engulfed in clouds:
Forward visibility was still good, so onward I trekked. Here's a view from the basin as you approach the saddle:
When I reached the saddle, I was almost to the base of the clouds. Here's a view of the summit ridge from the saddle:
After hiking up the ridge for a while, the Redcloud summit came into view. In this photo the peak to the right is a false summit which must be traversed before reaching the real summit, which is on the left:
The final push to the false summit (note that after reaching the false summit, you have to descend a bit before ascending to the real summit):
And the final push to the real summit:
The views from the summit were great if you have always wanted to know what the inside of a cloud looks like:
When I started my hike that morning, I had considered making the traverse from the summit of Redcloud to Sunshine Peak and thus gaining two 14er summits in the same day. But on the Redcloud summit, I was just too cold and wet from a steady drizzle. I had had enough of hiking in the clouds, so I decided that Sunshine Peak would have to wait for another day.
Once I got below the cloud base on the trip down, the views improved, such as this one looking down at the route back from the saddle:
Despite the inclement weather, I found the hike of Redcloud to be interesting and enjoyable. And since the standard route to climb Sunshine Peak is to go over the top of Redcloud to get there, I suspect I'll eventually be making this hike again, hopefully next time under clear blue skies.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):