| C & B
6am: Piney River Ranch TH, 9300'
10:35am: Peak C, 13220'
2:25pm: Mt Powell, 13580;
Mt Powell & Pk C from Piney Lake
Much thanks to Aaron Johnson, whose work on Summitpost was very helpful! I drove the washboarded, potholed 11-mile road to the Piney River Ranch and started hiking at 6am. When the lake first came into view, I couldn't believe my eyes! Moose - my first sighting in Colorado! They paid me no attention as I watched them bottom-feed for 15 minutes.
Moose at Piney Lake
Within another hour, I came to the cairn and spur trail that leads left towards Knee Knocker Saddle. The valley is lush with vegetation, contrasting with the rugged peaks.
Flowers above Piney River
Just when I was getting self-congratulatory for staying on trail, I lost the trail. I then headed up the slopes left of the river, thinking the trail wouldn't go right up the cliffy area around the stream. As I found out on the return, the trail does stay very close to the stream. However, marsh, overgrowth, and some jumps in the trail made me think it would take some practice to stay on trail on the ascent.
Mushrooms above Piney River
Piney Lake & River
Eventually, I contoured back towards the valley center, reaching the trail again. I had not yet decided whether to do Mt Powell or Peak C, thinking I'd just see where my feet took me. The scrambler in me won out over the highpointer, and I found myself ascending the gully towards Peak C's west ridge. I used the gully on the right on the next photo, the closer one to the TH.
2 Gullies leading to Pk C's West Ridge
Later, when I saw both gullies from above, they looked very similar, so probably the left one would work fine as well.
The same gullies from above and east
View north from Pk C West Ridge
Reaching the west ridge, I was paid with great views. A few high-altitude Gore mosquitos visited me at 12000', so I pressed on.
View south from Pk C West Ridge
I traversed over near the next gully on the ridge, then contoured over to the ascent gully. I suppose there are many different variations to attain the summit. The next photo shows the large gully I traversed to, with an imposing wall on its right. The subsequent two photos are views up that gully.
From the west ridge, the gully to ascend higher on Pk C starts at bottom right
Looking up gully I used to get high on C
At the reddish rocks, I escaped left out of the gully to the grassy tundra and climbed to the summit.
After escaping out of the gully, I made my way up a rocky slope, at times loose. On the descent, I decided I would have done better getting farther to climber's left, where terrain is more solid. I topped out at 10:35am, soaking in the Gore scenery.
Mt Powell from Pk C
Alpine lake and view SE into the Gores
Piney Lake from Pk C
southern Ripshaw Ridge
French bread & Jalapeno Havarti - brunch of champions!
I broke out some food, then called Amy, telling her I would probably be heading back. However, as I sat and ate, I felt strength coming back, and the skies were not threatening.
I descended back to the high basin, then found myself contouring over to the trail heading up to Knee Knocker Saddle. I was at 11,500', meaning I had over 2000' of vertical to get Powell. The trail to the saddle was very solid and steep - great for ascent, though not so pleasant to descend.
Mt Powell from Knee Knocker Saddle
From the saddle, I could see the slopes of Mt Powell. I descended 50-100' to bypass cliffs, then started the trudge up Mt Powell. Only class 2, I still stopped every 10-15 minutes to rest, and was happy to make the summit after nearly 4 hours from Peak C!
Eagles Nest from Powell
Pk C from Powell
At the summit, I met a fearless pika, who even nipped at the bottle by my feet.
The descent took me over 3 hours. Only back at the main Piney River Trail did I see three hikers and then many folks at the lake. A beautiful day alone in the Gores!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):