Turret Peak

Sep. 4th, 2013 05:41 pm
ilanarama: a mountain (mountain)
[personal profile] ilanarama
Britt and I always get out of town during Labor Day Weekend. This year, we decided it was a good time to climb Turret Peak, at 13,835 feet the 89th-highest mountain in Colorado, which we have often viewed from our local ski area and on other backpacking trips. It sits next to the slightly higher Pigeon Peak, which we climbed in 2008. These two mountains are often climbed together, but we hadn't had the time or energy to go up Turret on that trip. No big deal; we'd really enjoyed camping in the beautiful meadow below, and had decided that we'd just have to come back for the other peak, and enjoy it again.

approaching the summit massif

Back in June we did a backpacking loop that ended at the Needleton flag stop of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Train, and thinking ahead to this trip, we bought season passes, which cost less than two train rides. It's a lot of fun to hike to the train station in town to start a backpacking trip! Pretty amazing, too, how many hikers use the train to access the wilderness. Most of them were going to Chicago Basin (where we camped the last night of our June trip) to climb the fourteeners Aeolus, Windom, and Sunlight; only one other pair of hikers were headed toward Pigeon and Turret, and they were going to camp up North Pigeon Creek, west of the peaks, rather than up Ruby Creek to the north as we were, so our trails would diverge a couple of hours in.

all aboard hikers getting off the train

It's a brutal hike to the meadow above Ruby Lake, where we planned to camp. The trail is about as far from a Forest-Service-standard constructed path as you can get; it's really just a use-route, often obscured by downfall, frequently angling straight up the steep hillside. Occasional cairns gave us reassurance we were on the right track, which was a good thing as we only got lost twice - compared to our 2008 hike in which we probably spent more time off than on the trail!

on the 'trail'

After a couple of hours we broke out over the Animas River. The bridge where the train had dropped us off (near the lower right of this photo) looked to be farther away in vertical distance than in horizontal:

Animas river

Then the route crossed over the ridge and turned up Ruby Creek, where we gained another thousand feet or so to Ruby Lake. Climbing over the lake we finally got above treeline, which made the going a little easier - but we still had willow thickets and rock jumbles to contend with.

above Ruby lake

It was getting late and threatening rain by the time we made it to the meadow where we intended to camp, an incredible high basin at 11,600 ft, surrounded by jagged cliffs. When we'd been there in 2008, we'd caught one glimpse of a mountain goat high up on a ridge, but after seeing so many goats in Chicago Basin on our June trip, we expected we might see some in the meadow - and we were right. Shortly after we set up our tent, the white spots we'd noticed on the surrounding rocks began drifting into our camp. There were nine of them, mostly males (one with a radio collar) but two females with kids were among them. The males made dominance displays at each other while the kids chased each other around and generally entertained us.

playful goats goaty goats

The morning dawned beautifully clear, with no clouds in the blue, blue sky - but we knew we couldn't dawdle until the sun hit our tent and warmed things up, as we didn't want to get caught in the inevitable afternoon thunderstorm. Our 8:15 start was late by alpine standards, though, and we saw the first wisps of cloud forming as we headed up the incredibly steep grassy ramp above the meadow. By the time we reached the ridge between Pigeon and Turret, the clouds were big and puffy.

morning in camp uppy uppy up!

(In the second picture, our tent is in the shadow on the far side of the small stream, just to the left of center. The bright white spots around it are mountain goats.)

Britt and Pigeon Peak up the slot

We hit the summit around 10:40 and had a snack. On the ridge below us we could see the two guys who had camped in the basin north of Pigeon Peak, heading up towards Turret. When they arrived at the peak perhaps half an hour after us, they said they'd left their camp shortly after 5am so as to be able to make both peaks before the weather moved in. They were kind enough to take our photo:

on Turret summit

Then we headed down the long, steep descent to our camp. I've indicated our tent in the second photo - gives you an idea how far 2000+ vertical feet is!

down the crack looking down to camp

We had a late lunch and then goofed off, reading and - I admit it - napping. That night it rained pretty hard, and though it was clear the next day we had to work to dry our things so we wouldn't carry too much water back down with us.

Ruby Lake shone beautifully in the sun:

Ruby lake

It took far less time to descend the so-called trail than it had to ascend it two days before, and we only got off-course once. We made the 3:35 pickup with half an hour to spare; we arrived at the Durango station at six and then it was time for the last bit of hiking - the ten blocks home.

letting off steam

All the photos at Flickr, none of the jibber-jabber
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ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
Ilana

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My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

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