Rain Rain Rain
(And Six Summits Anyway)

2-5 Aug 2007 - by T Colorado

We left Denver and made the nice drive down to Lake City, then followed the Alpine Loop road past the Silver Creek Trailhead and found a nice campsite in the trees about 3/4 of a mile before the American Basin Trailhead/Cinnamon Pass Road junction. As we arrived, just after noon on Thursday, the weather looked dubious and it started raining shortly after we got organized. We used the rest of the day to review our peaks and the routes and to wave at the many passers-by on the road. It rained most of the night ... at times heavily.

On Friday, we woke to cloudy skies. It sprinkled a bit. We delayed our departure hoping for better weather. At about 10:00 a.m., the sun poked out and blue sky appeared, so we shouldered our packs and starting hiking up the Cinnamon Pass road to the actual pass. The skies immediately started clouding up and looking like rain again. Our goal was to climb Cinnamon Peak and Unnamed 13,535. We saw many jeeps and 4WD vehicles, along with multiple ATV's, but no other hikers. At Cinnamon Pass, we stopped to talk to a really neat couple who were biking from Lake City to Durango. We were racing the weather and made the turnoff, at the pass, onto an old mining trail that we could see intersected the ridge just below Cinnamon Peak. The hike up was nice though I was suffering a bit from some mild altitude sickness ... it can happen to even the seasoned climber. At the top of Cinnamon Peak, we tucked behind a nice wind shelter and scoped out the peaks for the next day (Wood, 13,688, and Gravel). After munching some food, taking a couple of Tylenol and drinking water, we descended down the saddle and headed over to Unnamed 13,535 (just over 1 mile away). We could not see the actual summit as you contour along a ridge. The fog was sweeping up from the valleys below creating a surreal scene with Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn peaking in an out of the clouds. The weather continued to be unpredictable, but we had no precipitation. We hit the summit of Unnamed 13,535 at 1:30 p.m. and the sun came out again. We were able to relax on the summit with the butterflies for over an hour before heading down to Grouse Creek pass, and continuing on to the intersection with the trail used for Handies. We could see many people on Handies as the clouds swallowed them up. Please note that you should be able to see Grouse Pass from the actual summit of Unnamed 13,535 (and you should not be able to see Cinnamon Pass). Once back to the truck, the showers played hide and seek with us for the remainder of the day.

On Saturday, the skies and weather started out pretty good. We got an early start, hiking up the Cinnamon Pass road, and turned off the road at mile marker 22 to head cross country on tundra and intersect the ridge below Wood Mountain. The ascent of Wood was uneventful up some scree and rocky terrain to the summit. The ridge to Unnamed 13,688 looked terrifying. But, we knew we were to descend the ridge (towards Unnamed 13,708) to a saddle and then downclimb scree and loose talus on the west side of the gnarly looking ridge between 13,688' and Wood. So, off we went down the ridge to the saddle. Boy, it didn't look much better from here! We made our way down loose, loose talus and contoured until we were below a point north of the low point of the connecting ridge. We were trying to determine which "steep, loose couloir" we were to ascend. From down in the basin, it was all a bit confusing. We saw a yellowish steep couloir that appeared to become a "Y" at the top. That did not look so good. In hindsight, it probably was the correct couloir. Being the individuals that we are ... hahaha ... we continued to the next couloir (which was green rock) as it "appeared" to be better. Appearances can be very deceiving. We started up this couloir and it was steep, and it was loose, and much rock was let forth by both of us. The higher we got, the steeper it became. And, by the time Michael said to me, "I don't think this is the one ... maybe we should go back down". I looked down and said, "Nope, we're committed now and need to keep going up". It was high 4th class at best. In fact, he said the he would have pulled out a rope had we had one. But, we didn't. Not soon enough we were on the top of the ridge and making the final hike to the summit of 13,688. The weather was not looking good. We could see it coming from the southwest (specifically from the area of the Grenadiers) and swallowing up peaks and valleys in its path. We made a quick descent and headed over to Gravel Mountain just in time for a quick downpour. We put on our raingear and started down the zig-zagging trail that descends to Hurricane Basin and spits you out at an old abandoned 2-story mining building and mining road. On the way down, the rain stopped and the sun came out and we actually got hot and had to stop and take off our rain gear. Our next goal, once we got water in the basin, was to reclimb to the saddle between Wood Mountain and Unnamed 13,708 and descend via an old mining trail back to Cinnamon Pass and the road. On our way up the large talus slopes, the heavens opened up again ... this time with a vengeance unmatched to that point. Heavy, cold winds whipping around heavy rain, and lightning and thunder continued for a period of time. We both started to get very wet and cold even with the raingear on. Some clothing additions helped, but it soon became apparent that we would need to continue climbing up to the saddle in spite of the weather. And, climb we did. The rain had loosened up slopes that were not loose before and it made for a tedious and sloppy re-ascent to the saddle. But, soon we were there and very relieved to be. We made our descent back down to the road, stopping to take a quick break in the rain. The road, even in the rain, was just as busy and we passed many people on our way back down to our camp. It certainly was a worse weather day than the day before, but we were pleased to get three summits done.

On Sunday, we were greeted by overcast, dark skies, but were intent on getting Unnamed 13,722 done. We headed back up the road to Cinnamon Pass and made a contouring route around the basin below Wood/13,708/13,722 to intersect a somewhat vague game trail on the southern grassy slopes of Unnamed 13,722. We soon hit a nice distinct rocky gully (bordered on either side by scree slopes) that we took to the top of the ridge and then continued the short distance up to the summit. The views were incredible. This peak is positioned very well for photographs and we could see Coxcomb, Wetterhorn, Uncompaghre, Rio Grande Pyramid, Handies, Redcloud, Sunshine, American Peak, Jones, Niagara, the Ice Lake Basin group, the Sneffels group, and our favorite .. the Grenadiers. Unfortunately, the Grenadiers were generating more rain and it was coming our way. So, a quick trip down the ridge, and we screed and grassed it back to the road, up to the pass and back to our truck in the rain. We drove back to Lake City in the showers, but on the way to Blue Mesa, the skies cleared up and the sun came out (hey, what's that bright object in the sky!?!?!).

The Cinnamon Pass and American Basin area is teeming with flowers ... all due to the fact of the amount of rain that area is receiving. There's certainly no fire danger. The two bikers we saw said it had been like that for a couple of weeks. Amazing that we were even able to get six peaks done with that weather ... truly a blessing. Happy Trails!


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