Thursday, October 05, 2006

Point 7,514

Thursday, 5 October: Thursday is one of my usual running days with Molly, my brother’s red German Shepherd. I was looking for something new, but still close to home.

So we started at the trailhead (well, one of them: there are several) for the Stratton Open Space in between his home and mine. I’ve taken Molly running there numerous times before, but the area is laced with many trails, so we’ve hardly ever taken the same route twice. Not long ago, we finally wound our way all the way up the slopes (it’s right on the edge of the foothills, sloping consistently up from east to west) to the one trailhead at the top, located right on Gold Camp Road as it traverses the eastern face of the mountains above the reservoirs.

This time, I looked up at the hills across and above the road. The trail comes out right below a prominent “bump” which punctuates the skyline as seen from below. It appears in many of the evening sky photos which I have taken from various places within the SOP park area. So I decided, more-or-less on the spur of the moment, to see whether or not a feasible path could be found to climb this point, which stands a few hundred feet above the road. We reached the road in just 28 minutes from the trailhead, having come 1.72 miles, and, as the weather was mild and clear with no clouds appearing to roll in, it seemed like a good plan to pursue.

Upon crossing the road (which carries very little traffic most of the time), I was a little surprised to find an obvious, but little-used, trail leading into the drainage to the left (south) of the rock outcropping. I happily plunged ahead, and let Molly back off her leash after getting a few yards into the brush and away from the road.

Moving west up the drainage, I found roughly what I expected: varied terrain mixing loose scree, vegetation-covered slopes, and partially open areas carpeted with leaf/needle litter. However, I also found bits of trail, clearly showing that others had been this way. I followed these where I could, always looking up to my right for the best place to leave the bottom of the drainage (where I mostly found myself), and strike out in earnest for the top of the rock outcropping. The point for which I was aiming is on a spur extending to the east from the main ridge, which runs basically north to south, so I knew I probably didn’t want to follow the drainage bottom all the way west, to where it finally topped out. This would make the gentlest path to my goal, but not by any means the shortest. With no really difficult climbing to be seen, it made sense to turn right, and more steeply up, at some point.

When I finally did this, I only had to climb about 50 feet of fairly steep scree slopes to gain the ridge top. I came out at a point in between the highest point on the spur and the rocks visible from below (no surprise). The GPS gave me a reading of 7,478 ft. here. A few minutes later, when I bypassed some rocks with a small tree growing right out of them on the ridge crest, and got to the actual high point, I recorded an elevation of 7,514 ft. First, though, I went down to the east to a prominent outcropping from which I hoped the road would be visible. It wasn’t, at least not directly below me, although I could see the point not far away to the south where the road finally makes its big turn through a cut in the rock, and crosses around to the west side of the ridge, and into North Cheyenne Cañon proper. So I knew I was close to the point visible from below, but still a bit back from it, and above it. Good enough.

Molly had hung in with me all the way. She has already proved herself to be very good on both rocks and scree, and I had no doubts, once we started up the drainage west of the road, that she would be able to make this little excursion with me. When we topped out, I was sorry that I hadn’t thought to bring my camera. I found quite a lot of level space on the ridge crest, punctuated by small groups of rocks. The area would make a good place from which to observe fourth of July fireworks (in defiance of the wishes of the city government, which arrogantly blocks access to this section of Gold Camp Road every year on the fourth, precisely because it would be a good place from which to observe said fireworks). However, I have no doubt that I’ll be back, and with Molly, so I’ll have another opportunity to get some nice photos of this spot. It’s another one of those little gems, right on the edge of the city, which many have seen from afar, but which few have visited. Now I have.

It had taken just about 15 minutes to climb to the top from the road, about 470 feet vertical. After spending five minutes on top, Molly and I got back down to the road in about ten minutes. We saw a couple of hikers and bicyclists below the road on the way up and on the way down, but absolutely no one on our little climb—how great! It only took 22 minutes to get all the way back down to the trailhead. Another interesting, and original, run/climb, on a beautiful and sunny fall day. Now, if I could just get the weather to hold, and the scheduling to work out, so as to pack in one more fourteener before this balmy weather goes away, I’ll be really happy.


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