Friday, April 27, 2007

Mays Peak with Sunshine

26 April, 2007: This was Molly’s first day off medical restriction from running, after coming up with a sore leg a couple of weeks earlier. I wanted to take her on a good long run. My original plan had been to drive up Gold Camp Road to the first tunnel, take the spur leads down to the Columbine Trail, and run up to the upper trailhead. Once I got to the Cap’n Jacks trailhead, which is just a few hundred feet east of the tunnel, however, I decided to start there.
We ran the short distance west on the road to the tunnel. There, I knew from previous experience, a faint trail leads south and up onto the top of the ridge which the tunnel pierces. Upon gaining the ridge crest, I made another spur-of-the-moment decision: Instead of dropping down the west side and following the drainage down to the Columbine Trail, I decided to take the clear climber’s trail which led north up the ridge.
I did this because I had looked at the highly visible, scrub oak-covered, south-facing slope which sits above (and to the west of) the tunnel many times, wondering just where it led. It’s visible from quite a distance, because it’s basically flat (not level, but flat), and devoid of trees. I figured some brand new territory, leading to a better understanding of the folds of land between the front range ridge (see previous post) and Mount Buckhorn (see a different previous post) would be interesting. Plus, it seemed like a good way to celebrate Molly’s freedom--she had been terribly unhappy that I had had to leave her behind the last few times.
It helped that a sketchy, but mostly clear, trail led north up the ridge. Shortly after crossing over the tunnel, it leaves the actual ridge crest, veering east, to skirt the scrub oak area. The going is much easier at the edge of the trees.
The trail becomes less definite here, and we did some guessing about the fine grain details of how to proceed, but our route basically switchbacked up the east side of the ridge, aiming for the apparent summit visible from down below. I say “apparent” because, upon arriving there, I discovered that this isn’t really a high point at all. The ridge continues to climb to the north beyond, but the slope is so moderate that the land behind is invisible from below.
We found a clearer trail here, though, once again basically following the ridge crest through the trees. This led in fairly short order to a small but real ridge point. I had taken my camera, but not my GPS unit, so a determination of the elevation of this point will have to wait until I can find my temporarily lost Manitou Springs USGS quad topo map; it’s somewhere around 8,000 ft.
The trees were thin enough here to make it obvious that a higher ridge point lay beyond, so we made for it. I was fairly confident that, once on this point, we would be able to get a decent visual fix on some of the surrounding territory. The grade here was quite easy--as opposed to the very steep slope coming up to the ridge--and the timber was not too dense, so we progressed quickly.
Upon arriving at the small collection of boulders which marked the point, I realized that I had been there before! A couple of weeks earlier, running with Buddy, I had taken a trail west from the front range ridge, and ended up coming at this same point from the north. It was a considerably longer route, and, although I had surmised that this was a minor summit north of Mays, I had turned back at that point. This time, having gotten there sooner, I decided that I would press on and see if the summit could be reached in the time I had available.
Indeed it could. In less than ten minutes, I crossed the trail I had taken on my first ascent of Mays, and started up the final stretch to the summit. This time, although the skies were clearer and the temperature was higher, there were significant patches of snow left on the ground. The snow was shallow and soft, however, and offered no significant obstacle.
So, Molly and I soon topped out and enjoyed the much better view. I was glad that she could bag this peak, which she had missed earlier. And I was really glad to have sunshine and clear skies, so I could finally get some decent pictures from the summit!
The pictures are at:



Long life and many peaks.


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