Typically for the last trip of the summer I like to head out to one of the best places that Colorado has to offer - the Weminuche. Situated in Southwest Colorado, this range has some of the most unique, rugged, and seldomly trafficked peaks of the state. For this trip we opted for 4 days to explored some summits and basins that had been on the list for some time.
Our trek began at the infamous Bear Town Trailhead - one of the most remote in the state. The route to the trailhead begins from Silverton, following Stony Pass, then diverging to some more technical off-roading terrain. Nothing too substantial, but out there enough to give pause in the event of a breakdown. Would be a difficult fix!
From the trailhead, we began our descent into the Vallecito Valley before trekking up into the basin below Storm King Peak and Mount Silex. Almost immediately after our start the thunderstorms and hail moved in quickly. We hunkered down for a minute, then decided to press on. Eventually it let up, and we managed to setup camp and get things to dry out just a little bit, but not nearly all the way. Always a rough start with wet gear. Regardless, we settled in at camp, chowed down and hit the hay for about an hour or two before heading for a sunrise summit of Storm King Peak.
The alarms went off around 2:00 A.M. - which turned out to be just on the verge of way too late. We awoke to some of the most heinous dew I have experienced. With our clothes still being slightly wet from the day prior, it was quite the uncomfortable wake up. Every step soaked our pants and shirts bushwhacking through thick shrubbery, willows, etc. By the time we found our way out of tree line our boots were completely soaked from the dew - no time to think about that though, must keep pressing on since we were on a time crunch. We ran into a couple more route finding issues, included an odd river crossing, and found our way through a loose gully to get by the first cliff band. Once we made it over the cliff, the race was on. We forged ahead, boulder hopping at a slow runs pace, and gained the Silex Storm King Saddle. The morning glow began to unfold, and we still had at least another 1000' to gain. I pushed on, decided to take the summit ridge direct as it might allow me to summit in time. This quicky turned much more into a class 4 endeavor at a very fast pace, and certainly entrained my focus. The clarity in moments like these is a special feeling - moving fast through the mountains over technical terrain to a goal that must be completed in time. Eventually I found my way through the ridge, and summited just in time for sunrise. I immediately took out the little 50 mm, focused, and took my first panorama of the trip, encompassing many peaks in the Weminuche, including Chicago Basin, Pigeon, Turret, Jagged, etc. You can also see much of our route in the days to come:
Sunrise over the Weminuche as seen from the summit of Storm King Peak
In addition to the panorama, I couldn't help but shoot the Trinities Traverse - a route I look forwarding to climbing someday. It was great to reflect on our last trip to Vestal Basin - as seen in the right portion of the frame - a spectacular place.
Sunrise over the Trinities Traverse as seen from the Summit of Storm King Peak
All in all, Storm King Peak presented much more of a challenge than anticipated. The thick dew combined with route finding issues in the night and a late wake up just induced an all out suffer fest. We were worked once we got back to camp. We took a small nap, ate some granola, packed up and headed our way back up the pass we just came. Of course, once we arrived back on the top of the pass - the clouds rolled in once again. The weather in the Weminuche is wild! We kept a close eye on it as we were strictly in the alpine from this point out, and trekked on. The first views that we were rewarded with of Leviathan Peak and Leviathan Lake were outstanding:
Leviathan Peak over Leviathan Lake
The next obstacle was the tackle the pass in the right of the frame in the above image - finally settling us in just below the infamous Jagged Peak. To our great surprise, the views just kept on delivering once we emerged on the other side of the pass:
Daylight on a small peak in the Weminuche Wilderness
We continued to wind through the wilderness, soaking in the views as much as we could. We finally arrived to our destination: Sunlight Basin. In typical fashion, we arrived quite late and frantically started chasing down a composition. We opted for the nearest cliff and snapped some images while the light faded quickly:
Dusk over Sunlight Valley as seen from Sunlight Basin
We were pleased to have a quick shoot, setup camp, get some grub and settle in for what ended up being a terrifying night out in the high county.
As we settled into our tents, we got emerging signs that a storm might be moving in. Unfortunately, we were camped high up in the alpine - no tree cover whatsoever. We checked the Garmin for weather periodically throughout the day, and the biggest chance for rain was about 10% - although we were skeptical. Indeed, skeptical was the right mindset to have. Around 2:00 A.M., some of the most roaring thunder I have experienced swept in over camp. Our tents began lighting up from the lightning strikes nearby, with no longer than 10 seconds between each bolt. We knew we were in a bad spot, but we knew there was simply not much we could do besides wait it out. Shaking in our tents, we anxiously waited out the storm - just in time to not let us sleep before our sunrise summit of Knife Point. Shortly after the storms cleared, we emerged from our tents and studied the night sky - we were still weary but began our approach. We slowly began climbing the gully, then gained the ridge and trudged our way up the face. Luckily, we managed to escape any more storms - however, the light was pretty much completely blocked at sunrise. We waited it out, and got some pleasant golden hour light shining on Sunlight Peak as seen from the summit of Knife Point:
Golden Hour Light on Sunlight Peak as seen from the Summit of Knife Point
The views of Jagged Peak as well as Pigeon and Turret were spectacular as well:
Golden Hour Light on Jagged Peak as seen from the Summit of Knife Point
Sunrise over Pigeon, Turret, and various Weminuche Peaks as seen from the Summit of Knife Point
Once again, due to the lack of sleep, we were pretty worked - and this time we were very happy to only have to shift our campsite a short ways up to Sunlight Lake and lounge for the day. No better place to do so! Once we setup camp, we were greeted by perhaps the most mountain goats in a setting I have ever seen. Although hard to capture, there must have been 20+:
Goat Camp at Sunlight Basin under Jagged Peak
Adorable Baby Mountain Goats below a Setting Sun over Jagged Peak
That night we were finally able to get a little bit of sleep and set our alarms for around 4:00 A.M.
By day 4 we were beginning to get tired, but finally got a little bit of descent sleep. We woke up, forced ourselves out of our tents and began our trek up to Upper Sunlight Lake. It was a pleasant last shoot to the trip, and we were rewarded with rich sunrise light over Windom Peak and Sunlight Peak reflected in the lake:
Sunrise over Windom Peak and Sunlight Peak as seen from Upper Sunlight Lake
Jagged Peak Reflected in a Small Pond Near Upper Sunlight Lake
After shooting sunrise, we packed up and headed our way out. Overall, a spectacular trip with great photographic opportunities. It is rare to get a trip with this many "keepers" or photos that actually turn out. I always feel fortunate when the creative process works it way out, all while trekking through some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the country. The Weminuche certainly does not disappoint.
Click the image below for my route on FATMAP.