The seasons are changing

Fall is definitely upon us here in the mountains. Our evening temperatures have been dropping close to freezing at night, and the leaves are starting to change, even on the local ski areas. It will still be a couple of weeks before the colors peak, but there are a lot of patches of yellow in the aspen stands around the area. There was even some snow mid week above 11,000 feet, it melted out quick, but it was visible at the top of Beaver Creek all morning. Only two months until Vail’s opening day, so I guess it makes sense. This weekend was Oktoberfest, and some great ski sales to go with it. Saturday my friend Drew and I hiked one of the local trails to Deluge Lake at the east end of Vail. The lake is up at 11,400 feet at the foot of some of the Gore Range’s spectacular peaks. The lower section of the trail had a lot of aspens that had already turned. The trail then ascends through pine to an open meadow near the end of the trail. The views back to the south stretch as far as Mounts Elbert and Massive, the two highest peaks in the state. After the hike we headed to Oktoberfest for lunch, and to check out some of the sales. I need another pair of skis like I need another hole in the head, but they had some good deals on powder skis that were hard to pass up. If I wait until Christmas bonus time, the deals won’t be there, so I figured it was better to pick them up when they are relatively cheap. I got a pair of last year’s Rossignol B3’s, and they were only $300 with bindings. This is already over 50% off, and with the bindings, which even on sale run over a hundred, it was too good a deal to say no to.

Sunday it was off to the high peaks again, I have recently been neglecting the high thirteeners in the state, and decided I should check another one of the list before the snows move in. The weather was beautiful all weekend; no rain forecasted at all, just pure blue skies. I decided it was okay to sleep in as there were no storms to beat, and hit the trail at about noon. I kept it close, not wanting to have a long drive back at the end of the day, and hit an unnamed peak near Independence Pass, a little over an hour from my house. The peak is commonly known as “Lackawanna Peak”, as it rises above the Lackawanna Creek drainage. It officially is Unnamed Point 13,823, however. It is the 95th highest peak in Colorado, but it is of relatively modest stature compared to its neighbors. In fact, you can see 4 of the 5 highest peaks in the state from its summit as well as several other peaks in the highest hundred. You can also see Independence Pass below and the Elk Range (near Aspen) in the distance. The hike itself poses some interesting challenges, most of which are at the beginning. For starters, there is no trail on this peak, the nearby trail heads in a different direction and you are left having to find your own way to the peaks upper slopes. The lower slopes are steep and forested, but route finding is relatively easy, just keep headed up! There was a lot of fallen trees on the slopes, and you have to pick your way over, under, or around them depending on how they lay. After about a half hour of that the slopes ease slightly, and the trees stop growing. From here you have to climb a steep slope of rock and grass to a gentle ridge just below 13,000. The last mile to the summit only gains 800 feet of altitude, with one large false summit along the way. For the most part, the ridge is flat and gentle and is a welcome relief after the steep start that gained nearly 2000 feet in only 2 miles! The view were spectacular, and it was a good spot to relax and have lunch. The total round trip is a little over 6 miles, but the altitude gain at the beginning makes for a strenuous hike. This peak marked number 32 out of the highest hundred, hopefully I can squeeze at least one more in this season before they start to get snowed in to make it an even third!