Before I took off for Paiute Peak, I took this zoomed photo of Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker.
I've got nothing specific to point out here. Just a great Colorado view.
Same thing...just another great view. The weather was really cooperating that day!
On my way to Paiute Peak, I realized that this broad and very tall mountain was Pike Peak. I was surprised to see it because it is rather far from Audubon. The visibility was really great!
From the summit of Mt. Audubon, Pauite Peak looks to be about a mile away along a mostly flat ridge. This was not the case. The ridge actually went down ~700' vertical before climbing again towards Paiute Peak. It wasn't particularly difficult, but scrambling along ridges at 13,000ft is slow going.
My plan was to scramble up to Paiute Peak and then scramble down to Blue lake, shown here, where a trail leads back to the parking area.
This scramble reminded me of the knife edge trail on Katahdin in Maine.
This lake is unnamed, but my plan was to summit Paiute and scramble down the scree slope near the upper right side of the photo. Scrambles from the ridge between Audubon and Pauite appeard to be troublesome due to cliffs near the bottom. That would suck. Scramble down 1,500 vertical only to have to climb back up again. I wasn't about to mess with that.
My Favorite shot of Mt. Toll. Getting up this peak looks to be rather technical.
I hadn't looked back at Audubon in a while, so I turned around and was surprised at how far I'd come. "That's a long way back" I thought to myself.
As I pushed on towards Paiute Peak, I encountered snow. I don't think the picture does the danger justice, but take it from me...you do not want to slip and fall here.
The other side was less steep, so I very carefully stomped some footholes and crossed this little but dangerous snow field.
The summit of Pauite Peak was very close now.
D'oh!! Another precipitous snow crossing at 13,000ft. Cats may have nine lives, but I don't. I could see two more similar snow crossings before the summit, so after much contemplation, I decided to cut my losses an head back to Audubon where the route down was a sure thing. A big factor in my decision was that I was alone and hadn't told anyone where I was going. Lost on Audubon...no problem. People hike there all the time. Slip and fall in the backcountry between Audubon and Pauite Peak and god knows when, where, and in how many pieces anyone would find you.
Once I turned around and looked back at Audubon, I was surprised at how far I'd come. There's some optical illusion about the ridge between Audubon and Pauite that makes the ridge look much easier and smoother than it really is.
I thought about downclimbing to Blue Lake, but I couldn't determine a route that I could say with certainty would not end in a cliff. So I pressed on...back up Audubon for a second time.
On the way back I passed by this unusual outcropping of rock. It made for a nice frame for Longs Peak. Not photographed: The wind. The wind on my way back to Audubon was intense. Probably 40mph constant. It was unrelenting. This normally wouldn't be a big deal because having hiked lots of New England mountains, I was used to crazy winds. The problem was that for reasons unclear to me, I hadn't packed out a hat other than my visor. I didn't take any more photos on my way back to the summit of Audubon because the wind was really getting to me. I felt like it was blowing directly into my ear canal. It was VERY loud and frustrating. I almost couldn't think by the time I reached Audubon's summit. Fortunately, Audubon has numerous wind shelters built out or rocks by hikers. I curled up on one of the wind shelters for something like ten minutes to regain my sanity. The good thing is that there was little or no wind on the way up Audubon, so chances were good that once I was off the summit that the wind would die down.
After my ten minute break, I was feeling good again and headed down Audubon the same way I headed up until I saw people playing on the snow fields. I decided that I wanted in on the fun.
At first I was pretty conservative and just sort of skied down the snow. I wanted to get a feel for the snow depth and softness.
Once I was comfortable with the snowfields and was convinced that they were stable and safe, I decided to take the plunge. I put on my rain shell, curled up in a ball on my back and slid down the snowfield with my backpack on my stomach. What a blast! Behind me is my sliding path.
Here's a better shot of my butt groove. I wanted to do it again!
After leaving the snowfield, I looked back several minutes later and could still see my butt mark. Is my butt really tha big? I guess so.
I wanted to play on this snowfield too, but it had a strem emerging from its base, and so I didn't want to take any chances on breaking through. I shot a video of some other guy trying his luck on this snowfield. He was apparently trying to practice self arresting, but was having a hard time keeping moving. My earlier snow field descent was MUCH faster. I bet he didn't realize that someone was watching him fumble around from afar!
The route down Audubon was easy. I'm glad that I went back this way. I also had some nice views on the way down.
Here I am back at the parking lot...and it was only 2:20pm. I'd call that a successful day with time to spare. Time to head back to Ft. Collins for some Chipotle!