Wednesday, September 09, 2009

San Juans Peakbagging, Day 2

Pigeon Peak was easier than we'd been led to expect—the route was purported to have some 4th class climbing, but we scarcely even used our hands. But the view from the top was spectacular, including a look to the northeast to Jagged Peak. We hoped to sleep at Jagged's foot that same night, and it looked a long, long way away.

After dropping back to our packs at around 12,000 feet, we contoured around Pigeon's south side and up to a saddle at about 13,100 feet. From here we climbed the west side of Turret Peak (13,835 feet) and quickly dropped back to the saddle for lunch. We’d been following two guys from Texas who had been surprised to see us show up in the remote campsite below Pigeon (“We thought you were ghosts!”), but now we left them and plunged into the isolated Ruby Creek drainage. We wouldn’t see another soul for about 24 hours—a huge contrast with busy Chicago Basin, just to our south.

Ruby Creek may be the most wild and beautiful spot I’ve seen in Colorado. It's ringed by 13’ers bristling with gray and orange granite buttresses, many of which have never been climbed. A braided creek winds across the flat floor of the upper basin, like a scene from Alaska or the Canadian Rockies. Although the Ruby Creek drainage has been frequented by Outward Bound crews and other hikers for years, it appeared untrammeled. If a grizzly had splashed across the creek or a wolf loped across the tundra, it wouldn’t have seemed the least bit out of place.

Black clouds piled up as we climbed toward Ruby–No Name Pass to leave this magical basin. After an ill-advised creek-side detour through some willows, I’d lost Dave—he was far ahead. Fearful of the impending storm, I pushed as hard as I could to catch him. We crested the 12,800-foot pass, and then, just down the other side, wind and hail slammed into us. Our plan for the coming days was about to be severely altered.

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