Atlantic Peak via Pacific Peak
From Mayflower Gulch Road
Friday July 12, 2013
My hike/climb had started at 6:13am from Mayflower Gulch road and had taken me up Pacific Creek all the way to its source and then up the West Ridge of Pacific Peak to the summit at 9:09am (see trip report for Pacific Peak). After spending some time on the summit enjoying a beautiful day in the Colorado high country and taking some pix it was time to move along as I still had a ways to go today. Thus, at 9:23am I started my descent down the cobbled/talus for the connecting ridge/saddle between Pacific and Atlantic Peaks.
Atlantic Peak is less than a mile away and the views this fine morning were impressive as I somewhat “dallied” along the way and took several photos and paused often but briefly. Although there was no defined trail the way is unmistakable as I avoided the snows on the east side and trekked directly on the ridge itself. A cool, sustained breeze with occasional gusts had me grabbing for my hat more than once and the loose rock kept me on my toes as an injury way up here could be a major problem. I took my time and progressed down to where the saddle is at its lowest point and paused for more photos.
Facing east lays Pacific Tarn (posted as the 2nd highest lake in the USA at 13420’) and Quandary Peak.
Pacific Tarn & Quandary Peak
To the west was the Pacific Creek gully and the Climax Mines tailings ponds well below. To the north was a fine view of Pacific Peak and its signature notch as well as a profile view of the West Ridge.
Directly south was my destination; Atlantic Peak.
Although the weather couldn’t have been better for this endeavor there were bands of clouds gathering and building as the day progressed and the forecast had called for a 40% chance of showers in the afternoon. I plodded up the ascent for Atlantic Peak with a bit more attention to my timetable and reached an empty summit at 10:25am.
I removed my pack and took in more food and drink and pondered my next move as a descent down the West Ridge of Atlantic Peak and back down to Pacific Creek from whence I came. The entire route lay before me and looked much more straight-forward than my ascent up the west ridge of Pacific Peak. I stayed about 10 mins. While taking a few more pictures
Atlantic Peak Summit Shot
and then took my customary three aspirin with a swig of Gatorade, stuffed a few Skittles into my pocket and started down the west ridge.
As was the case all this day, I would not find an established trail but stayed right on the ridge and was making good progress as this was a much simpler route than was the ascent up the west ridge of Pacific Peak. I looked down to my left and well below lay the Boston Mine basin and an old mining road that connected to the Mayflower Gulch road where I’d left my truck.
Boston Mine Basin
The allure of this road and the building clouds overhead had me transfixed on another descent option; why not take a far more direct route straight down the slide shoot I saw below me and right down to the road at the bottom of the basin? Thus, my thinking was I could save plenty of steps and a good deal of time by simply blasting down the side of this mountain and down to the road below; but sometimes I don’t think so good…………
Choosing the slide shoot as my exit/descent soon became a maelstrom of sliding, loose, scree, rock, pebbles and I found myself sliding on my butt as the steepness and the poor footing would not allow me to do otherwise. I’d now made the commitment and turning back up the slide was not going to happen as heading up would have proven impossible at this point. For the next solid hour and a half I would basically slide, crawl, claw my way down this slide with the road seemingly getting farther away vs closer. I reached two separate spots where I had to re-direct myself to avoid sheer rock faces and the steepness never relented and in some spots seemed even more pronounced. I did plenty of looking over my shoulders as a rock cutting loose from above could have started a real hazard for me with nowhere to hide from it. I dreaded every moment and said my prayers all the way and finally reached one last precipice where the road was right there but the sheer drop-off made it impossible to exit without serious injury. I could only traverse over to my right and keep looking for a spot to climb down this last 25’ to the road. A narrow crevasse about 2 feet wide finally offered itself and I thanked the Lord and my lucky stars above for showing me the way despite my foolish decision to go down this descent. I negotiated through this last obstacle and fell to my knees, raised my head to the heavens above upon reaching the road and felt blessed by my good fortune.
My ill-chosen descent route
Walking way clear of the slide area and finding a flat rock to take a seat and pull myself back together as the day was now getting much more overcast from the southwest with heavy grey clouds now moving in. I removed my leggings and got into short clothes, cleared the pebbles from both boots, applied some sun lotion, put some Skittles in my mouth and got started again down the mining road. The wildflowers this day never looked more beautiful as I felt a sense of euphoria and hiking down the road seemed like a dreamy blur of sorts as I was exhausted yet revived all at the same time.
Certainly a weird but calming feeling and I took more photos as I went of the Boston Mine relics
Old Boston Mine Block House
Old Boston Mine Relic
while covering the last mile back to my truck uneventfully right at 12:49pm.
As I started down the dirt road back to the trailhead a large flash of lightning and a quick-to-follow blast of thunder roared through the gulch and moments later heavy rains. This same weather would follow me all the way back home and all through the evening. Nice, as we really needed the moisture in a big way………… Another centennial 13er, sweet!