Saturday July 6, 2002
Having failed to reach the summit of Beattie Peak (13342 ft), I returned to my vehicle at 1:30 p.m. I was sick and tired of scree and was looking for a beautiful mountain that I could easily climb. Months ago, I had noticed on my map the chain of 12ers that rise to the east of Route 550 between the town of Silverton (elevation 9318 ft) and Red Mountain Pass (11018 ft). North to south, these include: Red Mountain #3 (12890 ft), McMillan Peak (12804 ft), Ohio Peak (12673 ft) and Anvil Mountain (12537 ft). My map had also shown a four wheel drive road that seemed to provide good access to Ohio Peak. From my vehicle, I could see a red conical mountain 6.5 miles to the northeast. I was wondering if that was Ohio Peak, so I went to see if I could climb it tomorrow.
I drove back to Route 550 (2 miles north of Silverton). The mountain slopes in that area were bright red and were covered with Aspen and Pine trees. These were the lower slopes of Anvil Mountain whose summit could not be seen from the road.
I drove two miles north on Route 550 until I reached an unsigned dirt road on the east side of Route 550 and turned onto it. It was 10150 ft there. The road made many switchbacks as it went up the mountain in a dense forest of tall Pine trees.
At around 11200 ft, the forest began to thin out and the road crossed a creek (Browns Gulch). Ohio Peak appeared directly above the creek. It was a fairly broad mountain whose summit was made of a rather long ridgeline that was covered with reddish scree. I was wondering if I could climb it from there. It seemed like I could follow the banks of the creek through a stand of Pine trees and over grassy slopes to reach steep scree below the summit. I didn’t want to deal with scree so I went to find a better trailhead.
As I continued on the road, I quickly reached an area that was littered with abandoned cabins and mining equipment. The earth was yellow and smelled of sulfur. I could see the red conical peak that I had seen earlier. I identified it as Peak 12296 ft that rises to the south of Ohio Peak. A couple of Jeeps came and the people in them went to check out the cabins.
The road continued to go up in elevation until it went above the timberline and reached a nice grassy area that was almost 12000 ft high. Ohio Peak was in good view. I knew that I had found a good trailhead. From there, the climb would only be a stroll across the beautiful grassy slopes to reach the summit ridgeline.
To the southeast, the rocky summits of South Lookout Peak (13370 ft) and US Grant Peak (13767 ft) made a very impressive scene. I could also see Peak 13309 (that I had climbed on Wednesday) as well as the tips of Fuller Peak (13761 ft), Vermilion Peak (13894 ft) and Pilot Knob (13738 ft). The peaks on the west side of Route 550: Lookout Peak (13661 ft), Three Needles (13481 ft), Peak 13477 etc. were also in good view. I could only see a small portion of Route 550 just to the north of the big switchback (south of Red Mountain Pass). As I was enjoying the views, one of those big open back vehicles that are used to take people on four wheel drive tours came there. A middle-aged woman in the back of the truck told me to get out of the way so that she could take a picture. I did that but later I became upset thinking that I should have told her to get her butt out of that truck and walk a little.
I then drove back to Silverton, reserved a Jeep for Monday and went to our Bed & Breakfast by 4:30. Mary had been waiting and was worried. We ate at a restaurant and then sat outside enjoying the great views of Kendall Mountain (13066 ft).
Sunday July 7, 2002
Got up in Silverton, Colorado at 6 a.m. and drove to the 12000 ft trailhead that I had found yesterday. All of the slopes to the east, including Ohio Peak, were still in the shade but I had great views of the peaks on the west side of Route 550. It was 7:40 when I began hiking. I did not see anyone the whole time that I was on the mountain.
I hiked across the grassy slopes aiming for a 12250 ft saddle at the northern end of Ohio's summit ridgeline. The grass was wet with morning mist. The sun was shining directly into my eyes. In a couple of places, I had to cross dry flood channels that had carved deep grooves into the slopes. These were easy to cross. I once saw a deer in the distance but it quickly ran away (I had seen a deer on the road too).
I was wondering about the name "Ohio Peak". Having lived in Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio for many years, I could attest to the fact that the state of Ohio did not at all look like this area. Off the top of my head, I could only think of a few other Colorado peaks that were named after other states (Missouri Mountain, Iowa Peak…) but I knew of one other Ohio Peak near Gunnison, Colorado. I didn’t understand the need for two Ohio Peaks while the names of most of the other states had not been used. All I could think of was Drew Carey screaming OHIO at the end of the theme music of his TV show. The Pretenders had a song that said: "I went back to Ohio...". Apparently "Ohio" in Japanese means "Good Morning".
When I reached the 12250 ft saddle, the view of the other side (east) appeared. I could see the peaks around Minnehaha Basin including Bonita Peak which I had climbed on Tuesday but the sun was behind them and they only appeared as big black shadows. There was an abandoned cabin that had partially collapsed. It looked like whoever lived there had dug a hole 20 ft in diameter and 5-6 ft deep. I was very curious wondering what the story behind the cabin and the hole was. My imagination was running wild seeing a young man who had left his family in the east coast and come to this spot in the late 1800s to mine the area. He had been very hard working and had built this cabin and dug this hole with his bear hands. He dreamed that soon he would strike it rich and would be able to spend his days at the finest hotels in town where he would be surrounded by women who would light his cigars with $5 bills. He saw Colorado only in terms of its mining and logging potential. It didn’t even occur to him to care about Ohio Peak itself. He didn’t care that the area had been taken away from its original inhabitants who had been confined to reservations away from the mountains. Despite his hard work and diligence, the poor fellow ended up dying in this cabin of cold and malnutrition. Well, maybe the story was not that dramatic. May be the cabin was built by a mining company or even the forest service 40 years ago and the person who stayed in it had a regular 9 to 5 job with health care and other benefits. I guess I will never know.
I headed south going up a relatively steep grassy slope that had some rocky areas as well. I soon reached the top of a gently sloped scree covered ridgeline. The rocks were mostly red but some seemed to be snow white. For a second, I thought I saw the shadow of an animal moving around a rock pile ahead of me. I kept my hands on my bear mace and on my knife as I approached the rock pile but I did not see anything. Having reached what I thought was the summit, I found out that I was really on a false summit and the true summit was a few hundred feet farther south and 100 ft or so higher. I finally reached the true summit at 8:30 a.m. It was the first time that I had reached the summit of a mountain that early. The morning sun gave everything an orange hue. There was not a piece of cloud in the sky. I was very much impressed by the views.
To the west and northwest, I could see a continuous chain of 13ers making a wall on the west side of Route 550. South to north, these included: Lookout Peak (13661 ft) and a bunch of nameless 13ers around it, Three Needles (13481 ft), Peak 13477, Trico Peak (13321 ft), Peak 13510, Telluride Peak (13509 ft) and the many summits of Hayden Mountain (13206 ft). I could even see the flat top of the 13786 ft Potosi Peak which was much farther away (near Mt. Sneffels) to the northwest. Mt Wilson (14246 ft) and probably Gladstone Peak (13913 ft) were barely visible 17 miles away beyond the slopes of Lookout Peak. Route 550 is known as the "Million Dollar Highway", some say because the views it offers are worth a million dollars. Ironically, none of the above peaks can be seen from Route 550. Having seen that sight, I could really appreciate the true majesty of the area. Only a small portion of Route 550 could be seen just to the north of the big switchback south of Red Mountain Pass.
To the southwest, South Lookout Peak (13370 ft) and US Grant Peak (13767 ft) formed very impressive walls. The sharp and needle-like tips of Vermilion Peak (13894 ft), Golden Horn (13765 ft) and Pilot Knob (13738 ft) were also visible.
To the south, the red scree-covered ridgeline of Ohio seemed to continue all the way to Anvil Mountain (12537 ft). Bear Mountain (12987 ft) and the peaks around it were to the right of Anvil while Sultan Mountain (13368 ft) and the peaks around it were to the left.
To the southeast, I could see the eastern end of Silverton at the foot of Kendall Mountain (13066 ft) and the other peaks of the Kendall Mountain Range. The jagged Grenadiers were also in good view.
The view to the east was at first nothing but big black shadows. As the sun rose in the eastern sky, I could better see Storm Peak (13487 ft), Peak 13330, Emery Peak (13310 ft) and Bonita Peak (13286 ft) all of which were across the valley of Cement Creek where Route 110A runs (north of Silverton),
To the north, Ohio's scree covered ridgeline led to gently sloped grassy slopes that were very pretty. The grassy slopes went all the way to the summit of McMillan Peak (12804 ft) where a big antenna had been installed. While the western slopes of McMillan were very gentle, its eastern slopes were steep dropping into the valley of Cement Creek. On Tuesday, when I had been on Route 110A near Cement Creek, McMillan Peak had appeared as a very prominent mountain. With its red scree slopes, Red Mountain #3 (12890 ft) could be seen just beyond McMillan Peak.
I sat on the summit for 3 hours as the sun went up in the sky and pieces of cloud appeared out of nowhere. I could only hear the wind, the ever present flies and occasional planes as they flew far up in the sky. At times, the wind felt a little chilly. I was surprised to find a summit registry which was just a Mason Jar hidden below a bunch of rocks.
I then connected my CD Player to my camcorder and began to play Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" Overture while videotaping the views. When I hear this music, it has become impossible for me not to think of Bugs Bunny giving Yosemite Sam a haircut while singing this song.
It was 11:30 when I began to go down. When I reached the abandoned cabin, I went into it to check it out. It only had one room and a small area that was probably a closet. Now that the sun was up, the flower-filled grassy slopes appeared very beautiful. The red slopes of Ohio as well as the walls of South Lookout and US Grant Peaks provided excellent backgrounds. I sat there for a while and then went back to my vehicle by 12:30.
I then drove back to Route 550 and headed north until I reached the place where Ohio Peak came into view. I could only see the tip of it appearing as a very inconspicuous spot rising above a nearer slope.
It was 2 o'clock when I went back to our Bed & Breakfast in Silverton. Mary came later. We then picked up the Jeep I had rented for tomorrow and ate at a restaurant. We later walked to the Kendall Mountain Ski Area. There was a nice log building that was probably a community hall but at that time it was locked. All I could see of the ski area was a very short tow rope. We then walked to Memorial Park where we had great views of the red and yellow eastern slopes of Ohio Peak rising above the valley of Cement Creek (I had climbed the mountain via its western slopes). It began to rain hard so we waited on the porch of a public building until it slowed down.