Chasing the Colorado’s Desert Mountaineers to Windowpane Arch
This is my usual predicament; I had a half-day off and no partners or plans. Seeking a cure I checked online for plans posted by the Colorado Mountain Club. I am not a CMC member but I figured they know what to do on a mid-October weekend.
There were CMC trips posted to climb Front Range peaks, a few
educational offerings, and one local Monument hike up an east branch
of No Thoroughfare that I had not fully explored. The description sounded like a mountaineering style adventure. Climb a class-3 scrambling route to the mysterious sounding "Window" out the rim, and then back down Old Gordon's Trail to Devil's Kitchen Trail head.
I had to go. I schemed my day of stalking the unwary hikers until they showed me the sneaky way. I've spent enough outings not finding my query on the desert cliffs of the Monument.
Tracking CMC Guides
I arrived at Devils Kitchen Trailhead at nine o’ five A.M. I ran up No Thoroughfare Canyon tracking my hiking prey. Leafs of myriad hue slowed my hunt. I gawked at the blazing bright trees lighting up the dark canyon depths. This desert experience rivals the mountain colors in the fall but gladly comes later in fall.
I spotted three hikers and snuck-up behind them... I implored one hiker, "are you going to the window?” "Uh, just going above the first falls" she replied. I carried on casually behind them easing into the group…
I asked the two male hikers who stopped for a break "Are you with the CMC?" "Yes, why? Well… I saw your plans on the CMC website. I was going to follow you to
find the infamous "Window." May I tag along, or shall I keep stalking you?
They agreed to let me in on their trip. Possible CMC coverage helped seal the deal… a little diplomacy can go a long way, at least seven miles this time!
My new friend and guide for the day David Butler led fellow CMC members Larry Allison, Joyce Frost and now me toward our desert mountain goal. We ambled past gilded cottonwood and tangled through red shrubs. We scaled steep rock ramps in the creek. As we puffed along the untracked approach I learned about desert flora and fauna from Larry and about worldly treks from Joyce. David shared knowledge of Colorado mountain beta and the lore of former CMC members.
The Windowpane Arch
We gingerly stepped around a rock corner and scurried behind a tall tower detached from the vertical sandstone walls. The route reminded me of a high mountain couloir filled with scree and boulders; most seemed ready to slip to the canyon floor with a mere touch. After some tricky moves up the cracks a glimpse of air broke through the tower’s wall. Ahhh the Window! In-order to not confuse it with Window Arch above Wedding Canyon and The No Thoroughfare Arch named by Craig Shelly, I’ll dub it Windowpane Arch. Windowpane is a highly exposed arch that is dramatic in a very intimate way. Peering through the Windowpane to the surrounding canyons rewards the intrepid visitor. The casual observer sees no trace of the airy drama. I captured the moment with photos before we summited the airy “Windowpane Tower” above. A bit more scrambling set us atop the rim for lunch.
Satisfied with our mountainous desert scramble we traveled east to descend Old Gordon’s Trail. Lower down Gordon’s mellow track I decided to add intrigue to the tour. Larry hurried on down to pack for the Grand Canyon. Joyce and David joined me for a detour above Devil’s Kitchen. We spied down the “Birthing Hole” and scurried down lemon squeezers back to the Trail head with just a bit of desert mountaineering intrigue.
Thanks to the gracious members of the Colorado Mountain Club for allowing me to stalk them up the trail. The Windowpane is a tremendous but illusive mountaineering style tour on the east side of the Monument. I am in their debt and will look to them for future adventures both high and low. I recommend that more folks follow the rules and join the Colorado Mountain Club. That way you’ll have a legitimate excuse to get out!
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