The Grand Monte Cristo Range
Gothic Basin, my all time favorite place.
And I say this with special fervor after doing Stevens to Snoqualmie pass on the PCT. I think its a great hike because its an old miners trail, and therefore quick, brutal, and to the point, none of the worthless, viewless wandering that the PCT does.
I got dropped off at Barlow pass at around 6:00pm, which gave me around 3 hours of light to make it 4 miles (~2300 feet of elevation, all gained in a one mile stretch). I didn't bring a watch, but I think I made it to the basin just before the sun set completely, as I was able to set up my bivy without the aid of the headlamp.
Snapped this picture just before entering the basin, the alpenglow on Sheep Mountain and Foggy Peak.
So, set up camp, ate by starlight, and marvelled at how amazingly clear it was. Honestly, I have never seen a night that clear outside of the desert, it was amazing, the milky way was clearly visible and I saw many a leftover meteor from the Perseid shower.
Luckily, I love night pictures, though in my exhaustion I forgot to set the ISO properly, leaving ALL my night pictures grainy and blurred, but some were at least presentable, thusly:
Another thing I decided on the PCT is that vastly prefer destination hikes to through-hikes, realized again this morning when I simply lie in the morning sun and decide which breakfast to eat this time.
Here, a tall panorama of the upper basin.
After Breakfast, got up and took some pictures while the air was still calm, which meant Foggy lake was indeed not true to its name. Here, classic and cliche shots of both Gothic Peak and Del Campo Peak.
Now, since this was a solo trip, I didn't plan on climbing Del Campo (which I've climbed before), and was indecisive about Gothic, which I had never climbed before. Luckily, I started chatting with another patron of the forest, and he said they were going to climb both that day, and they would be unencumbered by my presence. So I trotted up to Gothic, and was surprised at how much fun it was, the approach is much more interesting than the nasty scree approach to Del Campo, and the summitblock itself is less terrifying. From the top, standard 3 volcano view, Baker, Glacier, and Rainier visible. Panorama from the summit here:
Now, I took many more pictures obviously, as is customary, but the panoramas cover the views pretty well for the purposes here. Anyhow, after lunch, the fine folks I was playing leapfrog with came over on their way to Del Campo and invited me along, but having been sick the weekend before, just climbing Gothic took more out of me than I figured it would, so I politely declined and thanked them for checking in, and I watched them trot up to the top.
The next night was unspectacular, clouds came through and the wind picked up quite a bit, so no more night pictures, much to my dismay.
However, the following morning as I got up to.....uhh....relieve myself, as people often do in the morning, I heard an odd, abrupt squawking noise. Looked over to the rocks looking over my camp, and there was a mother Ptarmigan, hooting at her 7 chicks that were foraging around my camp.
But the oddest part, was that all my experiences with this fine feathered creature in the past involve them flying away before I can even spot them among the rocks, whereas this bird was completely unafraid of me.
So, thats all, I highly recommend this climb or even just the hike to anyone and everyone, its a gorgeous area, there is a mineshaft to explore in the basin, swimming in clean, clear water, and of course, MOUNTAINS!!!
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