In the Shadow of Greatness
Redcliff Peak and the toothy ridges that pierce the sky above the Cimarron River go happily and largely unnoticed. Waterfalls that folks pay money to see at roadside attractions flow higer, wilder and more freely. Other places would have named and trademarked thier upright rocks but so many spires jag the sky that naming one over the other would be too myriad and confusing. All this fairy land beauty plays out in castles under the auspices of softer but higher giants known as fourteeners. Namely the high and large Uncompahgre and elegant Wetterhorn Peaks hover above like brooding big brother keeping its siblings in line.
Waterfall below Dunsiane-Precipice Peak Ridge. Middle Fork Cimarron River Valley.
Josh Nichols has been showing me the ways of the mountain bike. Apparently he had his fill of spinning his wheels in the desert and agreed to join me in the mountains to cool off. Like many, myself included, the idea of climbing high peaks brings the fifty-four peaks over fourteen thousand feet -the fourteeners- comes easily to mind. Josh avoided his support for the Colorado establishment and agreed to check out this area around 100 miles from the Grand Valley. After chores on Saturday morning we headed to a close mountain area. The Northern end of the San Juan Mountains are within 100 miles of Grand Junction and offer shade on the good side and cool if stormy climes to go with it, both good for avoiding heat.
Flowers and North Face of Coxcomb Peak
We headed out at five AM to avoid the afternoon lightning and rain. The dawn shown red through the clouds and lit the walls 3,000 feet above us. We hiked the long and unknown way up the Middle Fork of the Cimarron River valley to reach Redcliff Peak. As we climbed the gradual trail we passed tight canyons pounding and pouring water into roiling pools and ribbon streaked falls. The flow is slowed by as calming velvet of alpine tundra in the calm green basin above. As we ascended the flower choked slopes of the basin the mist flirted and teased our waiting eyes. In lacy waves we peeped at greatness in all directions. Uncompahgre, Wetterhorn, and Coxcomb Peaks revealed and repealed their rocky flanks.
Middle Fork Cimarron Basin
My objective was the mysterious views we lucked into. My second objective was climbing Redliff Peak. Taking the long way meant that there was no description of the potential route I spied in photos and a previous climb of Coxcomb Peak. A ten foot careful scramble was the key to gaining the west side of the saddle between Coxcomb and Redcliff. We joined the more traveled route on the high ramp allowing access above Redliff’s namesake cliffs.
Redcliff’s ramp leads up a normal slope to surprisingly sharp summit surrounded on three sides by fluted cliffs. We took in the views, late breakfast and short nap. The summit register showed a meager three pages of climbers had signed in since 2002. Redcliff’s deserving views are rarely taken in. I doubt my scribing will change that. We signed in as proud residents of Grand Junction and ambled six or so miles back to camp. En route we cruised the shady trail passing, canyons, waterfalls, and jagged spires we had missed on the way up. Each of these glories is worthy of it’s own roadside attractions and fee booth. Luckily the only thing we had to pay for was the gas to get back home.
North face of Wetterhorn Peak veiled in clouds.
Uncompahgre from Redcliff Peak's east side.
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