Winds of Change on Mt Ouray

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Trip Report
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Oct 6, 2007
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Winds of Change on Mt Ouray
Created On: Oct 7, 2007
Last Edited On: Oct 7, 2007


Mt Ouray (13971')- CO Rank 58
Chipeta Mtn (12850')- unranked
Pt 13472- CO Rank 272

11.4 miles RT, 4950' gain
From Marshall Pass (10840')


It seems like the weather pattern so far this fall has been warm and dry during the week with doom and gloom on Saturdays. I gaze out my office window and long for these nice days to fall on a weekend! The forecast called for a 60% chance of light snow with 60mph wind gusts for Mt Ouray although it looked to be fairly warm, so it was a go. Dave Gibson and Dave Hale hooked up with me, but they ended up climbing Ouray from the more scenic Grays Creek trailhead. A long ridge walk in possible snow and high winds over to tri-centennial Pt 13472 didn't appeal to them, and I can't say I blamed them! Doing 13472 makes the most sense from Marshall Pass, so I would be going solo. I met Dave and Hoot at the Grays Creek trailhead Friday evening where we camped. The wind kept me up but abated a few hours before I woke.

Ouray from Marshall Pass

I wanted to get back to C. Springs for the Air Force game, so an early start was in order. I set out in the dark from Marshall Pass at 5:36am with a temp of 39 degrees. I found the road that heads up to the Hutchinson-Barnett cabin, then took a due north bearing through the trees to treeline. I always feel a little spooked hiking by myself in the dark through the woods, but the timber was spread out enough that I could easily see where I was going. Once cresting treeline, dawn was arriving and it was looking like it could be a decent day for October.

Cool clouds over Mt OurayColorful clouds above Ouray.

Upon reaching the Continental Divide, the winds picked up but the gusts weren't bad at all. That wouldn't hold for the whole day though! I followed the divide to the west ridge of Ouray, which looked pretty steep. The sunrise lit up the clouds above Ouray nicely as I started the many minor ups and downs along the ridge. I followed bits and pieces of a trail, but there isn't much to this ridge other than a cool quartz rock outrcropping that I skirted around to the left. I toyed with going right over it, but with the long ridge walk ahead I decided to save my energy. I pushed myself the rest of the way and topped out at 8:02am. Clouds were swirling around the summit, which was a cool effect with the rising sun. It was a comfortable 30 degrees on top with moderate winds. It looked like the predicted snow wasn't going to happen.

Alpenglow on Chipeta & Pt 13472Alpenglow on the next distant goals for the day, Chipeta & Pt 13472

Traverse to Chipeta & Pt 13472

I left a note for Dave and Hoot in the summit register and headed down at 8:32. I retraced my steps down the west ridge over the minor bumps back to Pt 12685, where I was able to take advantage of the prevailing s.w. winds as they were now behind me.

West ridge of OurayThe west ridge of Ouray with its many ups and downs.

From here I could see Dave and Hoot already on the summit, so they must have made excellent time up the Grays Creek route since they started later and lower than me. The ridge walk along the divide to Chipeta & 13472 is quite pleasant over mostly grass and sections of stable talus. The wind began to pickup, but the gusts couldn't be more than 30-35mph. The grassy slopes of Chipeta were a piece of cake, and I topped out at 10:30. The summit of Chipeta was pretty windy, so I decided not to take a break. The remaining climb to 13472 looked close but steep. Another 800' of toil awaited me.

Pt 13472 from Chipeta MtnThe final 800' climb to tri-centennial Pt 13472.

The s.w. ridge of 13472 wasn't much fun for me after over 3 miles of ups and downs from Ouray. I was getting tired of the talus hopping, and now I found myself in the jet stream. I guess it was time to pay my dues. The winds were now beginning to batter me in earnest and the drunken sailor walk ensued as I struggled to keep my balance on talus. This was the type of wind that knocks your trekking poles sideways. I spit once and never saw it land as it probably landed on Monarch Pass somewhere. I don't think I could have made it from Ouray if the wind was this fierce all the way, but as the ridge leveled out the winds backed off again as I topped out at 11:15. This tri-centennial 13er actually had a register and sees few visits despite its proxmitiy to Ouray. I enjoyed a 15 min snack break here after the long walk from Ouray.

On the descent, I decided to bail off the ridge at the Chipeta/13472 saddle as the wind battered me again on the way down, this time head on. My original plan was to go back over Chipeta and down the Little Cochetepa trail on the other side, but sidehilling on talus sounded better than high winds in the face with more uphill. I did a descending traverse down Chipeta's talus strewn west slopes in hopes of hitting the CO trail. I could see it down in the valley and I wove my way through patches of grass amidst talus and found the trail at 11600'. From here, I was finally able to escape the wind in the trees and it was an uneventful and pleasant hike down the CO Trail to Marshall Pass. The trail turns into a road at 11320', which a 2WD car could make it up with a careful driver. I made it back to the pass at 1:36 after an 8 hr day.

Mt Ouray Devil s ArmchairThe Devil's Armchair of Ouray taken on the drive out.

Other than an hour or so of annoying high winds, it was a great day to be in the mountains. On the drive down, a huge aspen had recently fallen across the road. I was able to budge it enough to squeeze my car by. Glad I started the hike early, as the winds really picked up later in the day!



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