With winter weather making mountain conditions highly variable, these lower and less traveled peaks make for good winter hiking alternatives. This season I have been visiting these off the beaten path locations and having a great time. Most of these places have no trails. It's fun to explorer and test my route finding skills. Best of all, many of these peaks offer grandstand views of higher mountains.
While a couple of these hikes were at the suggestion of a friend, several of these mountains I see close to home and have the desire to explore. With nice summer weather, I am typically drawn to alpine locations with short travel seasons or mountain bike trails that are snow covered much of the year. Most of these off the beaten path places are lower in elevation and are nice to travel in cooler weather.
I have written about many of these off the beaten path places on my blog over the past couple years. While some have there own post, sometimes I combine trips in a post. Here I have three separate outings from this winter to places that don't see much traffic.
Destination #1: Beddows Mountain and Beddows Dome
Just before Christmas, my friend Drew Petersen and I planned for a hike. Our original destination in mind was Curley Peak in the Wet Mountains. One of Curley Peak's biggest attractions is the views of the Sangre de Cristos from its higher elevations. A storm moved in the night before our hike and left the Sangres obscured by clouds. Since we weren't going to get our views, we decided on a lower elevation destination.
Along Colorado 69, between Hillside and Westcliffe, there are numerous small bumps that rise along the highway out of the surrounding ranch land. One of these bumps is Beddows Mountain. What is most interesting about Beddows Mountain its large cliff face known as Beddows Dome. This area is just a few miles from Drew's house. He has visited the area before but never fully explored it. He didn't want to travel solo. I'm always up for exploring new places With the poor visibility at higher elevations, this seemed like a good time to check out the area.
Beddows is part of Colorado State Trust Land. There is a small gated parking lot along CO 69 that is easily missed if you don't know its there. The area itself is fairly small with no trails. I'm not sure, but it appears that the state land is surrounded by private land. The summit of Beddows Mountain rises about 700 feet above CO 69 to an elevation of 8495'. The summit proper isn't quite visible from the road. The large cliff face of the Dome seems to block the view of the summit.
|A hoodoo along the top of the rocks|
|A short scramble to a high point on the Dome|
|Looking south across the Dome|
|Looking across the Dome from a ledge|
|Looking up the valley from top of the Dome|
|Clouds obscuring the Sangres|
|Standing at the bottom of the Dome|
|A good looking climbing line|
|A good look at the Dome from below|
|Another look up at the Dome|
|Looking down at the cliff bands below the Dome|
|Interesting erosion on top of the Dome|
|Standing atop the Dome|
Less than a month after exploring Beddows Mountain and Dome, I explored an even more obscure peak close to home, in the vicinity of Turkey Rock. My destination was PT 8759.
Peak 8759 is one of those mountains that I see everyday while driving. It stands in the area north of the river in Howard. Before I hiked Burned Timber Mountain, see Bushwhacking to Burned Timber Mountain, I was pointing out the mountain to Puma. Puma suggested that I hike PT 8759' because it looks interesting. PT 8759' does stand out in the foreground, higher than the surrounding terrain with long cliff bands along its ridges. Puma was right, it does look interesting. So I decided to climb it.
My hike started in the Turkey Rock area. A short walk up a dirt road brought me to a prominent cliff where I left the road. Although the cliffs can be bypassed by climbing a notch, I wanted to explore the cliffs. My path wasn't the path of least resistance. I was faced with many class 3 moves and even some class 4 sections before I made my way to the top of the cliff. The ridge is well protected with a long band of cliff stretching out quite a distance to the south. Many of these cliffs are vertical with class 5 moves on rotten rock, so I avoided the worst sections.
|Looking up at the main cliff I ascended|
|The view of the cliff from the wash below|
|A close up look of the cliffs|
|Standing just below the cliff|
|Large blocks of rock at the base of the cliff|
|Large crack between two large blocks|
|"Puma Peak" is the point on the left in the background|
|Cliff bands protecting the southern ridge|
|The Sangres from the top of the cliff|
|Looking back at the top of the cliff|
|Gentle ridge to 8759|
|Moderately deep snow at places along the ridge|
|Yucca poking through the snow|
|A close up of the cliff bands along the southern ridge|
|Looking down the ridge I hiked near the summit of "Puma Peak"|
|The summit spine|
|Good look at the bumps along the spine|
|Mt Shavano, Antero, and their neighboring peaks|
|Taylor Mountain in the center with Shavano on the left|
|Big Baldy Mountain|
|Jack Hall Mountain|
|Burned Timber Mountain|
|Looking across the summit spine to the ridge between|
Burned Timber and Jack Hall Mountains
|Looking down toward Sand Gulch|
Road near the summit
|Clearing below the summit|
|Looking back toward summit from clearing|
|Looking down the steep descent to Sand Gulch Road|
|Rock walls along a gulch on the descent|
|Rocky descent in a gulch|
|Sangres from a rock outcropping on the ridge|
Bushnell Pk,Twin Sisters, Red Mtn, Hunts Peak
|A close up of the cliff bands along the ridge|
|Southern Sawatch Range from the summit|
|13,071' Hunts Peak close up|
Big Baldy is another mountain that I see on my commute. At 10,742', it is the highest peak in the immediate area. The elevation isn't what drew me to the mountain though. As it's name implies, the mountain features large expanses of treeless slopes below the summit.
While Big Baldy is more easily accessed from Salida from forest service roads, I wanted to climb it from the south. I had no interest in a long ride on rough dirt roads followed by a short hike. The area is trailless and I wanted to explore. Looking at maps, the peak seemed reachable from Wellsville to the south using various gulches and ridges.
About a week after climbing "Puma Peak", I attempted a climb of Big Baldy Mountain. My route followed a snow choked gulch with a lot of blowdowns. I didn't get very far before calling it quits. I was also dealing with a zero degree temperature at the start of the hike. Fast forward a few weeks we had a period of warmer temperatures that melted much of the snow and I made another attempt.
This time I approached from a different gulch with a quicker ascent to the ridgeline. I started my hike up the unnamed gulch and made good time. However as the gulch narrowed, I sought higher ground with more sun exposure. In the gulch, I would travel over clear ground only to be in knee deep snow two steps later.
|The start of the gulch|
|Deep snow in narrow sections of the gulch|
|I'm guessing a deer leg bone|
|The snow was more consistent as|
I made my way up the gulch
|Leaving the gulch for the drier ridge|
|Making my way to the ridge over dry ground|
|From the ridge I quickly got views|
|A random cairn on the ridge, the only one I saw|
|The southern slopes of Big Baldy just ahead|
|Beautiful grassy slopes on Big Baldy|
|Good views from grassy slopes looking toward|
Mt Ouray and Chipeta Mountain
|Only small pockets of snow remained on the open slopes|
|Looking ahead along the ridge crest|
|Consistent snow along the ridge crest and a few tracks|
|View from a clearing on the crest toward the Cottonwood|
Group in the Sangres
|Close up of Mt Ouray and Chipeta Mountain|
from a clearing on the crest
|Southern Sawatch from Taylor to Antero|
|Trudging through crotch deep snow.|
The rabbits seem to have no difficulty.
|Looking south along the ridge crest|
|Another good look to the Sawatch|
|Another view of Ouray and Chipeta|
|Looking toward the southern ridges of Big Baldy|
|Descending back down the grassy slopes|
|The Bushnell, Twin Sisters, Hunts Peak Group of the Sangres|
|The grassy slopes provide endless views|
|Another close up of Ouray and Chipeta|
|The grassy slopes cover a large area on Big Baldy|
|Another look at the 14ers as I descend|
|Shavano close up over a cliff band|
|Ouray and Chipeta over PT 8856'|
|Leaving the grassy slopes for the scrubby ridge|
|The views continued much of the way|
down the ridge
|Looking back up at Big Baldy|
|The northern Sangres were constantly in view along the ridge|
|Jack Hall Mountain above a cliff band|
in the Badger Creek drainage
|One last look at Big Baldy when I reached the gulch|
|Close up of the grassy slopes|
|Narrow section in the gulch|
|The snow was quite deep in the narrow parts of the gulch|
Big Baldy is a worthy destination. It seemed like all sides of the mountain had grassy slopes giving grandstand views to the 14ers from Princeton to Shavano and particularly good views of Mt Ouray. There are also rare views into the Ute Trail area, including a good look at Black Mountain.
|Jack Hall and Stony Face Mountains|
|Black Mountain is the point in the center distance|
|Jack Hall Mountain from the ridge|
|Clouds moving in over Shavano|
|Mt Ouray close up|
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