Spectacular Summit Peak

Guthook CDT mile 854.4 to Elwood Pass (mile 863.3)
(8.9 miles, +1,300/-1,700 feet).

Okay, I know I have said this before, but the scenery today might just have been the most spectacular I have ever seen.

Now that I have built up your expectations, let me begin at the beginning!

The altitude, sleep deprivation, and rain had taken a real toll on our pace, so we decided to jumpstart toady with an early wake up.  Unfortunately, it rained through the night and was even still raining lightly as we emerged in the darkness to pack up.

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An early start

Fortunately, it looked like the remaining rain was not systematic — it was just mist falling from very low hanging clouds that were clinging to the mountainside.  It made for some challenging route finding early on.

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A welcome cairn in the mist

We climbed out of our drainage and, though we could not see it, we started circumnavigating Summit Peak.

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Rolling meadows below Summit Peak
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More lovely flower gardens

Slowly the clouds lifted and revealed the mountain.

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First view of Summit Peak
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JimmyJam watches light touch the valley

Originally I thought I wanted to climb this peak since it is the highest point in the South San Juans (13,300 feet) and not a technical summit.  However, given the weather we decided to give it a pass and instead continue our circumnavigation.

And I think that was definitely the right call.  The light over the next hour or two was simply magical as we traversed bright green fields, rusty red scree, and snowy white remnants of winter.

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Beginning the traverse below Summit Peak
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Looking back down the valley
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Vogue snaps a photo
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Snow fields beginning
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First view of Lake 12419 below the peak
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Looking up towards summit peak
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Colors burst out everywhere here
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Snow fields feed the lake
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A scree-lined bobsled track
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Getting closer to the lake
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Vogue cuts steps
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And JimmyJam follows
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Grassy slopes below the peak
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Vogue starts the steep grassy traverse above the lake
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Fantastic clouds reflecting in the lake
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My new desktop image
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JimmyJam finishes the traverse
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Sub-Summit selfie

I don’t even know what to say.  I didn’t want to leave.  It was by far the most scenic part of an already-amazing trip.  But all good things come to an end, and we needed to press on.  The rest of the day was also beautiful, but it is just so hard to live up to something like that.

We continued north towards and around Montezuma Peak.

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Tarn at the Divide
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Looking down valley
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Looking back towards Summit Peak
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The Pacific side of the Divide
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Montezuma Peak obscured
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Traversing towards the Peak
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Montezuma revealed

Weirdly, we encountered a wilderness boundary sign in the middle of the wilderness.

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When the boundary is in the middle
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Back towards Summit
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Forward towards Montezuma

Rounding Montezuma on its eastern slope we started to descend

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Snow fields below Montezuma
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Vogue heads towards the Divide
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Beautiful red formations at the Divide
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Heading back up for a bit
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Back to a flat traverse
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A swampy tarn
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Another (helpful?) trail marker

The scenery the rest of the day was….nice.  But I got just a little bit bored after such a terrific morning.

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The trail 707 junction made me laugh out loud
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Back to the tree line
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Back into the woods
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And around meadows
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And finally…
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…the pass!

Although we originally planned to get to Wolf Creek Pass, the sky was looking even stormier by mid day than it had the past few days, and we were totally feeling saturated but the morning’s beauty.  We discovered that we had cell service at Elwood Pass and decided to go ahead and get our ride back to the car at Cumbres Pass.

This is a day I definitely want to do again some time.

Summit Peak, I will be back!

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