After an amazing day of rigorous hiking which culminated in a successful summit of Half Peak by Sarah Musick and I, we slept at our fantastic campsite in the picturesque valley below Cuba Gulch, near Lake City, Colorado. Instead of taking the longer, more scenic (and steeper) route to Jones Mountain via Cataract Gulch near our campsite, Sarah and I opted to drive over to American Basin and approach Jones Mountain from that side. Usually, climbers looking to summit Jones Mountain approach it from Silverton; however, because Sarah and I were already on the Lake City side of Engineer Pass and were driving a Suburu Forester, we decided to take an alternative route. I had researched our route ahead of time by consulting the out-of-print and quite handy 13er guidebook by Gerry Roach. Upon arrival at the American Basin trailhead for Handies, Sarah and I set-up camp and she decided to quickly hike up Handies since she had never done it before. I decided to stay behind and rest my legs. My ankle was still quite sore from my basketball injury two months prior and my legs were feeling pretty heavy yet from our climb up Half Peak. I spent the afternoon napping by my camera while taking a time-lapse video of wildflowers in American Basin. Upon Sarah's return from Handies we celebrated by opening up some Odell Myrcenary, one of my favorite Imperial IPAs. Good stuff.
After enjoying our beverages, I convinced Sarah to hike up American Basin with me for some photography. The clouds were setting up nicely for sunset and I found a sweet little waterfall which made a nice combination with American Peak in the background. Sarah shot a quick panorama of me setting up a shot in the basin with her phone which depicts the scene quite well I think.
And here's the shot I was setting up to take...
I also decided to hang out past sunset and well into the night in order to get some night photos. I always wanted to get a Milky Way selfie and I thought this spot would be perfect for that shot.
I also set-up for a Milky Way panorama from this spot, relying on the faint light of the moon to light up the hillside.
After freezing my hind quarters off, I decided to head back to camp and hit the sleeping bag for some sleep. Knowing the weather would be great, we decided we would start early enough to get some photographs of the basin at sunrise, but not so early that we would be hiking in the dark. Our route took us up the main Handies Peak trail and then off-route for most of the rest of the day. After hiking about 1/4 of the way up Handies, we split off the trail and started our leisurely stroll up the fragile tundra and wildflowers below American Peak. As the sun began to rise, American Peak began to light up with sweet alpenglow.
The view of UN 13,535 behind us wasn't so bad either...
After enjoying the awesome sunrise, we began to head up the un-trailed section to the west saddle of American Peak. Our target was the lighter colored rocks as seen below. We planned to just bushwhack our way up the side of the mountain.
The climb was not too bad - the hardest section was the loose scree and dirt just below the saddle.
We were quite excited to reach the saddle and get our first glimpses of Jones Mountain.
Our route took us up a very faint trail to the ridge between American Peak (left) and Jones Mountain (right). The hiking was pretty easy going.
Once we were between Jones and American the views opened up a bit and we could see just how rugged Jones looked from this vantage. The summit of Jones is seen at the far right.
We headed down (and then up again)...
Upon reaching the summit of Jones Mountain, we ran into another hiker and his dog. My mind was blown when I realized that the other hiker was Mike Megorden, a friend of mine from high school! We played on the high school football team together. Pretty small world!
Sarah and I celebrated our 16th summit together with views of the Grenadiers and Needles behind us. What an amazing view. Oh, how I had missed this part of Colorado!
I set-up my tripod and shot some panoramas using my telephoto lens. The air was still a bit hazy, which added some interesting tones to the photos. Looking south.
Looking east. You can see the rugged ridgeline of American Peak.
Looking north east - featuring Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn.
Zoomed in on Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn. I think this one would look pretty nice printed large.
After enjoying the views we decided to head back down. We were contemplating American Peak and would need to make a decision when we hit the American - Jones ridge. The weather was looking 50/50.
A glimpse sideways at Jones' north face reveals how rugged it really is.
I was pretty amazed at how great the flowers still looked for this time of year. Here's a shot of some alpine sunflowers with Jones in the background.
Sarah and I rested at the ridge and decided not to take on American Peak - the weather was starting to look a bit questionable; however, the tundra was quite inviting for nap-time.
Sarah and I took our time heading back, enjoying the great scenery on the way.
Back on the American Basin side, we ran into a huge field of wildflowers which I had to stop and take photos of. I really want to go back and get this same shot at sunset or sunrise someday. Here's a shot Sarah took of me composing my photo.
And the crown jewel shot of the day - a mix of awesome wildflowers with the shoulder of Handies Peak in the background at the right. American Basin truly is one of the best spots in Colorado.
Sarah and I got back to our campsite and packed up. We decided to drive back to Lake City and up Nellie Creek for our next adventure: Uncompahgre Peak. I had done Uncompahgre back in 2000 with my dad, but was excited to see if I could get some photos at sunrise from the top. We cracked open some more tasty Odell brews and prepared for our next adventure...
I hope you enjoyed following along for this adventure up Jones Mountain. Next up: Colorado 14er Uncompahgre.