Once you get above treeline, take a moment (or two, or ten) to catch your breath as the scenery has changed dramatically. The views from near the top are incredible, but are nothing to what awaits. But in this not quite alpine zone, the chance of viewing wildlife increases, especially since its deserted. We didn't see any bears or deer, but quite a few stellar jay.
This was the first rest stop after that first ridge. What looked easy was pretty deceptive as it was a hand over foot scramble (for me at least) over some pretty steep terrain. We reached this small level area and then it was uphill all the way from there.
Every hiker or climber knows about the dreaded last mile. There are far more "are we there yets?" quieried during this 1,700 feet than at any other point in the hike. And the last mile of a summit really calls much into question, including one's sanity. This hike was no exception.
Although the path is steep, at 12,000 feet, you are above treeline and the summit is smooth, flat and bare. On this one, there was surprisingly little snow given the fields of it we'd crossed in order to get here. Still, this stretch was the most mentally difficult as "are we there yet" gives way to "we're never gonna get there." We did, of course, make it. But, from this vantage point it truly felt so close and yet so far.
Once you reach the top, all of your questions are answered. Not just "are we there yet", but the burning question of why on earth did we do this. The picture doesn't do the view of the surrounding mountains justice. On a clear day, you can see a 360 degree view of the Elk Range, the San Juans and, distant but still visible, the Rocky Mountains. The air was pleasantly cool on this late May afternoon and the sky free from any threat of thunderstorms which would make reaching the summit this late on a summer day a very dangerous activity. Instead, we were rewarded for trekking during the pre-snowmelt season with an empty mountain and an expansive view.
There are countless opportunities to hike in Crested Butte. Once ski season is over, there is a transition period betweenin late May and early June where the town is practically deserted. Many of the shops and restaurants along the small town center area are closed and hotel occupancy isn't a problem at all. Wildflowers aren't in bloom yet, so few tourists venture out to Crested Butte during this time of year.
This worked out pretty well for me. I had this whole mountain to myself on a beautiful mid week morning. It was slow going above treeline due to all the snow, but it was a fantastic day nonetheless. The picture is deceptive in several respects. It looks like an easy romp in a field, sans wildflowers, but still a pretty easy springtime romp. But what you don't see from this point is the snowy, icy trek that awaits. And no, that's not the summit in the distance. Its merely the first ridge. The summit of this unnamed mountain is about 10 miles and several thousand feet away.
I had previously never seen a mountain in my life. But after going to Colorado, I have now sat on top of one. hah! It is still wierd to think about, since I grew up around Chicago. Everything is pretty much flat around here. So anyway. The mountain is around 12,200 or so feet above sea level, which is pretty high, but the town is about 8,000 so if you have been there a couple days you should be used to the air by now. Still, plenty of rest breaks and water breaks were necessary to make it to the top. Half of the mountain we climbed the access road that weaves back and forth, the other half we just went straight up the side. Roundtrip can be contained within an afternoon. Make sure you have good weather!
If you have kids and you're traveling to Crested Butte or Gunnison, do NOT MISS this magazine. It's not one of those ad -filled coupon-filled junk mail type magazines.
This is packed with detailed information on how to get around, what do do with kids, and insider tips to make your stay there enjoyable and easier!
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IT's the best I've ever seen in my travels with my family.