Sunday, December 31, 2017

INDEX

A complete hiking and climbing guide to the La Plata Mountains of Southwest Colorado. You will also find San Juan Mountain favorites as well as selections from around the Southwest. The entries are sorted by region and alphabetically by title below.

Feature Hike: Walk on a historic wagon road constructed by Mormon settlers to haul dairy products from the Escalante River.

La Plata Mountains, Colorado

Baker Peak, 11,949'
Bald Knob, 11,637'
Baldy Peak, 10,866'
Burro Mountain, 11,575' 
Burwell Peak, 12,664'
Centennial Peak, 13,062'
Cumberland Mountain, 12,388'
Deadwood Mountain, 12,285'
Diorite Peak, 12,761'
East Babcock Peak, 13,149'
Gibbs Peak, 12,286'
Helmet Peak, 11,969' to Rush Basin
Hesperus Mountain, 13,232', Northern Approaches 
Hesperus Mountain, 13,232', Southern Approach
Indian Trail Ridge
Kennebec Pass Trailhead to Sharkstooth Pass via Sharkstooth Trail 
Knife: West Babcock, 13,160', to Spiller Peak, 13,132'
Lavender Peak, 13,200'
Lewis Mountain, 12,681'
Madden Peak, 11,972'
Madden Peak, 11,972', and Parrott Peak, 11,857', Western Approach 
Middle Babcock Peak, 13,180'
Mount Moss, 13,192'
Olga Little Mountain, 11,426'
Parrott Peak, 11,857'
Point 12,101' (Kennebec Peak)
Sharkstooth Peak, 12,462'
Silver Mountain, 12,496'
Snowstorm Peak, 12,511'
Spiller Peak, 13,123', via Burwell
Star Peak, 11,761'
West Babcock Peak, 13,160': Couloir Route

San Juan Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Colorado

American Peak, 13,806', from Burns Gulch
Animas Forks Mountain, 13,722'
Bear Mountain, 12,987'
Beattie Peak, 13,342', from Bandora Mine 
Catwalk: Above Animas Forks
Aztec Mountain, 13,310'
C.T. Peak, 13,312'
Canby Mountain, 13,478' 
Columbine Lake, 12,685', Via Slidepath Route
Columbine Lake, 12,685', Via Standard Trail 
Cooper Creek Peak, 13,688'
Crown Mountain, 13,569', and North Crown, 13,699' 
Dolores Peak, 13,290', San Miguel Mountains 
Dome Mountain, 13,370'
Dragon's Back, 12,968'
Dunn Peak, 12,595', San Miguel Mountains
Engineer Mountain, 12,968'
Engineer Mountain Circumnavigation
Every Mountain, 13,691'
Fuller Peak,13,761', Ice Lake Basin 
Galena Mountain, 13,278'
Golden Horn, 13,780', Ice Lake Basin
Grand Turk, 13,180'
Grayrock Peak, 12,504', and Graysill Mountain's Southern Points 
Grizzly Peak, 13,738': The Kaleidoscope Summit
Gudy Peak, 13,566'
Half Peak, 13,841'
Handies Peak, 14,048', Via Grouse Gulch 
Handies Peak, 14,048', Via Whitecross Mountain 
Hanson Peak, 13,454'; Hurricane Peak, 13,447'; California Mountain, 13,220'
Hayden Mountain South, 13,206', Via Richmond Pass
Hazelton Mountain, 12,527'
Houghton Mountain, 13,052' 
Ice Lake Basin, 12,257', Island Lake, 12,400'
Jones Mountain, 13,860', from Burns Gulch 
Jura Knob, 12,614'
Kendall Peak, 13,451' 
King Solomon Mountain, 13,220'
Little Cone, 11,981' 
Little Giant Peak, 13,416'
Lone Cone, 12,613'
Macomber Peak, 13,222' 
Matterhorn Peak, 13,590'
Middle Peak, 13,280', San Miguel Mountains 
Mount Kennedy, 13,125'
Mount Rhoda, 13,402'; Mountaineer Peak, 13,434'; Whitehead Peak, 13,259'; CDT Loop
Mount Massive, 14,421', Via Southeast Ridge 
Mountain View Crest, Overlook Point, 12,998', West End
Niagara Peak, 13,807', from Burns Gulch
Niagara Peak, 13,807', from Minnie Gulch 
North Twilight Peak, 13,075', West Needle Mountains
Oscar's Peak, 13,432', Via Blixt Road 
Peak 13,300', via Columbine Lake
Peak One, 13,589'
Point 13,795', Colorado's #109, Via Handies Peak
Potato Hill (Spud Mountain), 11,871'
Redcloud Peak, 14,034'
Rolling Mountain, 13,693'
San Joaquin Ridge Summit, 13,460' 
San Miguel Peak, 13,752'
Sheep Mountain, 13,188', East Ridge Gendarme (Lizard Head Pass) 
Sheridan Mountain, 12,795'; Crevasse, 12,311', Via Endlich Mesa
Snowdon Peak, 13,077'
Spencer Basin to Blair Gulch Thru-Hike 
Spencer Peak, 13,087' (Grand Turk Neighbor)
Storm Peak, 13,487', Silverton 
Sultan Mountain, 13,368'
Sundog, 13,432'
Sunshine Mountain, 12,930' (Ophir, CO) 
Sunshine Peak, 14,001'
Telluride Peak, 13,509', Black Bear Pass to Imogene Pass
Tower Mountain, 13,552'
Trico Peak, 13,321', Black Bear Pass to Imogene Pass 
Tuttle Mountain, 13,203' 
Twin Sisters: East, 13,432', and West, 13,374'
V2 (Point 13,309'), Ice Lake Basin Series
V8 (Point 13,300'), from Bandora Mine
Vermilion Peak, 13,894', Ice Lake Basin 
Wetterhorn Peak, 14,015'
Wildhorse Peak, 13,266' 
White Dome, 13,627'
Whitecross Mountain, 13,542', Via Grizzly Gulch
Wood Mountain, 13,650'
Yellow Mountain South, 13,177'

Durango, Colorado and Locations Nearby

Animas City Mountain, 8,161'
Bisti Badlands, Northern New Mexico 
Carbon Mountain, 7,844', Bodo State Wildlife Area
Cascade Creek Waterfalls, San Juan National Forest
Castle Rock, 10,441', Via Elbert Creek Trail, Hermosa Cliffs
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, World Heritage Site, New Mexico 
Missionary Ridge Trail System
Pautsky Point and Crader Ridge to Point 8,175' Via Horse Gulch
Perins Peak, 8,346'; and Point 8,682' (North Perins Peak)
Twin Buttes East, 7,737'; West, 7,700'; and Trail System 

National Parks:

Arches: Delicate Arch
Arches: Landscape Arch and Double O Arch
 
Big Bend: Emory Peak

Canyonlands, Island In The Sky District: Murphy Hogback Trail
Canyonlands, Needles District: Big Spring Canyon, Lost Canyon Loop
Canyonlands, Needles District: Druid Arch 

Capitol Reef: Dome 6,630' and Stegosaur Fin via Hickman Natural Bridge 
Capitol Reef: Golden Throne, Cassidy Arch, Upper Muley Twist
Capitol Reef: Grand Wash, Cassidy Arch, Cohab Canyon
Capitol Reef: Lower Muley Twist Canyon via Cutoff Trail

Death Valley: Corridor Canyon
Death Valley: Hidden Dunes and Eureka Dunes
Death Valley: Surprise Canyon to Panamint City
Death Valley: Telescope Peak, 11,048'; Bennett Peak, 9,980'; Rogers Peak, 9,994'
Death Valley: Thimble Peak, 6,381' and Titus Canyon 4WD Road
Death Valley in Spring: Wildrose Peak, Fall Canyon, Racetrack, Ubehebe Peak, Road Biking
Death Valley in Winter: Corkscrew Peak

Grand Canyon: Escalante Route, Tanner to Grandview
Grand Canyon: Kanab Creek Side Tripping 
Grand Canyon: Marion/Seiber Route, Kolb Arch
Grand Canyon: South Rim Corridor Trails and Clear Creek Spur
 
Grand Teton: Static Peak

Joshua Tree: Pinto Mountain

Rocky Mountain: Trail Ridge Road Bike Ride, Mount Ida

Southern Utah, Northern Arizona

Abajo Peak, 11,360', High Point of the Blues
Arizona Strip: Coyote Buttes, North and South
Big Horn Canyon, Harris Wash, Zebra Canyon: GSENM
Boulder Mail Trail to Death Hollow and on to Escalante, Utah: GSENM
Bowington Road via Big Flat Wash and the Escalante River: GSENM
Bull Valley Gorge: GSENM
Cedar Mesa, Utah
Cobra Arch, Buckskin Gulch Rim, and Middle Route: GSENM 
Cream Cellar Road and Escalante Natural Bridge: GSENM
Golden Cathedral of Neon Canyon: Glen Canyon NRA
Hole In The Rock Road: Peek-A-Boo & Spooky, Fortymile & Willow, Fiftymile, Stevens Arch
Inselberg Pit Via Old Sheffield Road: GSENM  
Jacob Hamblin Arch from Red Well Trailhead: GSENM
La Sal Mountains: North Block
Ladder Canyon, Spencer Canyon Grid, Milagro Passage: GSENM 
Lick Wash to No Mans Mesa: GSENM
Moab Rim: Hidden Valley and Behind The Rocks Wilderness Study Area 
Natural Bridges National Monument: Three Bridge Loop, Deer Canyon 
Paria River via Buckskin Gulch
Phipps Arch and Wash from Old Sheffield Road: GSENM
Red Breaks Canyon from Harris Wash Trailhead: GSENM
Southeast Utah: Whirlwind Draw, Moqui Canyon
Upper Calf Creek Falls to McGath Point, 6,759'
White Pocket: Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Willis Creek Narrows: GSENM
Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch Trailhead: Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Yellow Rock, 5,524', and Lower Hackberry Canyon: GSENM

Southern Arizona

Agua Caliente Hill, 5,369', Coronado National Forest
Bassett Peak, 7,663': Galiuro Mountains
Bighorn Mountain, 5,660', Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Catalina State Park to Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area Via Romero Pass, Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Cathedral Rock, 7,957', Pusch Ridge Wilderness 
Dos Cabezas Peaks, 8,354' and 8,357', Via Cooper Peak, 7,950'
Finger Rock Guard, 6,475', Pusch Ridge Wilderness 
Gibbon Mountain, 5,801', From Bear Canyon Trailhead, Pusch Ridge Wilderness
La Milagrosa and Agua Caliente Canyon: The Narrows Loop 
Linda Vista Ridge to Point 5,730', Pusch Ridge Wilderness
McFall Crags, 5,840', Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Mount Ajo, 4,808', Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument 
Mount Kimball, 7,258': Pima Canyon to Finger Rock Canyon, Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Oracle Ridge Trail: Catalina Mountains
Pontatoc Loop Route: Canyon and Ridge Trail Connector, Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Pontatoc Ridge to Point 7,123', Mt. Kimball Loop 
Prominent Point West, 6,628', Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Pusch Peak, 5,361', Pusch Ridge Wilderness 
Ragged Top, 3,907', Silver Bell Mountains 
Rattlesnake Peak, 6,653', Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Rincon Peak, 8,482', Saguaro National Park, Rincon Mountain District
Saddleback Ridge to Point 5,001' Via Phoneline Trail; Blackett's Ridge to Point 4,409'
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, Tucson
Sutherland Trail: Catalina State Park to Mt. Lemmon, 9,157' 
Table Mountain, 6,265', Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Tanque Verde Peak, 7,049', Saguaro National Park, Rincon Mountain District
Window Peak, 7468', Pusch Ridge Wilderness

Sierra Nevada Mountains

Lamarck Col to Bishop Pass
Mount Gabb, 13,741', Via Lake Italy and Granite Park 


The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild, and...in Wildness is the preservation of the World.
Henry David Thoreau

Debra Van Winegarden (Chris Blackshear, photo)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Perins Peak, 8,346'; and Point 8,682' (North Perins Peak)

Essence: Well-established trail adjacent to town. Playful features and wild creatures make this an engaging hike for children. Pleasant grade through gambel oak and ponderosa pine habitat. Grassy ridge tops out at the peak. Scramble down boulders to the cliff edge for jaw-dropping views of Durango and the La Plata Mountains. Perins Peak is oft forgotten because it is closed eight months of the year. The path is drenched in bird song and peaceful solitude. New in 2017: option to walk off-trail to North Perins Peak. Both mountains are ranked summits.
Travel: From Main Avenue and 25th Street in Durango, go west. The road becomes Junction Street. Pass Miller Middle School and in two blocks, turn left on Clovis Drive. Go up the hill and enter the Rockridge subdivision. Drive 0.8 mile and turn right on Tanglewood Drive. Cross a small bridge and take an immediate left. The parking area is on the right.
Distance and Elevation Gain: Perins Peak is 6.0 miles, with 1,600 feet of climbing. Add North Perins Peak (summit only) and it's 10.0 miles with 2,300 feet of vertical. The blue-line route to North Perins and the Stone Boy, exclusive of Perins Peak, is 9.5 miles with 2,200 feet of vertical.
Time: 2:30 to 4:00; add 2:00 for North Perins Peak
Difficulty: Perins Peak: trail; navigation easy. North Perins Peak: off-trail; navigation moderate. Both have precipitous exposure on the cliff platforms.
Map: Durango West, Colorado 7.5 Quad
Latest Date Hiked: November 15, 2017
Closure, December 1 - July 31: Seasonal closure in the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area provides winter shelter for deer and elk. The closure is extended through spring and early summer to safeguard peregrine falcons nesting and raising their young. This brings the Colorado Parks and Wildlife property into compliance with statewide BLM peregrine falcon regulations.
Quote:  I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.  Frank Lloyd Wright, 1966

Perins Peak is a defining natural landmark rising west of Durango. North Perins Peak is to its right.

Route: Perins Peak is the black-line route. From the Rockridge Trailhead, elevation 6,880 feet, walk southwest up a drainage before winding up a northeast-facing slope. Walk east on the rolling ridge to the peak. Continue to the cliff platform. Retrace your steps to the trailhead. To reach North Perins Peak follow the blue-line route north to the summit, described at the end of this entry. Visiting the stone boy (cairn monument), is extra credit.

Perins Peak
The peak trail is within the 13,442 acre Perins Peak State Wildlife Area, managed by CPW to maintain wildlife and habitat conservation.

Pass the placards at Trailhead 6,880', bear left, and immediately cross Dry Gulch. The thin trail skirts the Rockridge subdivision on open grassland framed with piñon-juniper.

Enter dark and mysterious woods. On north-facing slopes and along the banks of a tributary of Dry Gulch are cottonwood, Douglas fir, and soaring ponderosa pine. Steaming piles of black bear scat will be on the trail in the fall. Watch for deer, elk, and the rare cougar. Squirrels scurry all about. (THW, photo)

Traverse atop and balance along humongous logs.

At 1.3 miles, the track begins climbing in earnest up a hillside crowded with gamble oak, mountain mahogany, and chokecherry. Splendor aflame in autumn, many locals make an annual trek to Perins Peak to experience the brilliance of color. (THW, photo)

Look north and the horizon is spiked with the Needle Mountains, including distinctive Pigeon and Turret. In contrast, in front of these behemoths lies the relatively flat summit plateau of Mountain View Crest.

If kids are going to falter, it'll be on this steep and open hillside. The path soon comes to a welcome patch of pine, aspen and snowberry, a good place for revitalizing snacks and water. The pitch softens as the trail emerges from the woods. Wade through tall grasses watching for the slithering neon, smooth green snake. Listen for the western rattlesnake. (THW, photo)

At 2.2 miles, 8,000 feet, just after a fallen structure on the right, the trail splits twice in rapid succession. The subtle junctures may be marked with cairns. Turn left/southeast. If the La Plata Mountains are in your viewfinder, turn around! Note: in June, 2017, the Lightner Creek Fire burned 412 acres in this area. All that remains of the structure is roofing material. The two-track was widened for fire-fighting equipment.

Go east up the broad ridge.

The treadway climbs another 350 feet to the soft, grassy highpoint. The peak is named for Charles Perins who laid out the Durango townsite for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. A peak register is tucked under the cairn celebrating 8,346 feet. Smelter Mountain and Lake Nighthorse are to the south. The view of Durango only gets better.

Pass by two drive-in movie screens, actually, a microwave reflecting facility. Turkey vultures like to hang out in droves on these structures. You are sure to see peregrine and possibly prairie falcons circling above. Beefy, short-horned lizards thrive here.

Descend gently as the ridge narrows to constrict the passage. At 3.0 miles the earth suddenly falls away. Those with a fear of heights can take in the panorama, compromising little, from this back-from-the-edge overlook. The brave will find a scrambler's route down through gigantic boulders. Be mindful of the exposure. The east cliff face formation is Point Lookout Sandstone.

Kids love messing around in the boulders. Young ones need constant supervision in this precipitous area.

It is a thrill to approach the abrupt edge. Perins Peak is seen from all over Durango so naturally the vista from this lookout is unbeatable. To my right is the Hogsback. Fort Lewis College is on the plateau across the river valley.
(Chris Blackshear, photo)

Children need a spotter while going both down and back up through the boulders. (THW, photo)

Most enthralling of all is Perins Perch. From here, look down on town or west to Silver Mountain in the La Plata range.

Return as you came, passing the microwave reflectors.

At 3.8 miles, don't miss the two essential right turns. (THW, photo)

This hike is suitable for children aged seven and up. They especially like all the wild things, playing in the boulders, looking down on town, and non-stop trail conversation. Bring jackets, hats, treats, and water.

North Perins Peak, Point 8,682'
The North Perins Peak cuesta is visible from the Rockridge Trailhead. The stone promontory, the goal of this venture for scramblers, is the second platform from the right in the image below.

For those who first climb Perins Peak, pause on the highpoint and plot your course. Informally named North Perins Peak is at the far end of the cuesta. You will be walking up the west side.
 
Return to the junction with the exit trail and continue north-northwest on an old road. In just 0.1 mile the road splits. The left branch, the more obvious track seen below, goes to the Perins City mining camp, now in ruins. Bear right on a two-track. It is pretty clear at first but soon becomes hard to follow. Just stay west of a large ravine.

The backslope of the cuesta is sparsely forested with ponderosa. Weave around patches of Gamble oak. Toward the west side is a cluster of unusual, magnificent pines with multiple trunks.

Travel is easy up the broad grassland, open to excellent views west and east.

In two miles the slope comes to an abrupt fall-away escarpment. The peak register was placed by Mark Ott of Mancos in 2014. Since then, only three parties have signed. Views are absolutely unique. Immediately west, Barnroof Point is slightly higher at 8,723 feet. The La Plata Mountains make a signature statement throughout this hike. Look east to the Southern San Juans and north to Pigeon Peak and Mount Eolus. Town is wide-open. The image below looks northeast to Missionary Ridge, Animas City Mountain, and Turtle Lake.

Most hikers will turn around at the summit. It is possible for scramblers to continue out the north ridge, dropping 200 feet in 0.25 mile. There is a faint social trail slightly off the east side of the precipice. The oak brush is thick and affords some safety. Get right back on the ridge and do a low Class 3 scramble down to an intermediate platform, shown.

To reach the very end of the point, back up a few paces and plunge down a shale slope for 40 feet on the east side of the ridge. Skirt along the base of a small cliffband and then return to the spine. The oak brush is thick and annoying. The image below was shot from the mid-level platform of climbers on the airy and exposed end of the prow.

The platform, which feels like a blade, is severed by a crack so deep the bottom is impossible to see. There are big drops on three sides creating a spectacular vantage point.

After clawing your way out of there, retrace your steps to the junction with the Perins Peak trail. Or, extend your hike by visiting the stone boy. As indicated on the map above, we walked east along the platform to another overlook. It afforded a view back at the suspended peninsula. The ring of stone that flows out to the blade is Point Lookout Sandstone. Overlying it is the Menefee Formation. While the Menefee is primarily shale and coal, there are sandstone beds, the short cliffs we scooted beneath. The cuesta top is upheld by Cliffhouse Sandstone. Look about and you will see yellow rocks on the surface that are characteristic of this formation.

From the eastern viewpoint analyze the landscape. The cuesta is divided by two ravines. To find the stone boy walk down a broad ridge between the drainageways for a little under a mile. You will find him out on a point. The nine-foot-tall cairn was crafted by sheepherders to pass the time while tending flocks. It is a stunning yellow monument built with Cliffhouse Sandstone.

From here we were able to weave our way west without getting too tangled in oak. Even in the thickest thickets the plants are well spaced. So descend west into the ravine and climb back out to rejoin your incoming route.

The North Perins cuesta is big empty country and illustrates the enormity of the West just steps from home. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Carbon Mountain, 7,844', Solar Slab, Purple Cliffs

Essence: Traverse the length of Carbon Mountain beginning from La Posta Road and ending at the Sawyer Drive gate of the Bodo State Wildlife Area. A short but rugged off-trail hike with unique features: incline friction slab, purple cliffs, playful sandstone escarpments, mountaintop vista of Lake Nighthorse, historic landslide, and even an old county landfill. All along are views of Durango, local topography, and the La Plata Mountains. Very steep and brushy in spots. You have to work for this point to point ridge hike; the descent route described here should be the preferred choice of summit seekers.
Travel: From US 160/550, turn west at the Sawyer Drive signal and go up the hill. The road ends in 0.4 mile at a green, steel gate. Drop a shuttle vehicle or a bicycle here. Parking is limited. Drive to the bottom of the hill and turn right on the frontage road which transitions to La Posta Road. Go past the scary stop sign at Turner Drive and turn right onto La Plata CR 213. Park in a small pullout below the Solar Slab, 0.7 mile down La Posta Road.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 5.0 miles and 2,200 feet of climbing for the traverse. Round trip for the standard summit climb from the Bodo SWA boundary is 3.0 miles with 1,250 feet of elevation gain.
Time: 3:00 to 5:00
Difficulty: Off-trail; navigation challenging; Class 2+; brushy, wear long pants
Map: Basin Mountain, Colorado 7.5 Quad
Latest Date Hiked: November 10, 2017
Bodo State Wildlife Area: Carbon Mountain is within the 2,923 acre Bodo SWA. The land was purchased by the state from Archie Bodo. It is closed to protect wildlife habitat from December 1 through April 15. Posted, dogs must be on leash.  
Quote: Only in nature do we have a being. In mere moments we have arrived. Joseph Wood Krutch

Carbon Mountain is one of Durango's neighborhood prominences but it is rarely visited.

Route: The black-line route is the standard and easiest approach to Carbon Mountain. It begins in Bodo Industrial Park and climbs the north ridge social trail. The steep and brushy blue-line traverse begins from La Posta Road with a friction climb up the Solar Slab. The out-and-back to the Purple Cliffs is optional. Scramble west along sandstone rimrock to Pt. 7,561'. Turn north, staying on the ridge to the site of the 1932 landslide and then go west to the summit.

From the turnout on La Posta Road, elevation 6,380 feet, walk up the road briefly and turn west into a minor drainage to access the Solar Slab.

Comprised of Farmington Sandstone, the Solar Slab is a pale olive color with abundant quartz, feldspar and mica. The Slab is a bedding plane that was tilted up at a high angle upon ramming into the San Juan Mountains. There are plenty of features in the rock to enhance your grip but you will want sticky soles and a modicum of courage for this friction pitch.

Look 250 feet down the incline to the Animas River and the ball fields at Escalante Middle School. Conversely, now that you know what to look for, the Solar Slab is clearly visible from south Durango locations. (Chris Blackshear, photo)

Clean sandstone transitions onto a equally steep dirt slope. Bearing northeast, pick a good line weaving around boulders, piñon and juniper. Just 0.4 mile from the road intersect the east ridge at about 6,860 feet. The high angled climb does not let up but it is ameliorated with a full spectrum valley-to-mountain vista.

Power west up the ridge passing a cliff band.

The Purple Cliffs rise directly above La Posta Road and stand out because of their eponymous color. You may skip this out-and-back if you wish; it adds 0.8 mile roundtrip and 300 feet of climbing. At about 7230 feet, 0.6 mile, leave the east ridge and descend south to the pleasant ridgeline that leads to the highpoint of the Purple Cliffs. A rocky outcrop projects from the prominence. Go right of an enormous boulder and up a little rocky chute. Take the next scramble on the ridgecrest. 

Top the Purple Cliffs at 7,080 feet. John Bregar, geologist, explained that the Purple Cliffs are Late Cretaceous McDermott Formation which is distinguished by its maroon to purple color. Some geologists attribute the color to manganese. Rock fragments, or clasts, ranging from pebbles to boulders are mostly igneous material, perhaps originating in volcanoes associated with the formation of the La Plata Mountain laccolith. The lowest massive portion of the McDermott Formation at the Purple Cliffs appears to be a volcanic debris flow that is now interposed between tilted sedimentary layers. 


Scramble down from the crest.

Rejoining the east ridge, climb another steep 250 feet to reach my favorite feature of this hike. Walk on top of sandstone rimrock. The cliffrock façade was once favored by Durango's bouldering community but there is no climber's trail and once evident chalk marks have faded away. However, we have them to thank for naming the Solar Slab in a climber's blog years ago.

There is just one tricky move on the escarpment.

At 1.7 miles, Pt. 7,561', the ridge makes an abrupt turn to the north. There are two, fun little scrambles between the prominence and saddle. The point is protected by a rocky outcrop. Find a way off to the west and curl back under the cliffrock. Stay on the ridgecrest while down-climbing through a second cluster of boulders.

Pass above the Durango Gun Club and then plow through a thick patch of oakbrush (long pants recommended).

At 2.2 miles, 7,500 feet, the ridge makes a 90 degree bend to the west. At this apex, you are standing on top of Moving Mountain! As detailed by geologist Paul Oldaker and articles published in the Durango Herald, one June night in 1932, Durango was shaken awake by a raucous and mysterious explosion. Six months later, a second blast deep underground rocked the town. Carbon Mountain, then three miles out in the country, was on the move and millions of tons of debris encroached on the Animas River. Boulders were hurled across the river, trees snapped. Fearful that the Animas would be dammed by the on-coming slide, Second and Third Avenue bootleggers moved their supply of hooch out of cellars while plans were made to tunnel the river.

The landslide was 100 feet deep, a quarter mile wide, and extended over a mile down the eastward slope. "Colorado's Runaway Mountain" became a tourist attraction. A hotdog stand near the base of the mountain was established for hungry visitors returning from a climb over the slide area. On-lookers stood spellbound as they watched a north Durango sightseer standing on the fractured rim lose his footing as the ground crumbled beneath him.  He was carried with the debris flow more than 1,000 feet, managing to keep abreast of racing boulders and surviving unscathed.

Leave the scarp and walk west on a sweet rock rib. Bash through oak scrub on a loose, precipitous slope before turning uphill on the north ridge social trail. As the path tops out and disappears you will come to an old road. Note this location carefully for your return trip. A cairn marks a path to the right leading to the summit. Mountain lion tracks were imprinted in the mud here on my recent hike.

A survey marker is located on the summit of Carbon at 7,844 feet, 3.2 miles. The relief from La Posta Road is 1,564 feet but given the undulations we have climbed 2,200 feet. Carbon Mountain is Pictured Cliffs Sandstone, a light-colored rock up to 70 meters thick. It is the same formation as the Pautsky Point ridge but the Animas River takes a big chunk out of this tilted uplift. The peak overlooks Basin Mountain, Lake Nighthorse, the La Plata range, Smelter Mountain, and Durango.

The peculiarly unnatural sight just north of CR 210 on the south skirts of Smelter Mountain is the 120-acre Bodo Canyon Disposal site. Managed by the U.S. Department of Energy, it contains former tailings generated in the 1940's through the 1960's from uranium ore milling for national defense programs. The disposal cell encapsulates and isolates 2.5 million cubic yards of uranium contaminated materials and is surrounded by a rock apron. The decommissioned processing site is now Durango Dog Park.

Walk southwest along the jutting edge where the daring have the most fun.

We generally turn around where the ridge drops off sharply. There's a view of the Lake Nighthorse dam from here.

To return, the north ridge social trail is 0.15 mile east of the summit. Peg this path before heading down. This is the standard route up the mountain, steep and direct.

Stay on the north ridge until it curves around to the east, dropping into the valley just before the gate. If you are tempted by short-cuts no matter how annoying you can dive off the north ridge heading east as soon as the terrain levels out.

This image looks back at the standard route up Carbon on the north ridge.

Pictured Cliffs Sandstone overlies Lewis Shale. This dark grey to black formation is up to 600 meters thick in the Durango area and is also found in Horse Gulch.

Why is the appealing-looking valley so weirdly lumpy? It was once the county landfill, a free and open dumpsite where you could toss anything you wanted. It was operational from the end of World War II until the mid-1970's when Bodo Industrial Park was approved and constructed. 

Squeeze through the metal gate that posts the official rules for Bodo State Wildlife Area. The refuge is patrolled by wildlife officers so be in compliance.

Naturalist John Bregar, the guidebook you don't have to carry, identified these flowering plants in May, 2016: double bladder pod, mountain mahogany, bitterbrush, squaw apple, serviceberry, cliff Fendlerbush, skyrocket gilia, Easter daisy, primrose, lupine, rock cress, phlox longifolia, fleabane daisy, and orange globe mallow.

A serious amateur ornithologist, John identified the following birds: orange oreol, violet-green swallow, turkey vulture, white-throated swift, rock wren, raven, Cooper's hawk, plumbeous vireo, yellow-rumped warbler, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, pinon jay, spotted towhee, house finch, scrub-jay, Bewick's wren, vesper sparrow, western kingbird, and sagebrush sparrow.