SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – December 2007

Backpacker Adventure Guide: Weminuche Wilderness

Try a stunning new hike–or two thrilling classics–in the Colorado Rockies' top spot for big backpacking adventures.

by: Steve Howe

Lobo to Fourmile Ridge, Steve Howe
Lobo to Fourmile Ridge, Steve Howe
Descent from Trimble Pass, Steve Howe
Descent from Trimble Pass, Steve Howe
Pittsburgh Mine, Steve Howe
Pittsburgh Mine, Steve Howe
Endlich Mesa, Steve Howe
Endlich Mesa, Steve Howe

Once the bickering flames out, we start thinking about solutions. The plan–if we can find a detour–is still to forge north along the Needles, then cross the steep Grenadier Range beyond them. From the Grenadiers, we'll drop into the deep Elk Creek Valley, climb back to the Highland Mary Plateau, then turn northwest and beeline across three more alpine basins before plunging from the ridgelines straight down onto Main Street in the newly hip mine-era hamlet of Silverton.

Seeking to avoid a descent to the loathed lowlands, we look for hope in our topos, but there is none. Folding the maps with a sigh, we turn east and pound 3,600 vertical feet down the Johnson Creek Trail to Vallecito Creek.

There we receive a pleasant surprise. Spring snowslides have wiped out the horse bridge at Vallecito's southern end. The normally bustling trail is deserted. We enjoy the luxurious solitude and the primo streamside track through deep pine forest. But our return to the alpine zone looks intimidating. The quad shows a series of steep valleys climbing back toward the ridgelines towering overhead–but no relevant trails. Yet from somewhere in my addled memory comes a vague rumor about a track up Sunlight Creek.

With little to lose, we poke around and discover an old climber's rope strung across Vallecito Creek, probably from some high-water epic. Clue enough. After a 30-yard, knee-deep ford, we strike a well-engineered but long-forsaken trail. Almost immediately, the track disappears beneath a half-mile swath of avalanched timber–karmic payback, perhaps, for our gloating about the bridge washout. For hours, we scramble over, under, and across a jackstraw pile of shredded pine and aspen, finally breaking out onto sweet trail again. Dusting ourselves off, we switchback upwards through shoulder-high wildflowers to Sunlight Lake.

The lake proves to be an idyllic pool set beneath appropriately named Jagged Mountain, and our campsite comes with aerial views back down the valley. It doesn't take long to settle in and kick back. But later, when Mike's off on an evening constitutional, I hear him squeal, high-pitched, like some school girl at a Ricky Martin concert. Then, from the same direction, a snow-white mountain goat suddenly appears over the ridge. It seems my erstwhile hermano was in full squat over his appropriately LNT cathole when he spun to find the mature billy five feet away.

I'm not gloating–much–since an identical scenario befell me once in the Sangre de Cristos. Mountain goats don't have many natural enemies; no predators can handle their vertigo-inducing habitat. Consequently, they often approach people, even licking them for the salt in their sweat.

Up close, which can mean right in your face, mountain goats look unbelievably powerful, like a cross between a cathedral gargoyle and an albino gorilla, all rippling muscles and spiky black devil horns, with dark, inscrutable eyes that hint at chaos. They're usually peaceful, thank goodness, although people occasionally get gored or humped. Fortunately, this particular billy seems more curious than amorous, staring silently as we pitch camp, then clattering away into the high cirques.




Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

jay durbin
Jan 30, 2012

Sounds like a great hike. We are planning a trip to Weminuche this late spring, early summer! Hoping to stay in the high country. Can't wait

Troy
Sep 03, 2008

Awesome Pictures

Heidi
Aug 21, 2008

Cool adventure ! Loved the picture... check out <a href="http://www.coloradooutdoorcenter.com" target="_blank"rel=follow" Colorado Outdoor Center</a>

cl
Apr 30, 2008

too bad my thirteen day trek through this wilderness was the best place I have been yet

Paul
Apr 28, 2008

here ya go, bud-
http://bp2.trimbleoutdoors.com/ViewTrip.aspx?tripId=43747

Chris
Apr 02, 2008

The printed article said that the route taken would be posted on this website. I can not seem to find it.

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Women
Menopause Sux
Posted On: Apr 20, 2014
Submitted By: Echo
Trailhead Register
Man Kayaks Across Atlantic
Posted On: Apr 20, 2014
Submitted By: Ecocentric
Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions