Day 85

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Berthoud Pass to Devil’s Thumb Creek
18 mi ::
1123 mi ::
Afternoon clouds

I get a fairly early start up the divide because I hope to climb some peaks today. By breakfast I’ve made the first, Mount Flora (13,132′). From here the trail plunges down toward a bunch of popular little reservoirs, but my maps suggest following the divide over some more peaks instead. The only caveat is a short section of trail described as a ‘borderline rock climb’. I decide to have a look.

I manage to avoid a few hundred feet of descent by glissading down the edge of a giant snow cornice, which seems like good start. After a lot of heavy breathing, I’m atop Parry Peak (13,391′). The views are some of the best since the San Juans. In particular the sight of the flat horizon of the prarie to the east affects me, giving me a larger sense of the glorious planet I tread upon. It also happens that I’ve lived down on that prarie before, and often looked up at these peaks in the distance.

At the next saddle the sun comes out and I realize I don’t have my sunglasses. I end up having to climb back up Parry Peak where I dropped them while taking pictures. Sigh.

The next peak along the ridge is Mount Bancroft (13,250′), which offers a particularly good view of Pikes Peak to the south. To the north, the profile of the cliffs on Long’s Peak have become visible.

The ridge to the next peak, traversing over aptly-named Ice Lake is the ‘borderline rock climb’. It does look extremely rugged, with big rocky spires jutting up from the ridge. I carefully follow the cairns however, and find the route to be pretty good. I don’t have to strap my poles on the pack to free my hands, as I feared I might.

The final peak in the line is James Peak (13,294′). Again the views only seem to improve, to my amazement. The feeling of wonder at my endeavor is fully refreshed as I make my way down.

Back on the trail I stop for lunch, then meet Ann coming up the trail shortly after. She’s still been unable to escape the hordes of weekenders, and I feel almost ashamed of attaining my good mood at her expense. After some discussion I encourage her to continue up James Peak while I go down to the car to resupply myself.

At the car I have coffee, review maps, and give myself food for a few days. I leave a note for Ann, hoping that I’ve given her the flexibility she needs to escape the hordes.

Continuing up to Rollins Pass, a biker tells me they’re having a ski race on one of the snowfields accessible from the pass. This explains many of the hordes that are now leaving. One groups is loading empty kegs into their truck as I pass.

It isn’t long before I’m on the divide again, free of the crowds. The flowers are thick and vivid here, especially the Bluebells and Old Man of the Mountain. The sun is getting low when I reach the rocky spire of the Devil’s Thumb, where I descend to a nice creekside campsite.

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