When Dad chose Boreas Pass and Bald Mountain as the locale for a Father’s Day hike, I doubt he expected to enjoy long glissades on remnant snowfields, much less to participate in the wedding of two perfect strangers. He knows as well as I do, though, that you don’t visit the high places on the continental divide because you know what you’ll find there.
Boreas Pass is one of many Colorado passes that once saw heavy narrow-guage railroad traffic before the automobile turned the steam engines and the towns that stationed them into ghosts. Some of the skeletons on the pass have been restored – an old rail car and a section house that once gave shelter to those who labored to keep the pass open in the relentless winter snow. We park in the bright sun near the section house, with only a brisk wind echoing the deep freeze that must dominate the winter here. Water is diverted to the house by a small canal, which we follow for a ways, then cross some meadows to an old mining road. The road climbs steeply, becomes a rocky cairned trail, then fades when it enters a drainage with some piles of tailings from old prospects. It’s not too far from here on slightly loose rock fields up to the Continental Divide ridge.
I’ve once again dared to tread the divide in June in my Chacos, and this time I have to traverse a few snowfields. Nothing too steep, and no step-kicking, so I just get my socks a little wet.
Bald Mountain has a few distinct summits. We reach the southernmost peak where the divide descends east to French Pass, then traverse to the slightly higher north summit. There we meet Patrick, Steven, and Franceska, all musicians from various parts of the world. Steven and Franceska announce they are about to get married, right here, right now. We all precede the ceremony by sharing our snacks. Patrick contributes a bottle of Austrian wine with cheese and crackers. I volunteer to photograph the event with Steven’s camera. An artistic summit cairn serves as the alter. I snap many pictures while Steven and Franceska exchange heartfelt vows. Some tears of joy, the ceremonial kiss, hugs all around, and a final round of drinks straight from the bottle complete a most unexpected summit experience.
We marvel at the mysteries of fortune as we traverse back to the divide and begin our descent, and soon meet another surprise – a long snowfield. I can’t resist stepping onto it, even in my Chacos, to try a little glissading. To my delight the snow is just right, and we quickly lose several hundred feet of elevation, Jezze frolicking alongside. My feet are soaked of course, but that can’t supress the bliss of our good fortune. We lie on our backs in the meadows below the snowfield, catch our breath, have a snack, and soak up some sun.
It’s only 2:30, and Dad decides that we might as well start up the ridge of Boreas Mountain to our south, and see how it goes. After some steep, hard-breathing rock field climbing, we emerge on a gentle ridge covered with grass and alpine flowers. As we’re meandering along it Dad says, “I’m so fortunate to have a son who understands why there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than this,” and I reply, “I’m glad I can’t even imagine not understanding it…”
Boreas is a deceptive, strangely shaped peak. It is a groove in the ridge line, with the peak at the south end of the eastern ridge. We laugh at how it fools us several times before we’re certain where the top is.
There are some shorter but steeper glissades to help us back down to the section house, where we arrive very pleasantly tired. We drive south down to Tarryall Creek, where we find a nice spot to make camp and a hot meal.