Ptarmigan Peak (13,739′) & Weston Peak (13,572′)
San Isabel & Pike National Forests | Twin Lakes, CO
06/19/21 | 4.65 miles | 2,144′ gain | YDS Class 2
I had a bad feeling when I still hadn’t heard from Allie an hour into my drive. We were meeting up to climb a peak near Buena Vista, about the halfway point between our towns. She should have left about the same time I did, and she should have texted by now to let me know she’d left home. I finally heard from her an hour later; she had some issues with her alarm and had just woken up. We unfortunately had storms forecasted for the afternoon, so a late start would not be a great idea. (Plus I didn’t really feel like waiting at the trailhead for two hours.)
After a quick brainstorm, we decided to split up and hike separately. The hike I chose was a bit closer to home, so no harm done. It was very early and I was the first up Weston Pass. I’d never driven up this pass before but it is a decent gravel road, plenty easy in a crossover but probably challenging in a sedan.
The hardest part of the route is visible in the above picture. Behind the Weston Pass sign, the route follows an old road to the base of a steep slope. The slope leads up to a ridge 1400′ above Weston Pass, and from there both Ptarmigan and Weston Peaks are simple walks along the ridge. A very straightforward route, perfect as a backup with little research required.
It was a nice warm-up walking the old road before the steep slope. Steep terrain slows me way down, but it’s a little easier if I have a more gradual start. The route roughly follows the county line, which also happens to be the boundary between the Pike and San Isabel National Forests.
A trail led partway up the slope but soon fizzled out. At least the route-finding was easy; just go up. This section took me forever. I had to stop often to catch my breath.
The slope kicked my butt, but at least there were always pretty views or vibrant wildflowers to keep me busy while I caught my breath. I eventually made it up to the ridge and could see my destinations…or so I thought.
I’d been watching the clouds all morning. They were pretty low and looked like they could turn angry quickly, so I was ready to bail if I needed to. The clouds looked worse over Weston Peak, so I started there first, hoping that I’d finish before they let loose.
Weston Peak was a simple ridge walk, but I did have to go up and down a small, rocky bump along the way. There were trail segments all along the ridge, but nothing that lasted long. Neither Weston nor Ptarmigan Peaks are ranked, which means they don’t rise more than 300′ from the next peak. For me, this only meant that even with all the ups and downs along the ridge, none were very tall. Weston looked pretty tall from the low point, but in reality was just a 250′ climb. Easy-peasy.
The summit was unremarkable, but the gray clouds were dissipating and the sun was shining through. Oh, and I could finally see Ptarmigan Peak!
Since the weather was improving, I was becoming less worried about storms coming in anytime soon. I retraced my steps back along the ridge to where I had climbed up, checked the skies once more, and then continued on to Ptarmigan Peak.
I skirted the unnamed bump, often on trail fragments. Ptarmigan’s summit soon came into view. This was an easy, nearly flat tundra walk. The summit itself was steeper talus but so short-lived that it felt easy.
My descent was straightforward. I followed my steps back along the ridge and used my tracker to figure out where I had climbed up, following nearly the same route down the steep slope. The looser sections became more apparent on the descent, but a slow, cautious pace kept me from slipping.
This was such a fun hike; short but steep, so it still felt like a good workout. A perfect one for me to do alone with little planning, and it even turned out to be a beautiful day.
I would like to acknowledge that Ptarmigan & Weston Peaks are on the ancestral land of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute).