Ptarmigan Peak (13,739′) & Weston Peak (13,572′) | Colorado | 06/19/21


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


Capture

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.

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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.

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Alpine Phlox
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On the old road

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.

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Ruby Lake with the Buffalo Peaks in the distance
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Approaching the steep slope
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A look back to the trailhead, my car is still the only one there (bottom left)
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The base of the steep slope

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.

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Steepness check, and also the Buffalo Peaks again (right)
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Pretty views to the Sawatch Range
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Alpine Kitten Tails

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.

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What I at first thought was Ptarmigan Peak is really just an unnamed bump along the way. I wouldn’t see the true summit until later.
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Weston Peak (center) looks far away but is just over 1/2 mile from here.

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.

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A fun section on the way to Weston Peak

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.

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Alpine Forget-Me-Not – one of my favorites!
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Weston Peak’s summit

The summit was unremarkable, but the gray clouds were dissipating and the sun was shining through. Oh, and I could finally see Ptarmigan Peak!

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Ptarmigan Peak is the second bump from the left – many of the other Mosquito Range Peaks are visible beyond.
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A view to the Sawatch Range – Mount Elbert (the highest peak in Colorado) is on the left, and Mount Massive is on the right

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.

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Heading back along the ridge
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A look back at Weston Peak, no longer covered in clouds

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.

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A quartz cairn shows the way, the summit just in view
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Easy terrain on the way to Ptarmigan’s summit
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There were a number of these small, clear pools along the ridge.
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The last bit of talus on the summit
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The summit! Looking north to most of the Mosquito Range
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Summit marker

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.

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Alpine Primrose
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Heading down the steep slope, there is another car in the parking lot finally.
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Another steepness check, but this time covered in Alpine Avens.
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A last look at Weston Peak (right) from Weston Pass. Now a beautiful sunny day.

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).


Chelsea


23 thoughts on “Ptarmigan Peak (13,739′) & Weston Peak (13,572′) | Colorado | 06/19/21

  1. don’t know if I could have done this hike, much less alone. Love all the beautiful wild flowers. I was wondering – since you live in Colorado have you run in to rattlesnakes on any of your hikes? How often? Also I’d like if you’d share with us what equipment you use – hiking shoes/boots, trekking poles, etc. Thanks.

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    1. I very rarely run into snakes of any kind, and I have never seen a rattlesnake while hiking. They’re not uncommon, but they do a good job avoiding people. Rattlers in Colorado live below 9500′, so our higher elevations shouldn’t have any rattlers (or likely any snakes at all.)

      As far as the equipment goes, what I use varies by season, hike length/difficulty, and trail/route conditions. I wear trail runners (Altra Timps) in the summer and very rarely use trekking poles. (Many people swear by poles, but I’ve never quite figured out the technique and so they just get in my way.) My day pack is a 22L Osprey (an amazing CO brand!) and I bring most of the Ten Essentials.

      If you ever have any more questions, feel free to reach out via the Contact page on my site! 🙂 (Or you are more than welcome to comment on any post instead!)

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  2. I love this one. The flower photos are so so gorgeous and the views look amazing! I’ve never even heard of Weston Pass… clearly it’s time for me to do some research into that area of the state.

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  3. This looks like such a pretty hike! It also doesn’t seem like too much elevation gain either, which is fantastic. I will say though, starting for summits at 11.900 feet is hard….you’re already tired! Those views are also way too pretty!!

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  4. The terrain during your walk reminds me very much of our Lake District fells – probably higher, though. Good that you managed to get out for a wander even if solo. You have to make the most of the decent weather during the winter!

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    1. I’m always surprised to see how much areas around the world (of all different elevations) look so similar to places we have here! And this was from last June, I don’t think I could get even close to this area this time of year 🙂

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  5. I’ve always enjoyed the name (term?) Ptarmigan. That P, so present but silent, just does something for me. Great pics. Did you slide down the icefields on the way back? I always find that to be a fun reward for a solid climb. 🙂

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  6. jeffdlb

    You may already know this, but there is also a Ptarmigan Peak (12,495′) in Summit County near Silverthorne. Fairly straightforward hike with nice views of the Gore Range (Buffalo Mtn, Red Peak, Mt Silverthorne).

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