Joe, heading into the clouds over the Continental Divide.
When I woke up this morning I was surprised to see it wasn't raining/snowing yet (as was forecasted), and the sun was almost shining, so I gave Joe a quick early-bird call and asked if he wanted to cruise up to Eldora for some alpine action. After about three seconds of waking up/being convinced he jetted over and we headed up to the 9000' Hessie trailhead. (Over the phone, however, he had mistaken "Eldora" for "Eldorado" (as in, the fairly low-altitude canyon just south of town), but didn't realize this until we were half-way or so up Boulder Canyon on the way to Nederland. So, despite being fairly unprepared for above-treeline conditions (only Nike Streak XCs in the trunk, no longsleeve or gloves), he was, of course, still game.) This trailhead ~30min from Boulder is notoriously crowded in the summertime, but on a grey, gloomy and damp weekday morning we had the trail more or less to ourselves. The run up towards Devil's Thumb and the Continental Divide was, in a word, idyllic. Neither Joe nor I had a lot of pep in our legs, so we just bopped along, chatting, jovially surveying the surrounding beauty and expressing delight at the snow and silence falling from the clouds.
A sampling of the scenery as we headed up the basin.
The last 10+ minutes or so of effort in the climb comes in the form of a steep trail up the valley headwall. This reach of terrain was blanketed in reasonably consolidated shin-deep snow this morning that transformed our running cadence into an arduous pow-hike bee-lining for the ridge crest as we were determined to reach the Divide itself. Once on top of the modest 12,123' high point on the ridge, we were treated to the usual expansive views down valley and over into Winter Park, an atypical windless calm (ideal for Joe's cotton-clad limbs), and that general sense of rightness that comes only (for me, at least) from gasping for lots of oxygen and gaining a lonely summit.
Joe cruising at 12,000', nearly to the top.
Finding the alpine action I came looking for.
Not nearly as cold as it looks.
Happy at the summit.
The descent unfolded in much the same way. We blitzed down the initial 1000' drop of elevation only to turn around and see our ridge become engulfed in snowing clouds and then continued on down the valley into more of the same.
Joe floating the drop.
Two hours and thirty-seven minutes after we'd left, we were back at the car. There aren't too many more days like this left in the high country, so it was a treat to sneak in maybe the last one of the season for me.