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Seasons of Siberia

By Ann Driggers

After a long summer with a busy schedule of trail running, my body has recently reminded me it is time to ease off. And with the fall being so short I knew this past weekend was likely one of the few opportunities to get a peek at the leaves changing at elevation. A high altitude hike was therefore in order. Our destination was an unnamed pass between Siberia Peak and Snowmass Mountain. Only one of several maps of the area showed a semblance of a trail to a 12,600 divide which would apparently provide unrivaled views of the south ridge of Capitol Peak.

hiking to geneva lake.jpg

As I hiked up the steep trail in the North Fork of the Crystal River drainage, the sun beat down, reminiscent of August. The snow covered peaks in the background reminded me of winter closing in, though the trail was dusty and hot. And I wondered why I had decided to carry a large pack with a wardrobe fit for a multitude of seasons. With 3,300 feet to climb in an estimated 4 miles, the trail was a grunt but easy to follow. Well traveled, it took us to the base of the west face of Snowmass, a popular ascent route for this 14er. Forgoing the 3,000 feet of loose talus climbing on the face, we headed up valley in search of Siberia. After clambering up a rocky knob of tundra we reached Siberia Lake. Almost immediately the weather and the terrain became more rugged and ominous clouds rolled in. While boulder hopping around the lake we quickly took shelter, putting on rain jackets to fend off the graupel pelting down. Now I was glad of my pack and all it contained. The lake was small but deep and cold. An icy slab of snow descended into it, never to melt this year. The clouds continued to build in, dark and foreboding.

Scrambling to the Divide.jpg

With haste we covered the dangerous large and loose scree of the final 1,000 feet up to the pass and were rewarded with looming views of Siberia, Capitol and Snowmass. Despite a short break in the weather, it was still chilly, seemingly a different season from just two hours ago when leaving the trail head. Lunch was hurriedly eaten while hunkered down behind a rock. At 12,600 feet the terrain and weather were both harsh. A fresh dusting of snow covered many of the surrounding peaks. Winter was definitely coming at this altitude.

snowmass west face.jpg

On our return journey we saw fresh snow underscored by the vibrant orange of the aspens. A carpet of gold coins now covered our way back to the trail head. Gloves and hats covered our heads. After a long hot summer, change is in the mountains.

Winter is coming.jpg

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