12,890-foot Red Mountain Number 3 rises high above Red Mountain Pass. Just for fun, the inverse of this pic may be found here. My shot location is from the highway in the lower left just before the big u-shape switchback (disregard seasons obviously).
We left Yankee Boy Basin around noon. Our next stop for the day would be Mineral Creek, northwest of Silverton, Colorado. Silverton is a small community surrounded by alpine majesty. Its heritage has primarily been mining. Yes, this is the Silverton that made national news about flooding the Animas River with heavy metals from a mine being tinkered with by the EPA. Currently, the town is host to trinkets and souvenirs, 4-wheeling, backcountry skiing and the turnaround depot for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad out of Durango.
Only one year-round highway provides access to Silverton. During the winter months, it's not uncommon for Silverton to be snowed in with no physical access because avalanches have closed Highway 550 on the north and south sides of town. Many of the slide-paths have names. During the summer months, 4x4 access from Lake City is possible over Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass. Similarly, summer 4x4-access to and from Telluride is possible over Ophir Pass, as is one-way to Telluride over Black Bear Pass (a very dangerous 4x4 route).
Off we go! The Yankee Boy Basin shelf road is always fun! This road is a good bike ride too; it entails a bit of huffing and puffing.
Above this point, the road becomes much steeper and rougher rather quickly.
Aptly named Red Mountain Creek drains the Ironton area of Red Mountain Pass.
Mineral Creek flows beneath the long east ridge of 13,761-foot Fuller Peak. On the other side of this ridge, Ice Lake Basin is suspended in awesomeness! It's probably one of the most beautiful basins in the San Juan Mountains. Snowcatcher has some beautiful photography from Ice Lake Basin. We had planned to return to Ice Lake this trip but were hampered by lightning.
Here comes the rain!
From high atop Red Mountain Pass, the Black Bear 4x4 route begins its rough journey to Telluride.
Red Mountain Number 1 (12,592 ft) ended Day Three. (Exciting official USGS 7.5 minute map names – no?) We pointed the nose north and took off toward the Gunnison River Valley. We hoped to reach Blue Mesa Reservoir by sunset. After collecting petrol and pizza in Montrose, Colorado, we arrived at the reservoir a tad before sunset.
Our final day would take us up through the Taylor Park area into the southern Sawatch Mountains. Stay tuned.