Sunday, October 28, 2012

Annual "Hike Loveland Ridge, Continental Divide Trek"

October 24, 2012

Richard Stevens:

Jerry Petrosky and Bryan Ehlmann met me at Loveland Pass (Clear Creek/Summit Counties) for our "annual" Hike Loveland Ridge (Continental Divide).  Several snowstorms are/were predicted for the area and we had to move up the trip this year. 

There is a narrow window when the ground is snow covered however not deep enough for avalanche danger.  Two or three times in the past ten years we have missed this window and not been able to conduct the hike/bird survey.

NOTE: I want to make it clear, that this hike can be quite dangerous.  Do not attempt when there is any accumulation of snow on the ridge.  Both Bryan and I have taken avalanche classes.  This makes us more aware than the general public, however by no means experts.  Even experts get in trouble.  Nature MUST be respected in Colorado (she always wins).  We also carry avalanche beacons and shovels as precautions.

Our hike was highly successful again this year.  We counted eleven White-tailed Ptarmigan along the four mile hike (three groups, four birds in Clear Creek, five and two birds in Summit County).

Afterwards, we drove up the paved road south of the Loveland Pass's Summit to the small ice covered lake there.  A hike around the lake found another two White-tailed Ptarmigan up the northwest hill.

Scoping the mountainside at the first large pullover below the southern side of Loveland Pass did not find any additional Ptarmigan.  This is my most successful area for finding Ptarmigan on Loveland Pass in the winter.

Finally, we hiked down to the ragged rocks below the East side of the Summit.  Another White-tailed Ptarmigan was found below the eastern side of these ragged rocks (not visible from the Summit itself).  This is usually my second choice for a Ptarmigan search.

We then headed back to Georgetown for dinner and then to Guanella Pass for an interesting owling and camping trip.

October 25, 2012

It started to snow about 10:00 pm and did not let up until several hours after sunrise.  Owling was a bust.  Nothing responded to our recordings.

After a few hours sleep, we woke up to a foot of snow and temperatures in the 20s.  The warm sleeping bags beckoned, but we forced ourselves to get up and hike Guanella Pass.

Five hours were spent on the Summit.  The only White-tailed Ptarmigan found were in the first 20 minutes (who knew?).  Five Ptarmigan were hunkered under the couple of fir trees about 30 yards north of the upper parking area (east side of Guanella Pass Road).

Not knowing the final count would be five birds, we hiked down to the lake below the eastern side of the Summit.  Then we hiked up to the intersection of the Rosalie and 603 trails, continued up 603 to the top of the mountain and circled back east and north along the Rosalie Trail to our Jeep.

The only birds found were half a dozen American Pipits and a Prairie Falcon, which soared through the valley between Bierstadt Mountain and us (to the east).

We backtracked to the Guanella Pass Campgrounds and found a small flock of 6 Pine Grosbeaks.  The red and green birds stood out in the now falling white snow.  We heard the drumming of an American Three-toed Woodpecker however were not able to put binoculars on it.

Snowfall increased and our plans to go owling tonight were canceled. We returned to Denver by way of Grant (mother nature won again).

No comments: