We began the day with a climb, and we noted that there was increasingly less grass and fewer trees. Here and there were patches of snow. Pete took photos of Raudi and I poking our heads through the window frame of an old tumbledown cabin near the abandond Bon Ton Mine.
The road began winding, and had switchbacks. We had beautiful views of the nearby still snowy mountains. The winds picked up as we climbed, and it became increasingly more blustery. We talked to a motorist who said that there was too much snow at the top, and that we’d never make it over to Tincup. This made us all the more determined to get there.
The top of the pass was like a lunar landscape. Distant mountains were visible, but the far sky was gray-blue. Near the sumit we stopped at the base of a snow mound and opted to take Signy across it, minus packs. She held steady on the firm snow, but then floundered on the softer snow. In seconds she was belly-deep in the white stuff. Pete took a hold of her as she scrabbled back on top of the hard pack and lead her through to the other side. Once there, we tied her to a bush. I waited with her as Pete next brought Siggi and then Raudi across.
We celebrated having made it this far by taking a photo of me on Raudi next to the Cumberland Pass sign. This was premature thinking, since there was yet another berm directly in front of us. On advice from locals in Pitkin, Pete figured that we could bypass it by taking a trail that paralleled the road’s edge. I was dubious because the trail didn’t appear all that safe. It was on the edge of a snow and scree-covered slope. In addition, there was a steep drop-off.
I went first on Raudi; Pete followed on Siggi, leading Signy. I kept my wits about me by focusing on the slope and repeatedly nudging Raudi with my left leg. I then looked ahead, and saw that the trail ended at the top of a deserted mine shaft. Beyond that was the road, which followed the mountainside. Pete got off Siggi, put him at the rear of our
Cumberland Pass Road
Crossing snow field on Cumberland Pass
Alys, Raudi, and Rainbow on Cumberland Pass
horse train, and ran over to check out the trial. He returned moments later and said that he could shovel a path to where the trail was again free of snow. From there, it would be an easy ride to the bare road and then down to Tin Cup.
It will always remain a mental image, that of Pete, orange windbreaker and orange shovel in contrast with the snow-white background, tossing shovelfuls of snow over the trail’s edge. I at one point looked in the direction of the distant road, and saw a handful of ATvers who sat on their machines, watching us. It appeared to me that Pete was making progress. However, I couldn’t help but imagine the entire lot of us slipping downhill, to an altogether too early death.
Raudi, who was hungry, grew increasingly more antsy. She finally yanked the lead out of my gloved hand, and ran back uptrail. Our lineup consisted of Siggi, Signy, me, Rainbow, and finally Pete, who had shovel in hand. It resembled an illustration in Dr. Suess’s “Oh the Places You Will Go.” At the top, Pete remarked that he agreed that the trail was unsafe.
It was getting late, and of course, neither of us wanted to recross the berm. So we rode down the road to check out Berm #2, which had stopped the four-wheelers coming up from Tin Cup. Berm #2 was about the size of a house. It was steeper that snow pack we had crossed earlier, and the horses wanted no part of it. Someone had started to cut a path through this drift form the other side, and even left their shovel, perhaps someone else would also participate in the shoveling endeavor, but seeing as this would take several hours, we finally called it good and retreated back to Berm #1. This took considerable time, since Signy’s pack had to again be unloaded and reloaded.
Next: Dispatch #32: One Hump or Two?