Electric Pass

Looking for day hikes in the Aspen area, I stumbled across mention of Electric Pass.  It was billed as the “highest trail pass” in Colorado so that sounded like a significant goal for a flatlander like me. I loaded my backpack with some but not all of my backpacking gear, wanting to introduce my body to carrying a load at altitude. Thinking I might want a hot lunch, I packed my new backingpacking stove-an unsuspected trap as described below.

Topographic map detail
I bypassed the side trails to Leahy Peak and Cathedral Lake

I started on the trail about 7:30. One thing I learned: getting to the trailhead means traversing the Forest Service road off the pavement. They don’t maintain those babies for the likes of little Japanese econoboxes such as I had rented for the drive from the airport. By going very slowly I managed not to get stuck in the mud nor bang the undercarriage too hard in the potholes. After about half a mile I got to the beginning of the trail.

The day was fine, with blue sky and temperature in the 50s. Quickly I started breathing hard and before long I came out of my long sleeves and pants. There were no bugs at that point and only a few fellow hikers.  Pine Creek was roaring away on the left as I ascended. The climb was up and more up. Just before the turnoff to Cathedral Lake there were a series of steep switchbacks (see map annotation) and towards, but not at, the top I paused to rest under a tree. That was a mistake.  Well, actually the mistake was not paying attention to the topography. I pulled some water and a snack out of my pack. To do so, I removed my backpacking stove fuel canister and set it down next to me on the ground. As I shifted around, I nudged the canister into a gravity-encouraged inclination and off it bounced like a kangaroo rat let loose, traveling at least 100 feet downhill,  across the switchbacks, into thick brush somewhere below. After securing the rest of my stuff, I trudged back downhill to look for it but to no avail-I couldn’t peer into the dense undergrowth  nor spot it from above or below. Did I mention that was my only fuel canister? Or that it was Sunday and I didn’t know if there was a retail source for this brand in Aspen (I had purchased it in Denver the day before)?  Or that I wanted to start up the trail to my planned basecamp early the following morning?

Fuel canister is down there, somewhere . . .
Fuel canister is down there, somewhere . . .

This incident forced me to control my anxiety and accept the providential event at hand. Maybe I was planning just a little too much and not enjoying the experience. After all, if you can plan it, it’s not an adventure. I laughed at myself, put my pack back on, and kept going uphill.


Wildflower meadow on the way to Electric Peak
Wildflower meadow on the way to Electric Peak


There was a meadow south of the saddle between Electric and Leahy peaks. Here was the last green swatch below the rocks of the mountains above. And not only green, but red, blue, orange, white and all the other colors of the gorgeous wildflowers seen below.


Indistinct trail
Trail was a little indistinct here . . .

But there was more hiking to do. Towards the top I slowed to a crawl and after the vegetation diappeared, slowly stumbled across the loose rocks. There wasn’t much of a trail left at this point. Looking downhill I understood how potential injury was not far away if I slipped. Nonetheless I got to the Pass where there was a small notch in the ridge. The actual peak was another 200 foot scramble to the north-why not? Once there, the view beyond, looking east into Conundrum Valley, was stunning–see the photos below. Suddenly I had a deep sense of contentment at having achieved my goal.

At 13,600 feet, Electric Peak has a fine view.

Another view from Electric peak


I would estimate my average HR for the hike was about 130. Round-trip distance was about 10 miles. When I got back to Aspen that night, my legs were beat, but my spirit was high, especially after I found the outdoor store still open and my fuel canister in stock. This was my last chance for supplies: the next morning I was leaving for the trek to the basecamp at Conundrum Hot Springs.

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