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Dora Mountain sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the jagged peaks of the Gore Range when scouting the topographic map. High relief on all sides gives way to a mountain flat and nearly featureless until you eye Dora Lake which sits on the southern end. I search the internet for other trip reports and any applicable information. To my liking I find just enough to know that it should be an unforgettable one. No trails impede this flat-topped mountain which present a steep climb to reach its tundra.
Kelly and I departed a crowded parking lot at the Surprise Lake trailhead on a crisp and windy Saturday afternoon. This is a hike we'd originally planned on spending three days and two nights on. We had planned to explore much more than just Dora, but a dramatic change in weather was fast approaching and the forecast got worse and worse for our second day out. We'd have to abandon the original plan and settle for an overnighter. After a very enjoyable spring and summer backpacking, I can't help but to think how much better it could have been had my outings not been as interrupted by heavy wind and rain, and now this time: snow.
The crowds eased as we passed the Lake and began climbing the northern flank of Dora Mountain through thick vegetation and down trees.
Climbing towards the top of treeline. The higher we got, the less gradient.
The hillsides beginning to take on a tinge of Fall.
Green Mountain and Green Mountain Reservoir.
Taking a tour of the mountain.
Eagles Nest Peak and the steep slopes down to Upper Cataract Lake. Eliot Ridge in the distance.
Spotting Mount Powell (13,448'). The tallest in the entire Gore Range.
And then out of nowhere; Dora Lake. The summit sits directly behind.
From a distance.
Then up close. The Black Creek drainage looks incredible. We stare at the many fingers of this steep and narrow valley nearly speechless.
Settling in for the evening after considering our options for camp. Heavy wind and no cover made those options limited. Our tent is directly below the *.
Watching the shadows hit the range on a brisk evening.
Watching the moon rise, spotting shooting stars and messing with camera settings.
I woke up in the middle of the night as the wind pounded the side of the tent and what sounded like light rain began. After what felt like hours I was finally saved by ear plugs to accomplish a snooze. Early morning light came which brought overcast skies with rain, sleet then snow. The forecast I read before leaving said that as the day went on, weather would get worse. We ate a cold breakfast as we packed up gear inside the tent. I peaked out of the vestibule to find worsening conditions in a completely unprotected setting. My biggest concern was lack of visibility and not knowing what to expect in the next oncoming cloud.
As we left the lake shore and began to hop boulders the skies opened and moisture from the sky was put on halt. The same peaks we were staring at last night had a fresh dusting of powder. We made our way back to the trailhead while peeling off our insulating layers.
The permanent snowfield below Dora Lake.
We didn't encounter a single person until reaching the Surprise Lake trailhead. As we drove away, huge thunderstorms hit. Sad to be out so soon, but relieved we missed the worst of weather. The following morning brought reports of up to a foot of snow in the high country. Fall is here.