Stairway to heaven

Activity Date: 
08/07/2009

After our great hike on the Butler Gulch trail, we decided to take a short side trip up Jones Pass. It was a beautiful day and the pass was right nearby. It ended up being a surprising experience!

We drove up a fairly standard and easy forest service 4WD road. The area was beautiful, with lots of dispersed camping sites around.

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To get to Jones Pass road (and the Butler Gulch trailhead) we had to drive by a large mining operation. Here you can see the complex as we look back down the valley. It looks like they are mining the mountain near them.

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Gorgeous scenery everywhere, if you ignore the mine. :) The picture below shows were the road will take us up and over the pass -- it is the snow covered bank of the left side of the picture. You can just make out the line of the road going up to there.

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When we got up to the top, we found that the snow was actually blocking the road. Oops! No way to drive over this.

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We decided to walk up to the snow bank and check it (and the view) out.

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It ends up that someone had cut a set of stair steps up the snow bank. Huh. This is about 15 feet up and very slippery snow. If you slip, you are going to fall a looonnnngg way down the mountain, as the snow bank is right against the steep mountain side. But, we really wanted to see the view from the top. So, we went for it and climbed up the snow stairs.

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In retrospect, we were nuts. ;) Going up was scary, going back down was terrifying. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the steps are basically straight down the snow. Here is a view back down the steps after we got to the top. Jeff made a little snowman to mark our trail back down. You can barely see the steps in the snow to the right of the snowman shape. But, you can see the steep hillside we'd roll down if we fell. Ack!

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But, wow, the views were amazing up there! I'm sure the adrenaline helped make them look even better. Here is the view along the snow bank right after we climbed up the top.

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Here is the rest of Jones Pass road coming out the other side of the snowbank on top.

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Here are the views over the pass. Too bad the snow hadn't finished melting so we could drive over this pass and down these roads.

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OK, enough views. It's cold and windy up here, and we are in our shorts. Time to head back down. Jeff is standing near where we will climb down the steps. You can see the Jeep a ways behind him.

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I nearly had a heart attack working my way down those snow steps. Jeff helped me every step. Finally, we made it to solid ground!!

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The sun struck the mined mountain top just right for this picture...

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The road was so narrow up here at the snowbank dead end that Jeff had to back the Jeep down the road a ways to find a spot to turn around. He found the spot and we were on our way back down.

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Overall, a beautiful drive.