From the parking lot at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area (at the time of our hike - $3.00 admission/car) we followed the tourists up the trail to Mount Audubon - an easy, high elevation hike.
We left the tourons behind as we continued west along a narrow saddle/ridge with steep drop-offs to either side until we reached the summit of Paiute Peak. The view from the top includes Kansas (the flat part of Colorado) to the east, Long's Peak
in Rocky Mountain National Park to the north, Granby and parts of Lake Granby to the west and the continuation of the Continental Divide to the south. Directly below us to the south lay one of the most beautiful valleys I have ever seen - partially due to the fact that the valley contains 8 major lakes (only 3 visible from the summit) each at a distinct elevation with a unique ecosystem.
After about a half an hour on top of Paiute the weather became an issue and it was time to head down - in a hurry. Although we had heard of an easy way down, our evacuation route to the southeast took us into a very steep talus slope with scattered with snow fields [not recommended for anyone!
]. As we lost elevation, weather became less of an issue but we were still had to respect the mountain due the steepness of the slope, the loose rocks, and snow fields. One of these snow fields above a cliff was so intimidating it took us about an hour to cross - a traverse about 100 yards!
We found our way out of this situation to an avalanche chute west of our prior location which we interpreted as welcome relief. The chute allowed us to lose elevation quickly and took us to the safety of the relatively flat snow fields, glaciers and lakes below. Here we found Blue Lake and the Mitchel Lake trail which led back to the parking lot.