Opinions on Chiefs Head this Saturday?

Colorado 13er peak questions, condition requests and other info.
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Re: Opinions on Chiefs Head this Saturday?

Postby krishcane » Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:11 am

There's nothing like experience!

A bunch of logistical issues kept me from going up there until yesterday... it was a wild hike.

Camper's Creek bridge is fine. Hunter's Creek bridge is non-functional - the railing is still there, but the walking surface is gone except for the last few feet on the west side. On the way up, the creek had a thick layer of ice over it, so I was able to cross on the ice. On the way back, the ice had melted out and been broken through by other hikers, so I had to use the climb across on the railing.

The trail to Sandbeach Lake was packed snow from around Camper's Creek on, but well packed by earlier passage. Microspikes weren't even needed. The lake shore itself was mostly clear of snow and suitable for lounging in the sand.

The snow got heavy ascending Mt. Orton. It got about thigh-deep and became a real slog. It took me about two hours to go one mile through there.

Past Mt. Orton, it was mostly swept clean. There were patches of knee-deep snow, but I could almost always navigate around them. I ran out of time to summit Chiefs Head before dark, and I didn't want to come down Orton in the dark, so I bailed from about 12,800 on Chiefs Head. My roundtrip from the Sandbeach Lake TH was 16.2 miles.

All in all, a beautiful day in the Basin!

Other than the Hunter's Creek bridge, I didn't see any meaningful damage from the flooding. The roads to the TH had some impressive debris and trenching, but the trail itself didn't seem very affected.

So now for my question on ascending Mt. Orton...

I crossed the inlet to Sandbeach Lake and then turned right, ascending through a less dense patch of forest. However, it got very steep - steep enough that I had some avy concerns despite the trees. I slogged up it, but on the way back, I decided to descend slightly to the east, closer to the actual drainage leading to Sandbeach... it seemed good for most of the route, but then I found a very steep snow-covered section just above the lake. The snow was not only steep but mounded over the drop, and even though the snow itself seemed very solid and consolidated, it felt like a bad risk, so I climbed back west a bit to my original footsteps and followed them down.

What's the summer ascent look like? Do you follow the inlet stream up from Sandbeach and then up the gradual valley just east of Orton's flat-topped summit approach, and then cut toward the summit relatively late? Or begin ascending west of the inlet, up the steep forested slope to attain the flatter-top of Orton sooner and then cruise across those gentle slopes to the summit?
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Re: Opinions on Chiefs Head this Saturday?

Postby SandyO » Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:46 pm

Thanks for the flood update report.

We went up the same way you did. It is steep but not difficult in the summer.

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