Route: Campbell Creek up (no trail), Grizzly Gulch down
Elevation Gain: 3,717'
Having been 0.25 miles away from 13,795 on my last trip up Grizzly Gulch and Handies a few years ago, I wanted to find a way to the summit of this one. The nasty steep scree route that I ascended last time was not going to happen. I would go down it, just not up. With Campbell Creek Peak just down the ridge, I was wondering if I could string these two together and possibly add in Whitecross Mountain along the way (another I missed in my Tour de'Handies).
Only Furthermore had a TR for these two, and mentions the ridge proper went to class 5. I was undeterred, I would find a way. Even if it meant dropping some elevation to do it. So with a few days planned in the San Juans, I head up the road to Grizzly Gulch to check out my options.
Once at the trailhead, there are only 3 other solo vehicles in attendance, not bad for a Wed night. First part of the decision tree on this one is to bushwhack on the west of the stream or to walk the road and cross the stream. I decide to drive down and test out the stream crossing options. Next to the open gulch that I was going to ascend was a non-marsh or chasm stream section. It was deep and running fast, so I removed the leg sections of my pants and started to wade across. At the deepest and fastest running part of the stream it was difficult to keep my balance. The water was to my mid thigh! I got across, but it wasn't pretty. After recrossing, I marked it with a stick for the morning.
Back at the trailhead I readied myself for the next day and went over my options. Walking the road and crossing the stream would be the fastest option. I would have to strip to my skivvies to cross the stream (the pants I was going to wear do not have a zip off option), as otherwise I would be soaked. But I would risk a watery death if I slipped in the night on the crossing. The bushwhack didn't look too bad, only a few places of difficulty. But it would take a lot more time to find my way in the dark. I went back and forth between both options for a while.
In the morning, I chose the bushwack. Of course, I forgot that I would also have to cross Grizzly Gulch creek too. Darn, forgot about this one. I had to remove my freshly put on boots to cross with my sandals. Just wide and deep enough to not risk soaked boots for the next 4 days of hiking. I also went from 100% clean to rather filthy 10 minutes into my vacation as I swam through dirty willows. Oh well, I was going to be dirty eventually! From there I followed a path of least resistance as I stayed as high above the stream below as I could. I found quite a few game trails that were quite useful.
Once at Campbell Creek (north branch), the sun was brightening things up quickly. An hour had passed since I started, and I was later than planned. Walking the stream up went pretty quickly, as all the undergrowth was missing. I found another game trail as I cut through some woods over to the main stream. Here I found two dilapidated cabins. Further up the stream I ran into even more wildflowers than below.
Start of Campbell Creek
Middle Campbell Creek
Playing in the water
Once in the upper basin I was presented with a plethora of lush flowers to take some photos of, as I reoriented myself. From here I had to travel far enough up into the valley to find a non-cliff to go up the north face of Campbell. It reminds me a lot of the west face route up Columbia, but without the thousands of feet turning it into a complete scree mess. Nearing the top of the slope, I found some more game trail tracks to follow up to the ridge proper. I was only a short distance from the summit, so I overshot a little to the east, but not too bad.
North Face of Campbell - Reminds me of west face of Columbia
Carson group - That's for Saturday
Took only a short break on the summit, as it had taken a lot longer to get to than planned. I saw what I thought were two humans near the ridge difficulties, and I thought it would be nice to get some beta on the crossing. But after making the quick walk over, I found that they must have been of the four footed variety.
As I had been following a variety of game trails all day, I thought I may as well continue. The game trail skirted the ridge rocks to the south and on a fairly steep talus/scree slope. But it seemed that many animals had used this path, and therefore it was pretty concave. I stayed relatively close to the rock walls as I traversed across, following animal tracks all along the way.
Looking back on Campbell Creek Peak
Looking at the start of the ridge difficulties
The lower traverse
Looking up at the ridge difficulties
Once on the other side, I didn't think the work-around was all that tough. Hmmm smart animals, silly humans? From here it was a simple stroll over to 13,795.
13,674 & Half Peak
Looking back on Campbell Creek Peak and traverse
I relished the summit for a little while, as it is one that takes a bit more work to get to. I could see a bunch of tiny human forms on the summit of Handies. The current cloud development would also prevent a summit of Whitecross Mountain this day. I would have more than enough time to descend to the trail head, just not with another summit. So after a time, I descended the familiar slope down to the scree slope from hell. Though this time, it was a ton of fun to scree ski it!
13,795 from start of descent
Ahh the familiar turquoise rubber ducky!
Whitecross!!! For another day, again
Back down in Grizzly Gulch, I could take my time an enjoy the flowers. There was only one other group near by, the only other people I had seen all day.
Handies from Grizzly Gulch
I like this flower
Did I mention, I like this flower?
So nice to have a human trail to follow!
A pretty stream
Another pretty purple flower
2 out of 3 ain't bad! I'll be back for Whitecross some other time.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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