In Attendance: Derek, Clay, Kimo
Fletcher Mountain (Centennial 13er) Peak Info
Trailhead: Blue Lakes Trailhead Trailhead Info
Consider this more of a “picture conditions” report for anyone interested in this area. Keep in mind that in high snow conditions, you would probably NOT want to follow this route. The area is prone to avalanche activity. In our case, the snow was low enough to allow safe access.
Kimo, Clay and myself were able to drive the entire way to the Blue Lakes upper trailhead easily in Kimo's Forester. Mostly hard packed snow the entire way up. While on the way past the standard Quandary TH, lots of SAR vehicles provided an ominous start for the morning. We would be watching the helicopters coming and going for most of the day.
We followed the standard Quandary West Ridge trail for most of the day. The trail came and went over the first half mile as you ascend above the reservoir, however there were a number of footprints to follow where it was snowed over. The trail does an ascending traverse until it tops out in the basin. Not sure if the trail is somewhat new or not, but during my last trip to the area about 4 years ago I don't recall seeing it. Anyways, looks nice now. Once in the basin, the snow cleared on the trail but the wind picked up quite a bit. I resisted adding a layer knowing we would be ascending steeper terrain soon, but it was still quite chilly.
Clear parking at the upper trailhead. Photo by Clay.
Ascending into the basin.
Helicopter #1 above the west ridge of Quandary.
Entering the upper basin. Photo by Kimo.
Fletcher poking out above the basin. Photo by Kimo.
There were three "steeper" sections to ascend to gain the Quandary/Fletcher saddle. The first is the longest at about 200' and held a good amount of snow. Previous tracks went right up it, but being a December snowpack wimp, I hung along the left side near the rocks. Snow was pretty soft here, so traction was decent. Once above the first section, we continued traversing north towards the 2nd section which is just above a small pond in the basin. This section was much shorter, but the deep snow made it a tad annoying. Attention had to be paid to ensure we didn't stick our legs through into the talus. To reach the final flat area near the saddle of Fletcher and Quandary there are two options: head west up a mix of rock outcroppings snow, or continue north almost to the base of the saddle THEN head north. We chose the later option as it looked a bit safer and easier. This was the 3rd section mentioned above to reach the saddle. This section wasn't too steep, but the chance of rolling down the snow here is a bit higher. I chose to have my axe at the ready for the traverse to the north.
Googleearth view of our track out of the basin, with the 3 sections identified.
Kimo starting up section 1.
Derek and Clay hugging the edge heading up section 1.
Looking back down section 1. Photo by Clay.
Derek ascending the short section 2. Photo by Kimo.
Clay near the small pond below section 2. Photo by Kimo.
Looking up at section 3. The route heads straight up the center of the photo, then angles left above the snow field.
Helicopter #2 approaching to land on the Quandary summit.
Once we hit the flat area of the saddle, the summit of Fletcher is only 500' of talus hopping away. There were a few sections of hard packed snow on the way up that made me debate on pulling out the crampons, but I was able to make it ok with just the microspikes. We followed the ridge the entire way up. We met 14ers members ChrisinAZ and Mountainninja on their way down about 100 feet below the summit. They apparently had the same plan to enjoy this nice December.
Clay hit the summit and Kimo and I followed a few minutes behind. The wind wasn't too bad up top, so we spent a good amount of time relaxing. Our original plan was to either continue on to Drift or Quandary West Ridge, however the looks of the snow on Drift and watching the activities of SAR throughout the day on the Quandary ridge made us content with just Fletcher.
We followed our exact ascent route back down to the car. Nice day out.
Fletcher from the saddle.
Kimo putting on traction with the West Ridge of Quandary in the background.
Derek and Quandary. Photo by Kimo.
Kimo and Drift Peak.
Clay on the summit of Fletcher.
Mayflower Gulch from the summit of Fletcher.
Kimo and Derek on the summit, Quandary in the background. Photo by Clay.
Panaramic from Fletcher. From L to R: Quandary, Silverheels, North Star, Lincoln, Cameron, Democrat, Wheeler, Drift. Photo by Clay.
Derek and Clay descending Fletcher. Photo by Kimo.
Kimo descending section 3.
Kimo peering down section 1.
Clay passing the old mining building on the way out of the basin. North Star in the background.
Final track of our route from Googleearth.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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