Is this the Himalyas? Oh it's Huron Peak: The Route Less Traveled - North Ridge Via Lulu Gulch
MOUNTAINS (in order of summit): PT12,622, Middle Mountain B, PT13,462, Browns Peak, PT13,518, Huron Peak TRAILHEAD: Winfield 2WD Trailhead ROUTE: North Ridge Traverse via Lulu Gulch RT GAIN: ~4600 feet RT DISTANCE: ~10.5 miles RT TIME: ~9 hours (6hrs up, 1/2hr on Huron Peak Summit, 2.5hrs down) CLIMBERS: Jed (geojed), Ryan (Dchild10), Jack dog (ruff, ruff)
Inception of an Idea
I never had an inkling of how cool a 14er Huron Peak was until a couple of weeks ago when the panorama on the 14ers.com homepage happened to be Huron Peak and the panorama was pointed straight at Ice Mountain, North and West Apostle. I was blown away by how beautiful the Three Apostles were, and from then on I became obsessed with climbing Huron Peak not so much for the mountain itself but for the views from the summit. Little did I know at the time that the amazingly rugged East Face of Huron would end up outshining even the beauty of the Three Apostles themselves!
And so last week, I began planning to do a climb at least somewhere in the vicinity of the Three Apostles. I had heard from Matt Lemke that the Winfield TH was still accessible so I thought maybe I could do Hope Mtn A (13,933') due to the route being south facing. As I researched it I found out that there wasn't a view of the Apostles from Hope Mtn A. Then I started thinking about La Plata Pk or Winfield Peak (13,077'). I didn't consider Huron Peak at first because I felt the standard approach along the Winfield 4WD road was too long and would take all day to do. As I researched Winfield Peak I saw another peak across the valley on the topo map called Middle Mountain B. I did a search on that one and found three trip reports of people who climbed Middle Mountain B last summer on their way to climb Huron Peak. I saw that a 4WD road led up to Roach's North Ridge route to Huron Peak and so I wouldn't have to deal with routefinding in deep snow through the trees. I would just have to deal with the deep snow on the road!
So I posted on climbing connection forum about doing Huron Peak's North Ridge and didn't get any responses. I wasn't going to try it solo so I PM'd a couple of people and Dchild10 (Ryan) replied that he would be interested and would bring his dog Jack. So the trip was ON!!
In the Beginning
We met at 3AM at the T-Rex lot to start the climb by 6am. Due to some delays we ended not up starting until 6:15am. The thermometer on the car said it was a balmy -6F at the trailhead! Luckily there wasn't much wind. And we both started warming up quickly as we broke trail through the snow. The forecast said it was supposed to be Mostly Cloudy Thursday night and only Partly Sunny Friday. We actually didn't see a cloud ALL day! So much for that Mstly Cldy/Prtly Sunny forecast! At least the wind forecast was correct as there was only a 5-15mph West wind along the ridge with highs in the 20's. Perfect conditions.
This is how it went down
So we started from the Winfield 2WD TH in microspikes and made quick work of the well trodden standard route .7mi to our left turn for the Lulu Gulch 4WD road. There the tracks stopped for us and we put on our snowshoes as we would be breaking trail through snow that would alternate between 6in deep to 2 feet in drifted spots with an average of 8in deep for the next 3mi!! I broke trail for the first 1/4 mile or so and Ryan (Dchild10) took over and was a trail-breaking machine as he showcased his MAD trail breaking skillz for the next mile or so until he finally let me take a turn again. (thanks Ryan!) 8)
Ryan (Dchild10) and Jack dog breaking trail
As we ascended the road the sun began to shine on the south slopes of La Plata Pk and Sayres BM across the valley.
First Light on South side of La Plata Pk
Back side of Sayres BM
Along some portions, especially around the corners of switchbacks, the snow had drifted to upwards of 2ft deep.
Breaking trail through DEEP powder
We turned left onto the road that led into the basin below Browns Peak and the switchbacks came into view that led up to PT12,622 and the ridge to Huron Peak. I misread a BM elevation shown along the road on my topo map and mistakenly thought we were at 11,993’, and only had 600’ to climb to the top of the switchbacks. When I saw the switchbacks I was thinking “Hmmmm, that looks like a lot more than 600’. Oh well.” I didn’t realize my mistake until after the trip but it turns out the BM elevation was actually 11,393’!! So we had 1200’ to climb not 600’. Oops! Now I understand why Ryan was giving me strange looks when I was saying triumphantly “We only have 600’ to the top of the switchbacks!!” D’oh!
Switchbacks up to PT12622'
The warming sun mocked us as it shined on the beautiful Browns Peak.
Morning view up at Browns Peak (13,523')
The views north across the valley never ceased to amaze as the sun illuminated La Plata Pk and Sayres BM.
View north to Sayres BM (L) and La Plata Pk (R)
We changed back to microspikes at the base of the switchbacks as it appeared enough dirt was exposed along the road to walk on. It turned out the dirt was actually too steep and hard so we ended up walking in the snow along the edge of the road.
View North along Switchbacks Ryan and Jack dog
This is where we ran into some of the sketchiest parts of the climb as dirt had washed down across the road in spots and had filled in the road cut. This dirt was now rock hard frozen and covered in a thin veneer of snow. A slip here and our ice axes would have to double as a "dirt" axes.
Another view of switchbacks. Ryan and Jack dog, w/ Sayres BM in background (R)
After 4hrs we finally made it up to the top of the switchbacks and to PT12,622. Ryan's dog Jack had been having issues with ice balls that would form between his toes and his toes were starting to look kinda raw. We had stopped 3 or 4 times already to remove the ice from his paws and he was starting to lag a little bit which is very uncharacteristic for him. So Ryan made the very honorable decision that he would head back down as Jack would be in too much pain if he continued. Jack might have made it to the summit of Huron Peak but the trip back would've been really painful especially over all of the rocks. Maybe Santa will bring Jack some booties for Christmas!
View West from PT12,622 at top of switchbacks. (L-R) Granite Peak, Peaks surrounding Silver Basin, Virginia Peak, Winfield Peak.
We rested and refueled at PT 12,622 for 15-20min and then split as I conintued up towards Middle Mountain B (13,060') which from the summit I had a glimpse of the amazing journey that awaited me as I could see the ridge to PT13,462, Browns Peak, and the mighty East Face of Huron Peak.
View south from Middle Mtn B of PT13,462 (L), Browns Peak (13,523', R) and Huron Peak (center)
The traverse across to PT13,462 went quickly as I followed the ridge and tried to avoid getting too close to the cornices that had formed along the ridge.
Nice cornices along ridge to PT13,462 with Huron Peak on the right
PT13,462 gave me the best view of Huron Peak's incredibly rugged East Face. This would be an awesome place to shoot some sunrise photos of Huron Peak. I also got my first glimpse of North Apostle and Ice Mountain.
Looking from PT13,462 at Huron Peak's mighty East Face with North Apostle and Ice Mountain in back
This is the view of the Huron's East Face that you won't get if you do the standard route on this peak. I couldn't stop gawking at it.
Close-up of Huron Peak's rugged East Face
To the east I could see the other 14ers: Belford, Missouri and Harvard.
View East from PT13,462 of Belford (L) Missouri Mtn (C), Mount Harvard (Center Back), Iowa Peak (Center Right), and Emerald Peak (Right)
The route ahead looked pretty simple across to Browns Peak and then south to Huron. I descended down to the pass with Browns Peak and stashed my snowshoes there in anticipation of the shortcut I would take down Browns Peak couloir on my return.
Looking from PT13,462 at the ridge to Browns Peak and onward to Huron Peak
Browns Peak was a quick ascent and gave me a great view of the ridge to Huron. The slope gets a little steeper to traverse across to PT13,518 and on to Huron.
Looking at ridge to Huron Peak from summit of Browns Peak (13,523')
PT13,518 was a great scramble with some 3rd class moves mixed in.
Looking up towards summit of PT13,518
PT13,518 w/ Huron Peak to the right
From PT13,518 I could see the homestretch to Huron Peak.
Looking from summit of PT13,518 at the rest of the ridge to Huron Peak
Cool cornices on the ridge to Huron Peak
Once I got to the standard route to Huron Peak the slope increased significantly. I was able to follow the standard trail for a little bit and then lost it in the snow and decided to ascend straight up the slope.
Sunburst on the summit of Huron Peak
I reached the false summit just north of Huron Peak's true summit in short order.
View of summit of Huron Peak from false summit
I finally reached the summit around 12:30pm. Total ascent time was 6:15. As I rested on the summit two guys from Colorado Springs summited about 15mins after me. We had seen their car at the TH and they had camped the night before at tree line along the standard route. It worked out great because I was able to get better summit photos.
Hero shot on Summit of Huron Peak (14,003'). La Plata Peak (14,336') can be seen over my left shoulder.
The views of Ice Mountain and the Apostles were just as amazing and breathtaking as I had hoped for and expected.
Glorious view of the Three Apostles: North Apostle, Ice Mountain, West Apostle
The Belford, Missouri group and Mount Harvard were easily visible to the east. I had great views of the entire Elk Mountains all the way to Capitol Peak. I could see Uncompagre's massive hulk to the south and could even spot Sneffels in the distance.
View east from Huron Peak Summit (L-R): Mount Belford, Missouri Mtn, Iowa Peak, Mount Harvard (in back), Emerald Peak.
Here's the view back along the ridge that I traversed. I stayed on the summit for about 30mins and then began my descent before I got too cold. It took me about an hour to traverse back to Browns Peak and down to the pass where I had stashed my snowshoes.
Looking back North along the ridge I traversed. Hope Mtn A (13,933') is the large peak in the center background
From the pass below Browns Peak I descended into the shallow basin to the NE of Browns Peak. I had spied this possible shortcut back into the basin and the 4wd road on the topo maps and scoped it out on the way up. I found the couloir I had spotted earlier and glissaded down the slope into the basin. It saved a lot of time and was quite fun.
Looking back at Browns Peak (13,523') and the couloir I descended is in the center with the sun on it.
Once I reached the road we had come up I was able to really cruise with the nice trench we had made that morning and the improvements Ryan and Jack had done on their way back down. It was actually quite relaxing. Ryan and I kept remarking that we hoped other people would come and use our trench so it doesn't go to waste. So get out there and use it!!!
The route less traveled is a little more traveled now with a nice trench up the 4WD road.
I made it back to the car by 3:30pm, so a total of 2:30 on the descent, and 9:15 round trip. Jack greeted me with some barks and we quickly packed up and left.
What an amazing/incredible day!!! That's the smile of victory!
I thought I was going to be more tired from the trip but my energy level stayed high on the way home and into the next day. I couldn't imagine a better, more scenic day in the mountains with conditions that couldn't be beat. I want to really thank Ryan (Dchild10) and Jack for coming with me. I might not have tried this route solo and it sure helped to have someone to share trail breaking duties with. Especially in that 2' deep powder.
Whenever I do Huron again, if I'm not climbing that amazing East Face, this North Ridge Traverse is the only route I will be taking. The views along the Standard Route pale in comparison to the spectacular views from this route.
See you out in the Hills!!!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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