| Bushnell east ridge
Base: Hayden Creek CG (7700' elevation)
Route: Ascend Bushnell Lakes Trail, descend Twin Sister Pk's east ridge to Kerr Gulch trail, loop Rainbow Trail back to Hayden
Approx Distance: 11-12 miles, 6,000' elevation gain
Roger and I had planned this trip for a month, and it was two days before when we discovered he was planning a hike from higher up on the west side of the range, while I had assumed an ascent from the east. He graciously amended his plans to hike Galena, Otto & some unnamed ranked twelver instead of Red, while I hiked Bushnell from the Bushnell Lakes.
I started off on the Rainbow Trail north from Hayden CG at 4:12. The trail is very well maintained and the only problem was some sliding on cobble in several places in the dim light of my headlamp. The junction for the Bushnell trail was easy to find.
Soon after that juncture, the trail was climbing moderately through woods and meadow, it was getting light as dawn was not far off, and I heard an odd humming/vibration. It was this fellow on my right - a young tom turkey looking for love.
Once he figured out I was not the large avian beauty of his dreams, he turned back.
There was no snow to speak of below 9500 feet, but once the trail hit a flat ridge that hems in the Bushnell basin, I found five foot drifts. The trail was impossible to find at this point. I could see the basin stretching below me to the west, Bushnell at its southwestern end, and I knew I did not want to descend and wade through the snow. So, I focused on getting to the prominent ridge on the basin's south side that leads to Bushnell's summit.
Rounding the basin to the south to then turn west, I found a section that perhaps has a trail buried beneath it - the snow was several feet deep but the swath through the trees was about 3-5' -- it crossed a slope down into the basin, so I took out the spikes and axe to avoid a tumble into the timber. After that, here was my view ahead.
Bushnell had dropped from view behind the lower points on the ridge. Gaining the ridge top was a simple class 2 stroll over snow, scree and a short fun 2+ clamber up some rock ribs.
The ridge begins gently, but to my surprise would soon get a bit gnarly, and then ends with a gentle walk to Bushnell's highpoint. My eyes were drawn to the sweeping rock of Bushnell's southeastern flank, reminiscient of the Grenadiers.
This shot shows a couloir north of the sweeping rock that leads to Bushnell's upper portion, and my route on the ridge to the right. Bushnell's summit is hidden by this part of the ridge, which would prove to be more interesting up close.
This was a bit uncommon for me: I had no beta, hadn't talked to anyone who'd done this route, and hadn't studied the topo, so I expected a simple class 2 walk up, but soon found myself on some delightful class 3 terrain on rocky crests along the ridge. The wind would sometimes gust in my face at 20-30 mph, so that made some of it less than idyllic, but all in all a good day and I won't complain.
I came upon a few notches in the ridge: for the first four, it was a case of a meticulous class 4, followed by easy ground. Sometimes a direct climb down from the crest wasn't "prudent" and, in these cases, the terrain eased to the left (south). One time I thought the way looked better to the north, but after an easy traverse around the top, I found myself cliffed out and had to retrace my steps.
Following are pics looking back up my downclimbs:
This first one would not have been tricky, except that it was loose.
Then, I finally reached a notch in which it was an easy class 3 downclimb and the harder terrain lay before me on my way back up. The gap is the dim terrain in the shadows, the foreground is an easy class 4 climb up a smooth rock that is fractured by a large horizontal crack toward the bottom - the rock had spots of snow and ice, so I relied on handholds in he crack to get me to the right to a large flake leading up the rock. It would be much easier in summer, as your feet could friction off the rock.
After this, the excitement was over and it was a mellow class 2 walk up to the summit. I found several footprints and wondered whose they might be - when I reached the summit and the register, I learned they were Boggy B's. He and one other climbed this peak two weeks prior.
I arrived at the summit at 10:08, nearly a full six hours since leaving the campground. I felt very slow. Looking back through the times on my photos, it took me a tad over three and a half hours to reach the top of the lower ridge, and I encountered the first scrambling along the ridge at pretty close to around 8:15, four hours after my start, so the scrambling and then walk of the gentle to portion took just under two hours.
A look back down my route - the ridge is the one at left - the one at right goes to the other side of the couloir in pic 7 and becomes the crazy sweeping slab of Bushnell's southeastern ramparts.
A view south to the distant Kit Carson and Crestones at far left.
But onward, to the way ahead, to the north to Twin Sisters Peak. In this view, TSP is lost - you can only tell it by the ridge running to it from the east (right), and it's the conical shape of Red Mountain that stands out, at least 2.5 miles away, if not farther.
I didn't tarry long, but snapped some photos and headed off the summit to the north, walking down talus along the jagged edge of the mountain as it zigzagged west and north, dropping steadily. It took me an hour to climb down to the low point and back to an unranked bump along the ridge, where I crouched behind a large block to get out of the wind, called my wife, and took a few minutes to get a snack. Sheltered from the wind, the sun felt great and I thought of the time as a picnic -- only without ants.
This is the way I had come from Bushnell:
And here lay my route ahead to Twin Sisters Peak:
The way ahead was easy and it only took a half hour to reach Twin Sisters summit. And from here, I turned back eastward - here's the view of my route along the ridge to drop into the Kerr Gulch.
The ridge was mellow, not much up and down to it, and it took me almost exactly a half-hour to reach to nearly its far eastern end. My original intent was to walk off that end down into the valley, but I found myself starting to contour off the ridge down into the valley a little ahead of it, at a spot even with the lower Stout Lake.
I found a continuous snow slope and experimented glissading, which worked somewhat, because of rough 6-8" ridges in the snow. Lower down, I completely abandoned the glissade at a point where the snowfield winnowed to only a few feet across before heading into a short but vertical ice fall over some rocks.
I got down off the mountain and into the valley around 12:40, or a bit less than 8 and a half hours after starting out. Down here, away from the wind, it felt like the height of spring. What followed was anti-climactic, the dues-paying part of this wonderful hike: losing the trail in large patches of snow, post-holing to the upper thigh, then losing the trail in massive areas of downed timber. For a while it was just a frustrating exercise of linking dry areas until finally I got low enough that the snow melted out and I could follow the Kerr trail to the Rainbow trail.
I did come across this pretty stream along the Kerr trail.
The Rainbow Trail was a welcome contrast - cleared of fallen trees. However, it did climb probably 400-500 feet on its way back to Hayden CG - never any steep climbs, but flats interspersed with moderate uphills all the way back. I ran into a couple and their dog, and enjoyed a very leisurely pace for the last mile and a half to two miles as I walked back with them, and found a relieved Roger waiting for me at 5:45 or so.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):