| Rosa - The Girl Next Door!
Zebulon Pike and Christopher Columbus had one thing in common: besides being great explorers, they were both stymied and ultimately unsuccessful in their individual quests – the summit of America’s Mountain for the U.S. Army captain, and the shores of India for the European explorer. Interestingly, however, the mountain that Pike never climbed went on to acquire his name, while the natives of the land that Columbus mistakenly reached have since come to be known, erroneously as it were, as “Indians”. While the land that Columbus reached needs no introduction, the peak that Pike and his men actually summited was a lesser known and somewhat obscure one called Mt. Rosa, the shapely, pointy peak that residents of Colorado Springs probably eye every day without ever knowing its name. I, for my part have eyed this peak for the past 15 years that I’ve lived here, drawn by its shy beauty but not enough that I would put off my quest for those towering 14er summits; Rosa, after all, was no 14er, not even a 13er, and, at a mere 11,499 feet above sea level, she indeed was my “girl next door”.
Which is not to say that I hadn’t attempted to summit Rosa before; in fact, there were two unsuccessful attempts, one as recent as two weeks ago! My first futile attempt was in fall of ’07. Having hiked the St. Mary’s Falls trail up to the fence line to FR 381 numerous times, I figured I would just continue up to the obvious path leading directly to Rosa’s summit. This, of course, didn’t work as there is no easy approach up the east face to Rosa’s summit; direct, perhaps, but ultimately doomed.
After reading a few trip reports on summitpost recently, I decided to try the easy approach from Frosty Park. I found out that not too many locals even know exactly what or where Frosty Park is. Having scoured a few maps of the area, I drove up Old Stage Road to Gold Camp Road and parked at the junction of FR 379 to start my hike.
Hiking up FS379 off Gold Camp Rd
When I got to what I figured was Frosty Park, I was chased off by gun shots from the rifles of target practicing shooters in the exact area where I thought I needed to go trail hunting.
Had I braved the flying bullets and explored the open area to the east (right, in this picture), I would’ve discovered that this was exactly where the obscure unmarked trail starts. Instead, I hiked farther up FR 379 and arrived at a prominent trail junction: FR379 headed northwest toward Almagre, TR701 headed north and away from Rosa, while I knew TR668 would join the Seven Bridges trail, so none of these these was the ticket.
I took what seemed to be the most reasonable option and started my hike up the lone unmarked trail which turned out to be TR 672.
This actually would’ve worked but after a short climb, this trail topped out at a mesa with nice views to the northwest, and then started to descend.
Clearing with views to the northwest
Trail starts to decend
Somewhat discouraged, I continued hesitantly to another trail marker before deciding that this route would take me all the way to the St. Mary’s Falls trail, and basically abandoned my quest for Rosa’s summit. Indeed, as I would learn today, TR 672 does join with the aforementioned trail but it also soon starts a steep ascent eventually topping out at the junction with TR 673, which is the marked trail up the north ridge of Rosa.
Third time indeed was the charm, as my attempt today started from the parking lot of High Drive and Gold Camp Road on top of Helen Hunt Falls. This is the long route up to Rosa’s summit that I attempted in ’07 but today I had some valuable information that I didn’t five years ago, i.e. that I needed to head right on FR 381 (away from the peak, but only momentarily) to find TR 672 and eventually the trail to Rosa’s easy north ridge.
I had packed light (water, a few snacks) and worn my trail running shoes and wanted to make short work of the hike up to the fence line so I’d have time if I needed to do some trail finding beyond that point. The actual trailhead for the St. Mary’s Falls trail is about 1.2 miles from the start of the 4WD road.
St. Mary's Falls Traihead
Trail 624 is an immensely popular trail and one of my favorites in North Cheyenne canyon, but a note of warning: the trail distances shown on the markers en route are rough estimates and generally rather optimistic. Rosa’s summit is at least 6 miles from this point and requires some 4,000 feet of elevation gain to boot.
The trail starts out fairly gently, but requires 1,200 feet of climbing over 1.6 miles from the trailhead to reach the falls, so the going defintely gets harder toward the latter part.
Vintage TR 624
Stove Mountain, seen in the next picture, has a unique looking façade from this view and it is down the side of its rocky bluff that the water cascade called St. Mary’s Falls flows.
At the next trail junction, a sign shows the path to the falls while the other direction continues up to Mt. Rosa
I chuckled to myself as I read, “three miles to summit of Rosa”. More like four and then some. I had maintained an easy running pace so I continued, pausing just for the pictures needed to document the route.
Shortly after the trail passes the detour to the falls, the steepness increases palpably.
After a few steep switch backs, the trail levels off and I got my first glimpse of Mt. Rosa through the treetops.
Glimpse of Mt. Rosa
Just over an hour into the hike/run, I knew I was on schedule to reach the fence line within the 90 minute goal I’d set, but I knew the trail would descend a little first before starting the final climb to that junction.
As it turned out, the fence line which is at 10,000 feet came a couple of minutes ahead of my estimate, so I took a short break here as I rewarded myself with a snack and surveyed FR 381 knowing exactly what I had to do next.
Five years ago, I’d turned left on this road, spotted Mt. Rosa in the distance, patted myself on the back foolishly and embarked on an unsuccessful attempt to climb the densely wooded east face devoid of any trails.
I took the next picture immediately after turning right on to the 4WD road (FR 381); Mt. Rosa was now directly behind but there was only about a 100 feet to traverse in this direction down this road before the detour to the actual trail emerges.
This detour is on the left and is well marked with cairns but you have to hike a bit up the trail before the marker identifying this as the now famous TR 672 can be spotted.
Cairns mark the start of TR 672
TR 672 marker
This trail starts a steady climb through the dense pines as there is about a 1,000 feet of elevation to gain before the final pitch up the north ridge would begin.
I power hiked through this section and soon came to a clearing with great views of Pikes Peak and the ridge of Almagre to the west.
TR672 tops out at 11,000 feet
And then there it was: the defining discovery of the hike for me! Now at 11,000 feet, the trail hits the final junction and the now marked trail, TR 673 (hikers aspiring to summit Rosa should commit this to memory) heads directly south to make the final ascent to the summit.
TR 673 - this is the one!
The trees wax and wane through this final pitch as it starts out with an ascent though dense pines, then hits a clearing with a view of the summit and then buries itself into dense forest only to emerge momentarily on to the craggy summit.
Through the pines we go!
Back into the woods
Sparser trees again
No screaming boulder fields, no talus slopes to navigate, no class 2 sections to scramble, just a well-defined trail to climb the last 500 feet. Anticlimactic? Perhaps, but gratifying nonetheless, especially since this was my third attempt.
Less visited though Rosa might be, compared to the busy 14er circuits, I wasn’t alone on the summit this day. A couple of fellow hikers at the summit, one an ultra-runner and multi-time Rosa climber, shared their experiences with me and were also kind enough to take my mugshot against the beautiful backdrop provided by Almagre’s ridgeline and the monarch of the front range, Pikes Peak.
There were lovely views of the pristine waters of Penrose Rosemount reservoir, but none of the majestic peaks of the Sangre de Cristo to the south or the Sawtach to the west were visible due to the smoke-filled skies.
Rosemount reservoir - pristine!
Pikes Peak would have to do! This was the view that Zebulon and his men must’ve eyed wistfully two centuries and some six years ago.
Pikes Peak Rules the Skies!
I spent some time at the top enjoying the sights and taking in the gifts these mountains have to offer for those who venture to climb their summits. I had already planned my return trip and it would not be the traverse back to Helen Hunt Falls but to Frosty Park. I wanted to make a full circuit of the area and mentally map the environs. Making the descent to Frosty park would allow me to do just that and fill the one missing piece that I still needed to unravel the Rosa puzzle – the approach from FR 379.
I headed back down to the trail junction and took a left on TR 672 (right would’ve put me back on the same path as my ascent). This trail descends quite rapidly and there were spots where I wished I’d worn my sturdier hiking shoes, but not enough to cause any real issues.
After passing through the rocky terrain followed by a gentler trail through the woods, I arrived at a junction and immediately knew that the unmarked trail heading left would take me to Frosty Park. I had probably come within a few hundred feet of this spot before throwing in the towel on my attempt two weeks back. Continuing on TR 672 would take me to the multi-trail junction from where I’d launched my futile and short-lived endeavor on that day. I took the left turn down the umarked trail and within a short distance arrived at the Frosty Park camping area, sans the shooters!
Frosty Park and that's a wrap!
I had a wonderful sense of accomplishment of a job well done even though Rosa is not one of the Centennials or a peak that may garner much respect from the hard-core hiking/climbing crowd (you know who you are!). I will come back later this fall and possibly in winter to see how different the area and the hike to the summit would be when the white stuff abounds. In the meantime, I am just thrilled that I’ve finally kissed the girl next door!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):