| 2012 RTM Annual Climbing Trip
Background info: From 1970 to 2001, my dad and I went on 23 climbing trips to Colorado, most of them 1 or 2 weeks long. We took a few 3-week trips as well when we could. The two of us finished climbing the 14ers on August 16, 1987. We completed the centennial mountains on August 5, 1992 (#52 and #53, according to the December 1992 Trail and Timberline), the first Texans to do so.
Due to my dad’s age, we no longer climbed together after 2001, and I was without a climbing partner until 2009, when my teenage sons (David and Randy, now 16 and 17, respectively) decided they’d like to climb the 14ers and centennial peaks. I’m happy to pass along the love of Colorado mountains to a third generation of my family.
As of the start of this trip, Randy and David had climbed 34 Colorado 14ers and 45 of its centennial mountains, while I’d climbed 194 of Colorado’s bicentennial mountains. Our goal for 2012 was to climb the majority of the boys’ remaining 14ers, along with centennial and bicentennial mountains when possible.
I’m new to this site, having previously been a member of 14erworld.com until the site was taken down earlier this year. My name on www.ListsofJohn.com is Mtnman (a name I’ve used for close to 20 years), but on www.14ers.com I’m Mtnman200 because someone here already had taken “Mtnman.”
August 9, Thursday. I left work early, and the three of us left our house in sunny Austin, Texas, just before noon for a three-week mountain climbing trip in Colorado. We stopped for the night near Trinidad. Several coyotes howled during the night.
August 10, Friday. We drove through Walsenburg and Buena Vista and then up the Clear Creek road to the Missouri Gulch trailhead. We backpacked up the Missouri Gulch trail past a dilapidated cabin at 11,300’ just below timberline, which would have been a good place to camp except the area looked a bit crowded. We continued on the trail and hustled to set up camp at 11,400’ near the creek as rain and hail began.
August 11, Saturday. Lots of rain fell during the night, but skies were clear when we got up. We hiked to Elkhead Pass and descended to the first switchback south of the pass and then contoured toward a small lake at 12,717’. A group camped just below (east of) the lake had packed up and left by the time we reached the west side of the lake.
We climbed to the northeast ridge of Emerald Peak and followed it to the summit of Emerald Peak (13,904’). Next, we headed along the ridge to the summit of Iowa Peak (13,831’). After eating lunch, we continued on toward Missouri Mountain (14,067’). Dark clouds were building, and it was very windy when we reached the summit. It was apparent that we were the last climbers on Missouri Mountain today, even though it was only 12:30.
We followed the trail down to the valley. Some hail and rain fell off and on. Upon hearing a loud noise, we looked up the valley and saw a sizeable rockslide and large dust cloud on Missouri Mountain about ½ mile south of us. One of the rocks that came down was bigger than a car.
8/11/12 - Missouri Mtn. rockslide
August 12, Sunday. Today’s first objective was Mt. Belford (14,197’). We followed the trail to 11,600’ and then turned left (southeast) onto the Mt. Belford trail, which took us to the summit. We then traversed to Mt. Oxford (14,153’) and ate lunch.
After traversing back to Mt. Belford, we saw a thirsty dog drink water from a depression in the rock near the summit. It was hot and sunny when we returned to our campsite. We broke camp and backpacked to the trailhead. After driving to the Sheep Gulch trailhead where we would start tomorrow’s planned climb of Mt. Hope and Mt. Quail, we discovered that no camping is allowed there but found a nice isolated campsite about ¼ mile down the road.
August 13, Monday. We drove to the Sheep Gulch trailhead and set out on foot up the trail to the 12,540’ pass between Mt. Hope and Mt. Quail. When reached the pass, skies were overcast and it was quite breezy. Rain fell about half of the way to the summit of Mt. Hope (13,933’). The rain resumed, along with snow for a few minutes, shortly after we reached the summit, and we returned to the pass as rain continued. We had already decided to skip Mt. Quail (13,461’) due to the rain. After descending on the trail until we were below timberline, we ate lunch under a tree during a brief respite from the rain and discovered that David’s feet were soaked. The rain resumed just as we reached our car.
We needed to drive to Buena Vista to get replacement boots for David, which meant that we had to scratch tomorrow’s planned climb of the Three Apostles (North Apostle (13,860’), Ice Mountain (13,951’), and West Apostle (13,568’)). We settled on Mt. Yale (14,196’) as the best alternative climb. As we drove down the Clear Creek road, a pickup truck headed up the road with two llamas in its bed. After buying new boots for David, we headed to Collegiate Peaks campground (CG), as it is conveniently located close to the trailhead for Mt. Yale.
August 14, Tuesday. We drove to the Denny Creek trailhead and set out on foot toward Mt. Yale. After 1¼ mile, we left the Denny Creek trail and turned right onto the Mt. Yale trail. This trail replaces the miserably steep bushwhack up Denny Gulch, about ¾ mile to the east, that my dad and I had done in 1980. Two climbers saw our Packer caps and asked if we were from Wisconsin. We told them no, that we were just fans.
At the summit of Mt. Yale (14,196’), we talked to the two climbers we’d seen earlier. One of them noticed the Philmont brand on Randy’s hat and mentioned that he’d been to Philmont twice: one time on a standard trek, and the other on a more challenging Rayado trek. We also talked to a German couple, and Randy took a photo of them with their camera. Skies became cloudy as we descended and thunder rumbled in the distance, but no rain fell on us. We drove toward Independence Pass and set up camp at Twin Peaks CG.
August 15, Wednesday. We drove to the North Lake Creek trailhead and hiked up a very old road toward Lackawanna Gulch. We followed the road for about ¾ mile before leaving the road and heading southeast up steep tree-covered slopes to the northwest ridge of Unnamed (UN) 13823, informally called “Lackawanna Peak.” We climbed south over a soft-ranked 13,660’ ridge point and then down to a broad saddle and up to the summit of “Lackawanna Peak.”
Our descent route inadvertently took us a bit farther west than intended and into a tangle of trees and undergrowth on a steep slope, and we were glad to finally reach the old road. We drove back to our campsite and got our backpacks ready for tomorrow’s trek up Conundrum Creek.
August 16, Thursday. We drove over Independence Pass and through Aspen to the Conundrum Creek trailhead for a nine-mile backpack to Conundrum Hot Springs. About three miles up the trail, I saw a young black bear about 150’ from the trail. When I pointed out the bear to David and Randy, the bear heard me and reared up on his hind legs before lumbering up the valley. Unfortunately, this was the same direction that the trail went. On the plus side, the bear’s reaction meant that he was afraid of humans.
As we hiked up the trail, about 10 groups went by on their way back to the trailhead. One guy told us about the “really good energy last night at the hot springs” with close to 40 people there. Skies threatened us with rain as we reached the designated campsites at 11,200’ (a short distance below Conundrum Hot Springs).
After setting up camp near an old cabin with stucco walls, we walked to the hot springs and discovered that some people in Colorado are rather free-spirited. We talked to Sharon Crawford of Frisco, who’d done a solo climb of UN 13803 (“Castleabra”) earlier today, and got route info from her. We spent 30 minutes in the hot springs and could see bubbles coming up through the water from the thermal activity.
August 17, Friday. We got up to clear skies, but that would not last long. After hiking south about ¼ mile past the hot springs, we left the trail, crossed the creek, and hiked southeast to a large rock glacier. Only 30 minutes after we started hiking, the skies were cloudy, with a few raindrops off and on.
We climbed steeply east up scree to a 13,620’ saddle, and then an easier climb a few hundred feet north brought us to the summit of UN 13803 (“Castleabra”). Due to the threatening clouds, we headed down after only 15 minutes on the summit. We stopped for lunch after descending about 500’. Our descent route was very steep, and we were glad that no rain fell. We returned to our campsite about 2 p.m. Several elk walked near the old cabin across from our campsite after dinner.
August 18, Saturday. Some inconsiderate people walked through our campsite at 1:30 a.m. while stumbling around and talking loudly. We suspect they had been at the hot springs for some “good energy.” After sleeping in late, we started backpacking out. A couple of miles from the trailhead, we met a forest ranger and told him about seeing a bear two days ago. The ranger made note of it and then asked to see our wilderness permit, which we showed to him.
We drove through Aspen to Difficult CG. Near Aspen, we saw someone paragliding. After eating lunch, we got our backpacks ready for tomorrow evening’s trek up West Maroon Creek near the Maroon Bells.
August 19, Sunday. We drove to the Cathedral Lake trailhead and set out on foot under clear skies. Two people who were also planning to climb Cathedral Peak passed us, and we later passed them. From Cathedral Lake we went cross-country northwest to an old mine above the lake. We could see the two climbers and a friend of theirs near the lake below us as we followed an old miner’s trail from the mine into the basin southeast of Cathedral Peak.
As we climbed west from the trail’s end at 12,600’ toward a long and very steep gully on Cathedral Peak, the three climbers passed us. One of them went first and knocked some rocks loose, so his two partners waited. Once the first climber reached the ridge at 13,060’, we scurried past and north toward the summit of Cathedral Peak (13,943’).
As we ate lunch on the summit, the three climbers arrived. We headed down while they were still on the summit so we could descend the gully without having anyone directly above us. We were able to follow the old miner’s trail much further than this morning and then headed cross-country to the intersection of the Electric Pass and Cathedral Lake trails. We appreciated having beautiful weather all day.
After driving to the West Maroon Creek trailhead near the Maroon Bells, we ate dinner and started backpacking up the trail. We had originally planned to backpack 3½ miles to a site close to Maroon Peak and “Thunder Pyramid” (13,932’), our planned climbs for Monday and Tuesday, but due to our late start we decided to stop at Crater Lake. Tomorrow’s climb would now be North Maroon Peak due to the campsite change.
August 20, Monday. We set out under cloudy skies, following the Maroon - Snowmass trail west for about ½ mile and then turning onto a climber’s trail that crossed Minnehaha Creek before climbing southwest toward North Maroon Peak. A trail crew was throwing rocks down the hillside above Minehaha Creek but stopped after we objected loudly. We continued hiking across a rock glacier and climbed below some cliffs and past a corner to a broad gully that climbs west toward the North Maroon’s northeast ridge. We climbed about 600’ in the gully and then traversed left to a steeper gully near 12,600’ that we climbed to the ridge crest at approximately 13,200’.
We climbed up the ridge to a rock band at 13,600’, where we avoided a short Class 4 chimney by going to its right and climbing Class 3 ledges on loose rock. Once up the ledges, we scrambled up the ridge with Scott Harrison, formerly of San Antonio and now living in Chicago. We reached the summit of North Maroon Peak (14,014’) at 11:15 a.m. and signed the summit register. The four of us were the only climbers on North Maroon Peak today, most likely due to the threatening clouds.
8/20/12 - Randy, Eddie, and David on the summit of North Maroon (Maroon Peak behind)
8/20/12 - Mountain goats on North Maroon
We started down after 15 minutes as intermittent light rain began. Steadier rain began as we exited the lower (first) gully. We stopped for lunch under some trees as Scott continued down the climber’s trail by himself. The rain made the steep climber’s trail muddy and slippery, and we each had trouble with slipping on the muddy trail. Ironically, we had no trouble on North Maroon Peak itself but now had trouble with our footing on the climber’s trail below the peak. We returned to our campsite about 3 p.m., just after the rain stopped. We hung up our raingear to dry and rested in our tent for a couple of hours. An elk walked by our campsite as we ate dinner.
Our initial plan had been to spend two nights camped another two miles up the West Maroon Creek trail and climb “Thunder Pyramid” (UN 13932) and Maroon Peak from that campsite, but we decided to stay at Crater Lake for four nights instead.
August 21, Tuesday. We started hiking up the West Maroon Creek trail with headlamps about 5:30.
8/21/12 - Sunrise (looking down West Maroon Creek)
Just before the trail crosses to the east side of the creek, we turned right onto a climber’s trail to Maroon Peak that ascended steeply to a small saddle on Maroon Peak’s south ridge. We then climbed north below the ridge, up a gully that was full of loose rock, and up some complicated terrain to the ridge. We scrambled up the ridge to the summit of Maroon Peak (14,156’), which we reached at noon, just after a group of three. From the summit, we could see two climbers traversing to North Maroon Peak.
8/21/12 - Two climbers traversing to North Maroon (taken from Maroon Peak's summit)
8/21/12 - Summit of Maroon Peak (North Maroon in the background)
After an hour on the summit, we started down amid some non-threatening clouds. A single-engine Cessna flew below us as we descended. It was nice to return to the West Maroon Creek trail and level ground. A non-venomous snake near the trail to our campsite moved slowly away from us. When we returned to our campsite, we were tired but pleased to have climbed both of the Maroon Bells on consecutive days.
We decided to skip our planned climb of “Thunder Pyramid” and instead climb Pyramid Peak tomorrow, which would allow us to pack out Wednesday morning. After we ate dinner, an elk, most likely the same one as last night, walked by our campsite.
August 22, Wednesday. We set out on foot toward Pyramid Peak under cloudy skies. As we climbed toward the amphitheater below Pyramid Peak’s north face, a mountain goat and her baby blocked the trail. We were able to get them to move off the trail without spooking them. Light rain began as we reached the amphitheater. This was not a good sign, but the rain ended after just over a half hour. We hiked toward Pyramid Peak’s north face and turned left (east) and continued to the base of a steep gully leading up to Pyramid Peak’s northeast ridge.
8/22/12 - Traversing on Pyramid Peak
After reaching the ridge at 11,980’, we contoured south and southwest to a steep section of light-colored rock. Along the way, we caught up to Dan of Denver and climbed with him for a ways. When we reached a steep wall of light-colored rock, we initially climbed too far left for a few dozen feet before moving right onto easier, but still steep, terrain and continuing to climb several hundred feet up. Dan stayed behind and watched us, expressing concern about the weather before turning back. We then zigzagged our way up reddish rock, pausing to consider whether to climb steeply to the summit ridge or to do a climbing contour more directly toward the summit. We chose the latter and reached the summit of Pyramid Peak about 11:45.
8/22/12 - Maroon Bells from Pyramid Peak's summit. You can see from the clouds why we didn't spend much time on the summit.
The clouds looked threatening now, so we headed down after only 15 minutes on the summit. As we descended, we picked up the surveyor’s tape that Dan had left at various locations. As we descended from the amphitheater, we could see Dan near West Maroon Creek, easily identifiable by his climbing helmet.
We returned to our campsite, cooked lunch, broke camp, and backpacked to the trailhead, having decided that tomorrow would be a much-needed and well-deserved rest day. We then drove past Carbondale to the Crystal River Resort and camped next to the Crystal River.
August 23, Thursday. Rain fell between 4 and 7 a.m. We saw a motorized hang glider flying overhead as we ate breakfast.
8/23/12 - Motorized hang glider near Carbondale
After a leisurely morning, we drove through Redstone to Marble and up the jeep road to the Lead King Basin for our planned climbs of Hagerman Peak (13,841’) and Snowmass Mountain (14,092’).
At 2:30 p.m. we reached the Geneva Lake trailhead and set up our tent in a nice wooded campsite near the trailhead. We also talked to a guy who had climbed Snowmass Mountain today. Rain fell in the evening and ended up continuing all night.
August 24, Friday. At 5:00 a.m. we heard the sound of water hitting the tent and debated what to do before getting up to overcast skies and fog. We set out toward Geneva Lake intending to climb Snowmass Mountain at 6:15 but after about 15 minutes of hiking decided the threatening weather was too iffy and turned around. We took it easy around our campsite all day.
After dinner, rain began at 7:45 p.m. By now we’d decided to skip Hagerman Peak and climb it on another trip. It had been an unproductive but restful day, and we hoped that we’d be able to climb Snowmass Mountain tomorrow.
August 25, Saturday. We got up to clear skies and people with headlamps hiking by on the trail. After hiking to Geneva Lake, we met a group who also planned to climb Snowmass Mountain. We continued on the trail to Little Gem Lake, where the other group abruptly left the trail and descended to the creek that flows into Geneva Lake. They apparently planned to climb via an alternate route, Snowmass Mountain’s southwest ridge.
We continued on the trail to a large gully in the middle of Snowmass Mountain’s west face, which we climbed until we reached the ridge at about 14,000’. As we neared the ridge, we received unsolicited advice from one of the climbers who’d taken the alternate route. He berated us for climbing the gully, despite it being a standard route on the west face that, as a Class 3 route, is less difficult than the Class 3+ alternate route that he and his group had taken.
At the ridge, we turned right and hiked a short distance to the summit of Snowmass Mountain (14,092’).
Randy on the summit of Snowmass Mountain
8/25/12 - David on the summit of Snowmass Mountain
We enjoyed a leisurely hour and a half on the summit and then started our descent. When we reached the valley, we noticed a UH-60 Black Hawk search and rescue helicopter near the adjacent Hagerman Peak. Eventually, the helicopter pilot seemed to find what he was looking for, as the helicopter began hovering high on the west side of the peak. (We later learned that a party of five had triggered a rockslide, injuring one of them and killing another, 24-year old Rob Jansen of New Canaan, Connecticut, who had been living in Denver.)
We returned to our campsite, broke camp, and began driving out. As we headed back toward Marble on the Lead King Basin jeep road, a vehicle pulling a camper approached from the other direction, forcing Randy to back the car down the road quite a long way. We drove back to Crystal River Resort, and were assigned a campsite that was already occupied. When we informed the owner of this, we were reassigned to a vacant campsite.
August 26, Sunday. We drove through Snowmass to the Capitol Lake trailhead, where we got our backpacks ready for our planned three-night trip to Capitol Lake. After eating lunch, we started backpacking about 12:30 p.m., taking the slightly longer “ditch trail” rather than the standard Capitol Creek trail to avoid losing 400’ of elevation. At about 9,600’ we crossed Capitol Creek to the Capitol Creek Trail. We encountered some mostly-black cows as we continued up the trail. After reaching a camping area at 11,600’ just below Capitol Lake, we chose site #6 on a tree-covered knoll. It was a tight squeeze for our tent, but roomier than another site we’d considered.
8/26/12 - David (front) and Eddie at our campsite near Capitol Lake
August 27, Monday. Skies were clear and many stars were visible when we got up. We set out on foot toward today’s objective, Clark Peak, and climbed east on a recently upgraded trail to the 12,500’ Capitol Peak – Mt. Daly saddle.
8/27/12 - Moon Lake at dawn from the Capitol Peak -Mt. Daly saddle
We then descended a gully and traversed southeast into the broad basin between Mt. Daly and Clark Peak. After heading southeast across the basin, we climbed to the ridge on the east side of the bowl and then turned right (southwest) and followed this ridge toward the Clark Peak - K2 ridge. At about 13,200’ we traversed left (southeast) to Clark Peak’s west ridge. We continued along the ridge to the summit of Clark Peak (13,580’), arriving at 10:25. It had been a fun ridge, with lots of scrambling across and around boulders.
8/27/12 - The ridge to Clark Peak (13,580')
There was no summit register in the canister, but in 2010 Gerry and Jennifer Roach had left a makeshift register in a parmesan cheese container. According to this register, we’d made the third ascent of 2012 and the first ascent since June. A Black Hawk helicopter flew below us, and we later learned that it was on its way to Hagerman Peak to recover Rob Jansen’s body. The reason for the two-day delay is that on Saturday afternoon, the search and rescue crew left Hagerman Peak with the injured climber, dropped him off in Aspen, and then had to refuel and immediately set out to rescue an injured climber on Maroon Peak.
Due to the clouds and also because it was still early, we decided to wait to eat lunch until we were back in the basin. We returned to our campsite at 2:45 p.m.; it was nice to be back so early. To minimize our chances of getting caught in bad weather on tomorrow’s objective (Capitol Peak), we decided to get an early start in the morning and went to bed early as rain began. Some coyotes howled mournfully in the distance. The rain finally stopped after about two hours.
August 28, Tuesday. We again followed the trail to the Capitol Peak - Mt. Daly saddle, which we reached just as it got light. The sunrise over Moon Lake (an alternate approach to Capitol Peak) was beautiful. We followed a climber’s trail across gullies and talus below cliffs and then traversed across the basin between Mt. Daly and Clark Peak. Once we were past some cliffs, we climbed the talus toward K2 and traversed around the north side of K2 to reach Capitol Peak’s knife-edge ridge. Coyotes to the west of us howled just as David started across the ridge.
Once across the knife-edge ridge, the climbing was easier. We scrambled along the ridge past a notch overlooking a steep gully. After crossing the notch, we climbed along the left side of the ridge. Eventually, we climbed to the ridge and followed it to the summit of Capitol Peak (14,130’), arriving at 9:45, about 30 minutes after a guy who was climbing solo.
8/28/12 - The three of us on Capitol Peak's summit
After about a half hour on the summit, we started down and, because the summit register was full and wet, took it with us and later mailed it back to the CMC. When we returned to the knife-edge ridge, Randy walked across the top of it. Randy then took a photo of the other guy making his way across the ridge. We offered to send the photo to him, but he declined, saying that he didn’t expect that he looked very dignified as he straddled the ridge. (You can see the other climber in the background of this photo.)
8/28/12 - Randy returning across the knife-edge ridge
We stopped for lunch shortly after traversing around K2 and onto easier terrain. After returning to our campsite at 2:00, we found that our neighbors had left while we were climbing today. We were prepared to spend another night here but due to our early return decided to backpack out and camp near the trailhead.
We broke camp and started backpacking out at 2:40 in light rain, which made us glad that we’d started earlier than usual this morning. We returned to our car in light rain, shortly after hail had fallen for about five or ten minutes. The rain convinced us to drive through Aspen to Difficult CG.
August 29, Wednesday. Today would be a rest day because we’d already done this morning’s planned backpack. We slept in late and then drove over Independence Pass to Leadville, where we went to High Mountain Pies for a much-anticipated pizza, with mozzarella breadsticks as an appetizer. The young woman who took our order had purple hair and would have fit in well in Austin. We ate at an outside table because the few tables inside were taken. The food was excellent, and we highly recommend High Mountain Pies. When we’d finished eating and were getting up to leave, several guys who’d just arrived were quite glad to take our table. One of them said “All right! The chairs are still warm!”
We then drove toward Minturn. Rain slowed us down a bit, as did road construction. Sadly, we saw a small dog with no water that was chained to a construction worker’s truck. Some people definitely should not have pets. We drove west up the Tigiwon road past much ugly clear-cut land to Halfmoon CG. The clear-cut land along the road was just as ugly in 1984 when my dad and I were last here. An aggressive dog belonging to one of our neighbors was running loose through the campground.
August 30, Thursday. We got up at 4:00 a.m., ate breakfast, broke camp, and drove about 200’ to the trailhead. Our plan for today was to climb Holy Cross Ridge and then do a double out-and-back to Mount of the Holy Cross and UN 13768. We set out on the Fall Creek trail at 5:00 with headlamps.
8/30/12 - Sunrise from the Fall Creek trail
Rain fell from 7:00 to 9:00 as we followed the trail south-southwest to Lake Constantine and another 0.6 mile to its intersection with Fall Creek. Along the way, we met John of Silver Cliff, who also planned to climb Holy Cross Ridge today as part of his goal of completing the centennial peaks. From just before where the trail crosses Fall Creek, we turned right (west) onto a climber’s trail and followed it past the north sides of Lower Tuhare Lake and Upper Tuhare Lake to a small basin at 12,800’, having joined forces with John and convincing him not to turn back due to the weather.
We then climbed north-northeast with John up a talus slope almost directly to the summit of Holy Cross Ridge (13,831’), arriving a few minutes after John. You can see Mount of the Holy Cross behind us in a photo that John took of us on the summit.
8/30/12 - On the summit of Holy Cross Ridge (Photo by John of Silver Cliff)
Due to the threatening weather, we decided to skip UN 13,768 (the next peak on the ridge south of Holy Cross Ridge) and instead continue directly to Mount of the Holy Cross, while John decided to descend at this time. We headed our separate ways after 15 minutes on the summit.
From the summit of Holy Cross Ridge, it is a simple ridge walk to the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross. Due to the threatening clouds, we hustled toward the summit and were about 200’ below it when a hailstorm began, accompanied by lightning. We headed down a few hundred feet and spread out in a manner to minimize the lightning risk.
This turned out to be the longest hailstorm any of us had ever encountered in Colorado. The lightning that occurred every two or three minutes had finally moved far enough away after 90 minutes that we felt we could safely continue, although the hail had not quite stopped. We made a beeline for the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross (14,005’) and then headed down its north ridge. This meant we would have to descend to East Cross Creek and then regain an unplanned 1,000’ in the climb over Half Moon Pass, but given the potential for more bad weather, it would be the safest way to return to the trailhead.
Some of the trail on the ridge had been recently improved, and we later saw a trail crew camped near where the trail crossed East Cross Creek. When we reached the trailhead, we nearly had to smack a hiker’s dog in the nose when he became aggressive toward us. We drove through Minturn and east on I-70 in rain to Georgetown where we headed up the Guanella Pass road. The rain stopped shortly before we reached Clear Creek CG.
August 31, Friday. We drove to Guanella Pass and started hiking toward Mt. Bierstadt. There were a lot of people on the boardwalk trail through the willows this morning. The boardwalk is a nice improvement over having to bushwhack through the willows as my dad and I had done in 1972. We reached the summit of Mt. Bierstadt (14,060’) and, after 20 minutes, continued north toward the Sawtooth Ridge between Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans.
We descended toward the saddle, staying on the east (right) side of the ridge. We then climbed up to a notch in the ridge, crossing to the other side of the ridge and traversing a downward sloping ledge to the Sawtooth’s northwest ridge.
8/31/12 - The Sawtooth Ridge
We climbed over the top of the Sawtooth (13,620’) and followed Mt. Evan’s west ridge to the summit of Mt. Evans (14,264’). It was disheartening to see a road and parking lot near the summit, and we quickly headed back toward the Sawtooth to get away from the hordes of tourists, stopping for lunch about ¼ mile from the summit. While we were eating, a woman who apparently had seen us on Mt. Bierstadt said “Hey, there’s our fellow Sawtooth travelers.”
We had originally planned to climb Mt. Spalding (13,842’) and Gray Wolf Mountain (13,602’) as well, but the threatening clouds convinced us to skip them, so we hiked northwest to the top of a gully that leads to Scott Gomer Creek. Rain began shortly after we started down the gully. At the base of the gully, we followed a climber’s trail through willows and swampy areas toward the Mt. Bierstadt trail. Along the way, we were surprised to see a moose with a sizeable rack of antlers near the trail. We made it a point to give the moose lots of room to avoid spooking him, though it meant hiking through a swampy area.
8/31/12 - Moose near Scott Gomer Creek
The rain had stopped by the time we reached the trailhead. We drove down the Guanella Pass road to our campsite and hung up our raingear to dry.
September 1, Saturday. Skies were clear when we got up. After breaking camp, we drove up the jeep road to the Waldorf Mine and began hiking up the Argentine Pass jeep road. At a switchback near 12,600’, we headed more directly toward the north ridge of Argentine Peak. It was very windy on the ridge as we climbed south to the summit of Argentine Peak (13,738’).
We started down the ridge toward our next objective, Mt. Edwards. A guy wearing earbuds was nearing the summit just after we left. We said ‘hello’ to him but he did not respond, apparently lost in whatever he was listening to. After reaching the summit of Mt. Edwards (13,850’), we heard a series of rifle shots from the vicinity of the trailhead for Grays Peak and Torreys Peak.
After 45 minutes, we started down toward the Mt. Edwards - McClellan Mountain saddle. Our initial plan was to climb McClellan Mountain (13,587’) as our third peak today, but the threatening skies convinced us to skip this non-separate peak. Rain began as we reached the saddle. Farther down, we were able to follow an extremely old mine road northeast for a while before heading more directly east, reaching the Argentine Pass road a few hundred feet southeast of our car. Naturally, the rain then stopped just after we reached our car.
While driving down the jeep road, we encountered a Jeep pulling a very small trailer equipped with off-road tires. This was the second time in a week that we’d seen a vehicle pulling a trailer on a jeep road. The road between Georgetown and Guanella Pass has been recently paved and is a big improvement over its previous condition. The last few miles of the Guanella Pass road near Grant were unpaved and extremely dusty, however.
We drove through Fairplay, Hartsel, and Divide to The Crags CG, the trailhead for the western approach to Pikes Peak. After getting our backpacks ready, a short hike brought us to the intersection with the Devil's Playground trail, which we followed another ¼ mile to a campsite adjacent to the trail. We enjoyed the peace and quiet of this campsite on a busy holiday weekend.
September 2, Sunday. We starting hiking at 5:15 with headlamps, enjoying a beautiful sunrise as we got above timberline.
9/2/12 - Moon over the trail to Devil's Playground on Pikes Peak
After the trail leveled out near 12,750’, it widened into an old jeep road and continued northeast through a rock band to the Devil's Playground area. Here, the trail crossed the paved Pikes Peak road and then essentially paralleled the Pikes Peak road, sometimes taking a more direct route than the road.
We reached the summit of Pikes Peak (14,110’) at 9:30 to find a large infestation of tourists. The cog railway left at 10:00 after one of the tourists came within a minute of missing his ride back down. A wildly inaccurate sign near the summit claims that there are only about 250 mountains over 13,000' in Colorado.
9/2/12 - Sign with wrong info on Pikes Peak
We headed down after a leisurely hour on the summit, returning to our campsite at 2:00 p.m. After breaking camp, we backpacked to the trailhead, and drove via Divide to Colorado Springs, where we headed south on I-25. We stopped for the night in Clayton, New Mexico, at about 8 p.m.
September 3, Monday. We left at 7:00 a.m. MDT (8:00 CDT) and reached our house in sunny central Texas at 6:40 p.m. CDT. On this trip, we climbed 23 mountains in 17 climbing days, including:
- 13 14ers
- 6 13ers plus 1 non-separate peak in the 100 highest peaks in Colorado
- 3 13ers in the second 100 highest peaks in Colorado
Randy and David have now climbed 47 of the 14ers and 63 of the centennial peaks in Colorado. With our climbs of UN 13803 (“Castleabra”) and Clark Peak, I have now climbed 196 of the bicentennial peaks. Our goal for 2013 is for Randy and David to finish their 14ers and for me for finish the bicentennials.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):