| Welcome October
After some early dustings of snow in late September some warmer and more settled weather has brought some wonderful fall conditions to the high country.
HURON PEAK - Northwest Slopes, October 1, 2012
On October 1 we hit the trailhead at the end of the 4WD road and started up the NW Slopes route at around 2:00 p.m. The sky was bright and the wind fairly calm as we found our way on the easily followed trail up to treeline.
The snowy peaks in the background belied the dry conditions we would see over the next couple days. Looking to the south toward the continental divide my guess was that the prominent peak was Harvard. Chime in if you know better!
I had often volunteered in the forum when people ask about an easy 14er that Huron should top the list. It had been about 10 years since I had been here and now, memory refreshed, this route is short and straightforward, but steep enough that I might be persuaded there are easier peaks. But this should be on the list for anyone wanting a straightforward hike with very little potential for getting lost or stranded.
As shown in the previous photo, what you see is what you get. No surprises.
Higher up there was some snow on the trail. Summer shoes were adequate and feet stayed dry in sneakers. Somehow negotiating the snow and ice on the way down was a little more tricky than going up because of the gravity factor and because things were freezing up again when we were on our way down around 5:00 p.m. But still not difficult.
A view to the north, toward LaPlata shows that all of the south facing aspects in this area are totally snow free.
The evening stayed pleasant as we descended back to treeline with temperatures around the mid 40's and the wind mostly calm.
We got back to the truck right around 6:00 p.m. making the round trip in a little under 4 hours.
There are so many beautiful dispersed campsites around the Winfield area that this has to be one of the easiest and prettiest places to car camp anywhere in Colorado. If you are ever wondering, "where can I drive up and pitch the tent right next to the car and have a stunning view of the mountains?" this has to be it. Plenty of it accessible by 2WD vehicles of any sort.
MISSOURI MOUNTAIN - West Ridge to NW Ridge, October 2, 2012
The night was not too cold and there was very little frost in the morning. We packed up and head down the road to find the Rockdale trailhead and drive up to the 4WD parking near Clohesy Lake. The road is unmarked, but passes just to the east of the cabins that are about 10 miles from the paved road, 2 miles east of the center of Winfield. Down the hill, curve to the left and cross the creek. The road initially heads east but soon switches back west and the steeply south toward the lake. The first 1/3 of a mile after the creek is the worst and overall the road is in pretty good shape, but narrow in spots. Subaru's stay away, you are going to want pretty decent clearance in your vehicle to get up here.
After 2.8 miles you come to a gate and trailhead sign, but no information at all. Just a board where a sign once was. You can drive past this for another 2/10's of a mile and come to another gate and a sign that the road is closed to motor vehicles. There is room at the end for a few cars to park. From here it is only a few hundred yards to the lake, which is one of the prettiest spots you will find.
Two images of the same dead tree. Which is more photogenic?
Dead Tree #1
Dead Tree #2
Finding the trail to get above treeline here seemed more confusing that it should have been. There are many trails leading off to campsites and a couple options for getting up through the trees. Basically, you climb gradually while heading generally to the south until you cross two creeks. Once you get away from the camp spots, but before the creeks, there is a fork in the trail marked with a cairn. Take the left steep up hill. It will head initially NE then switch back to the south again. The second, more prominent creek is where you turn east and start steeply up. There is an excellent trail on the north side of this drainage and once out of the trees everything is obvious.
Everything that is, except which bump of the ridge is the summit of Missouri. While in plain sight in front of us, the lower and snowier peaks, Iowa Peak and Emerald, looked more like our destination and the disorientation made for a fun moment of realization as we came quickly upon our summit. Missouri is the inconspicuous bump right of center along the skyline in the next photo.
Looking back to the north and the steeper side of Huron, it was fun to trace possible lines of ascent up the impressive east face. Has anyone reading this played around in this area? This next photo shows the general area but not the actual east face of Huron.
The NW Ridge has a decent use trail along all of it's crest. There is a steep section just before the intersection with the West Ridge route. Once this junction is passed it is a real nice walk along the scenic ridge to the summit, which we reached in about 15 minutes from this point.
There was still some lingering snow on the east and north aspects up high, but the trail along the ridge is on the dry and sunny side!
Looking across at Belford from high on the West Ridge shows no snow whatsoever.
Along the ridge there is one short scramble.
A little under three hours after leaving the truck, we arrived at the summit of Missouri at just around 1:00 p.m.
From the summit, looking back along the ridge, you can see the trail climbing up from Missouri Gulch.
We were back to the truck before 3:00 p.m. making it roughly a 5 hour day, three hours up and two down. This trail is STEEP and can be a real knee buster on the way down.
OK all you Subaru affectionados, here are a couple images from the road getting up to Clohesy Lake. They don't translate too well and seeing them one might think a sedan could get up there but my advice is don't do it!
The creek crossing was easy this week, but looks like it could be pretty intimidating during the spring runoff season.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):