| North ridge from Clear Creek - From Huron with Love
Date: Sunday, June 2, 2013
Route: North Ridge from Clear Creek
Distance: ~ 10 miles
Gain: ~ 3700 feet
Start Time: 6:24
Finish Time: 3:30
Friday, May 31st
My wife and I wanted to do a little camping and hiking on the weekend following Memorial day (we had spent the Memorial Day weekend camping/hiking/tooling around the Sangre De Cristo’s and near Salida), so we decided that we were going to do so in a nomadic style by first camping somewhere near Idaho Springs the first night and then down at the trailhead of Huron Peak the second night. After a lot of searching around the net, we just decided that we would camp up at Guanella Pass, something that we have done in the past. Friday afternoon hit and we were on the road as quickly as we could, with only a stop to Total Beverage to pick up a 6 pack and a pre-made Mojito and a pre-made Piña Colada. The drive out of town was quick and before we knew it, we were at Tommyknockers in Idaho Springs scarfing down some food before our weekend. A short while later, we made our way up the pass, set up camp, spoke with our friendly neighbor, and went to sleep.
Saturday, June 1st
After waking up and packing all of the camping gear into the truck, we head down the pass and grab breakfast at The Whistlestop Café in Georgetown. We head out of town with our sights set on Leadville. We decided to take the scenic route and go over Loveland pass (which both of us have never done) and made our way into Dillon. We did a little shopping (my wife getting several new pieces of clothing at Columbia and GoLite and me just getting a belt – her birthday was recently so I figured she could splurge) and got back on the road to Leadville. We spent some time there in the afternoon, having hamburgers, checking out the shops, and seeing the Synagogue / Jewish Cemetery – with a personal tour from the caretaker which was loaded with a lot of local information.
The Synagogue in Leadville
Finally, close to 5:00 we head to Winfield.
After making the short drive, we were looking up the 4 wheel drive road about .4 miles past the 2 wheel drive trailhead with a decision to make. I am looking at a hard packed pile of snow on the left side of the road and a pretty big mud puddle on the right. Kind of narrow but I know I can fit the truck. Two thoughts cross our minds. First, this truck is brand new. It still has the temp tags on it and it has maybe 2,000 miles on the odometer. Second, we don’t know how bad the road is past this spot. We know the road looks narrow from this perspective and we are not sure how narrow it is above, how rough it gets, or if this is the worst spot. We bite the bullet and decide to camp at a spot just 50 yards back, so we back the truck down the road a little bit, pull off into the site, and set up camp for the night.
Sunday, June 2nd
After trying to sleep unsuccessfully for most of the night, I finally fell asleep and caught maybe 2 hours before I woke up and realized I could see inside the tent much better than I thought I should for our 5 AM wake up call. I check the time and see that it was 5:13… interesting. I couldn’t remember if we decided to set the alarm for 5 or 5:30. Without another thought, I figured I would snooze until the alarm went off. Upon waking up a second time, I check the time and see that it was 5:37! I check the phone and see that the alarm was set for 5, but on Monday morning! $#!& !!! Luckily we had packed up most of camp the night before, so all that was left was to get changed, get the dogs ready, have breakfast, and start up the road to the 4-wheel drive trailhead. We left the truck at 6:24 and making a good pace up the road and after getting past the spot where we decided to not continue, I began evaluating the road to judge if we could have made it driving up with the truck. As we came up to the trailhead at 7:00, I had determined that the truck could have easily made it up the road, and that fear of the unknown is a powerful motivator of the decisions you make. Oh well, nothing that can be done about it now, time to start up the actual trail.
Trail head sign
Now that we have warmed up from our 1.5 mile walk up the road, we start making our way through the trees to the stream crossing. The first half mile was at a good pace and aside from having to correct the puppy along the way (9 month old German Shorthaired Pointer), very uneventful. Once we made it to the stream, we had to make a decision on how to cross the icy rocks and coax the puppy to make her way across the stream. The stream was probably 6 feet wide, flowing very full, and did not have a bridge or log to aid in crossing. Even the rocks (which are clearly used during the rest of the year) were partially submerged in the water and extremely slippery. Everyone made it without slipping or getting wet, so we continue to make our way towards tree line. Along the way, we were graced with some beautiful views of The Three Apostles and other peaks to which I don’t know the names.
The Three Apostles
For the most part, the snow that we encountered before tree line was hard packed and easy to cross and a few areas that had a little deeper snow that was easier to just go around.
At tree line, we get our first glimpse of Huron Peak! There was more snow than I was expecting, but I could see that there were ways around the snow fields if we wanted, unfortunately, from the first views of Huron you cannot see the route we were taking very well. We made our way into the basin and saw where another group of 5 climbers were climbing up the snowfields on the north side of the mountain.
Another party making their way up the north face.
My wife and I decided that we were NOT going to follow them and instead stick to the standard route by heading across the basin, which is full of snow with no way to escape it, and up the ridgeline. As we were crossing the snowfield, I made a comment to my wife that it will not be this easy going coming back (expecting to post hole for the entire 200 yard stretch).
Snowfield in the basin
We started to make our way up the ridgeline at a slow and deliberate pace. Most of the trip up the ridgeline was off the trail and on snow fields that climbed up to the summit, making our route, more or less, straight up the mountain.
Looking down the route
Unfortunately, my wife had to turn around near 13,500 because by that time, it was 11 AM and she was nervous about the return trip. After a little deliberation, we decided that I would take both of the dogs, run up to the summit, and then catch up to her on the decent. The dogs and I make our way up to the summit and reach the snowy summit block around 11:30. I snap a few pictures, have my traditional beer (only about half), some meat and cheese, and head back down the mountain to catch up to my wife.
View from the summit
Another view from the summit
The trip down from the summit was blessed by spectacular views, the natural high of reaching the summit (or maybe the half beer), and the overall goal to catch up to my wife so that I can help her with the decent. I was able to make very fast time by taking plunge steps down a few snow fields and glissading a few of the others. By the time I was making my way down from the summit, the snow had softened up to the point where you could make a decent speed by glissading without getting out of control. In about 20 minutes, I was able to leave the summit and catch up to my wife just above the section that connects the ridge to the basin below.
Upon catching up to my wife, we noticed that our 7 year old wiener dog was licking her paws. After inspection, we noticed that one of her nails must have been jarred or damaged and was causing some blood to flow. We moved some of my clothes from my pack to my wife’s, had a brief snack, and loaded the dog into my backpack. This is the first time she has had to be loaded into my backpack due to an injury (this was her 10th 14er), so I was happy to “shoulder the burden” for the trip down. The puppy… she was STILL hyper and energetic despite a little blood between her toes (she was completely unaffected by it and was still running all over the place), so she still had to walk. We started our way down into the basin and my wife got to do her first glissade the short slope down into the snowfield, which is where hell began.
The scene was out of the old west. The enemy, in that old western sepia color, stares at you with its unblinking eye. You see tumbleweed cross the path and you hear the sound of a whip cracking in the background. It’s quiet… too quite. Standing on the edge of an open snow field, you know that you are going to post-hole the entire way, you are tired, and there is only one way out… through the field. Anyhow, we started off in good shape. Somehow the snow was holding and we were making our way through the field when all of a sudden, it happens: post hole mania. My wife, who was less than thrilled, somehow managed to break through the snow more often than I did (I attribute that to her smaller feet).
We were now 150 yards away from dry land and we had to keep moving forward. Each time we would take a step; you would sink in to your calf, knee, or up to your whole leg and have a little bit of your soul taken from you. Needless to say, as my wife’s leg sank up to her knee, she would let me know how much she hated me. I must have counted at least 25 times where she reminded me of that fact as we made our way through the snowfield of doom. Finally after countless post-holing steps, we made it out of the snowfield and back on to the nice dirt path.
The remainder of the trip down was uneventful. We had a snack, shed some layers, and picked our way down the path to our final destination. The puppy was still energetic and continuously running to the end of her 16 feet of trust and back, over and over.
End of her 16 feet of trust
We were able to make a nice decent all the way back down to the stream crossing in pretty good time and was able to negotiate the now higher flowing stream without incident. Finally, around 3 PM, we made it back to the 4-wheel drive trailhead! About 30 min after that, we are back at our campsite and sitting on the tailgate of the truck.
We relaxed on the tailgate for a while, split a beer, and made sure the dogs had some water and a place to rest. We picked up what was left of our campsite and made our way through Winfield and towards Leadville in search of some fudge at a shop that we saw the day before. After acquiring our sugar rush, we headed back to our home in Denver with the memories of the hike we had just had.
The trip was very fun and exactly what we were looking for when we started out this quest on Friday from Denver except for the hike itself. I was expecting a little less snow on the mountain and to be able to drive up to the 4 wheel drive trailhead but that’s life. It was our puppy’s first 14er, our wiener dogs 10th, my 18th, my wife’s 7th (first with snow on the route), and the first time my marriage has been challenged due to a snowfield! All kidding aside, it was a wonderful weekend with a lot of fond memories. We were able to spend some time in Leadville and learn about some history, go over Loveland pass (which we are usually in too much of a hurry), and spend some quality time together enjoying our amazing state! I will never forget this trip and most likely never talk my wife into a hike where there is any inkling of snow on the route!
End of hike - doxie in bag hitching a ride, puppy still hyper
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