I was returning to the Blue Lakes trailhead for the third time, exactly four weeks from the previous occasion when I made my last unsuccessful attemptat 13,951’ high Fletcher Mountain. I figured at least some of the snow and ice would’ve melted but was taking no chance this time, and came armed with microspikes.
I stayed the course on the trail by the shore, avoiding the temptation to take numerous false detours, until I hit the prominent gully that climbs the steep hill leading to the basin.
The next shot looks down at the route I took from the lakeside.
Looking back at the route so far
At the first glimpse of Fletcher, it was clear the much of the snow in the basin had melted, save for a couple of snow fields, one of which would’ve been directly on the standard route as it climbs out of the basin.
Fletcher comes into view
I had already decided that I was making my own route today, and completely avoiding the basin by climbing the rock wall to the southwest (hiker’s left) and gaining the ridge which, as I had confirmed on my last outing, would take me directly to Fletcher’s broad saddle with Quandary.
Options to scale the wall
There are a few different options to scale this rugged wall that would keep the difficulty at or below class 3; the one shown in red was the more obvious choice, which naturally meant that I would attempt the one in blue!
Route I attempted
I scrambled over some tricky boulders, setting off a rock slide behind me in the process.
Tricky rock pile-up
When I scrambled up to the rust colored rock, I decided to go right to avoid the scree but I’d momentarily discover that this was not a sound decision!
I was now in a tight corner – literally and figuratively. The section to my left featured a tricky overhang that I attempted with all the surefootedness of an inebriate mountain goat before deciding it just wasn’t happening.
I perched on this spot for a moment to slow down my heartbeat, then took a shot at the rocks to my right.
If I had an eight foot stride perhaps!
I made it up about 10 feet on solid rock before requiring a move that I simply didn’t have the confidence to commit. Was it just a difficult class 3 or perhaps a class 4? Let's just say it was a class “more than I was comfortable with” and that was that! I stopped again for a bit to take stock of my situation and decided I needed to lose some elevation and find an easier section to tackle the rock wall. I descended a bit setting off another rock slide, and for once was thankful that there was not another soul on this route. Now in a better position to view the rock wall, I spotted a gully to my left and side-hilled around the white rock to get to it.
Skirting the white rocks
The loose rock looked dicey but as I surveyed this pitch I caught a glimpse of the inviting grassy patch above it where I figured the difficulties would relent.
Scramble or die!
I took my time to scale this, checking each rock before committing, eventually gaining the grassy ledges above.
Phew! Respite at last!
I took a moment to catch my breath and surveyed the route I’d taken.
There were more boulders to be scaled en route to the ridge, but this pitch was on more stable rock and quite enjoyable.
Final pitch to gain the ridge
Just as neared the top of this section, I spotted Fletcher’s summit in the distance.
Fletcher pops up again
I knew the crux of the hike was behind me but the snow field on Fletcher’s east ridge still needed to be negotiated.
The route along the ridge was uneventful as I stayed close to the edge angling for a line heading straight toward the peak.
The crest of this ridge is about a hundred feet or so higher than the base of Fletcher’s east idge, and my goal was to minimize elevation loss and climb the southeast face, only joining the ridge route closer to the summit.
There were faint trails that peter out along this face which was generally strewn with boulders and loose rock but I kept the highest snow field on my sights as I climbed up.
Fletcher's SE face
Looking down on Fletcher's SE face
After some determined huffing and puffing, I got to the notch on the ridge.
Notch on Fletcher's ridge
The ridge had fairly steep drop-offs on the northeast side, so I’d planned on skirting the final snow field by staying below it, but as it turned out I was able to stay on the ridge and avoid it entirely.
Snow field near summit
Next thing I knew I was staring at the summit register – no false summits, no long drawn out undulating ridge traverse, that was it – almost anticlimactic!
The weather didn’t look to be delivering on its promise of 50% chance of thunderstorms (yet) and I had the summit to myself, so I stayed my welcome and enjoyed the beautiful views all around.
More gorgeous views
Fletcher may have only had one visitor today, but there was a veritable party atop the monarch of the Tenmile range.
Vistors on Quandary
After an eminently satisfying bask atop the summit, I started my descent and when I got to the saddle with Quandary, briefly toyed with the idea of returning down the standard route via the basin. But how could I pass up that exciting rock wall descent? So I took the same route back, only a different gully on the way down.
Gully I descended on the return
As I descended into the valley eventually, I saw hikers making their way up the standard route and wondered what their destination might be.
Hikers making their way into the basin
Car to car, the trip had taken four hours, so safe to say that no records were harmed on this excursion. In defense of my snail’s pace, I did lose about 25 minutes on technical rock that I could’ve avoided, and I did spend another 25 minutes on the summit, was also a bit under the weather, and still nursing a sore shoulder from rotator cuff surgery only two weeks ago – oh, I've got excuses galore! And then there are those girls that climb these peaks just days after delivering a child! Guess, I’ll just have to be content with being an underachiever!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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