Greetings again Peakbaggers. I'm writing this report a little later than I hoped, but I felt I should tell my story. I was away from the beautiful Colorado Mountains all last year and only got to come out for a week this year. I figured I'd still try and get as many peaks as I could. I was planning on doing 10 and unfortunately only got 5 and my first 13er. A few of the issues I ran into was my lack of fitness, being a lowlander, and campsite issues more or less. It was a very fun trip regardless.
The weekend before I drove up from Kansas City where my family lives. I took a small detour and hit Mt Sunflower for the first time.
Most anticlimactic summit of the trip
Had to laugh at the anticlimactic experience there. It's about as exciting as Four Corners...anyway I got into CO and spent the weekend at a Camp I used to work at in the heart of Pike National Forest.
Double rainbow at the camp!
The next sunday 08/11 I drove to go climb Mt Sherman and stayed at Fourmile Creek CG. It's a fairly normal campground with self serve fee stations, running water, and decent cover when it sprinkled that evening. One issue I did run into was my tent was done and I desperately needed a new one. After this my Campground experiences were downhill from there.
I woke up around 4 am and made it to the Leavick Site about 5 when I hit the trail.
I was actually doing the climb on my birthday. In a previous TR I mentioned doing Elbert when I turned 25. I guess I may try this every birthday...maybe not. The trail was not too bad since it is road, but there are a few spots where the trail forks. I was unsure at a few points especially since the sun had not come out yet. Regardless I kept following the trail and made it to the saddle of Sherman. I guess I didn't read the Route description on hear well enough b/c at the saddle there were some parts that forked over to Mt Sheridan and I wasn't sure which was which. As I kept going it became clear that the Northeast route would go to Sherman with all the cairns paving the way and what looks like a trail that has been carved out to the summit.
Summit of Sherman
When I reached the summit it was about 2 1/2 hours from my truck.
I was the second to summit that day and loved the views of the Sawatch and DeCaLiBron.
Turn 27...Summit Sherman
Unfortunately it looked like Elbert got hit with some precipitation while I was on the summit that day. As I stayed longer than I should have on the summit, I conversed with other hikers about the area. One nice man with his dog was talking about Sheridan just across the way from Sherman. As I finally came down after an extended summit rest I decided at the saddle to go ahead and ascend Mt Sheridan.
Before I could even start out of the blue my Dad calls me and wishes me a Happy Birthday. It was funny to talk to my Dad while I was slightly winded from descending Sherman. The climb up to Sheridan is not that bad. There is a bit of trail finding because the trail is not that well defined. Either way my thought process was, "When in doubt, go up." When I got to the summit I was unsure whether the igloo rock pile or the out of place cairn on the other side of Sheridan was the summit.
Best view around. Mt Sheridan is awesome
Regardless I had the summit all to myself for the 15 minutes I was on the summit. Funny enough, for the time it took me to ascend, summit, and descend Sheridan there were 4 other people that went up as well. In that same amount of time I lost count of how many people were going up Sherman. No respect for the 13ers...
When I got back down I went to Fairplay, got some food, went to an outdoor store and bought a new tent and then headed to Kite Lake. When I arrived at Kite Lake in the afternoon there were quite a few people leaving from their treks that morning. I was somewhat confused how the self service campsites worked because they had day use parking, but nothing about overnight except the price. Also the numbered sites didn't seem to be restrictive to one group. I was concerned because there was no running water, but I ended up boiling some water from Kite Lake and had a decent dinner that night.
Got up around 4 am again and was on the trail about 5 am.
View before sunrise of Kite Lake
I was definitely not in the front of the pack for those gaining the summits that day. Several I talked with mentioned that they did the loop backwards doing the Bross bypass first so they could hit the Bross Summit before any supposed ATV riders would shoo them away. In light of the Bross conundrum which I have definitely read way too much of on this site I chose not to summit Bross. I still think the situation is incredibly stupid and wish the problem could get figured out. Either way I chose only to do Democrat, Cameron, and Lincoln.
Democrat was not too bad though once I hit the false summit just before the final pitch I was not too happy.
The summit was nice and I liked the view of the Southern Mosquito range as well as Buckskin which I would like to do in the future. From the saddle of Democrat up to Cameron I was pretty tired. My excuses I kept giving was me being out of shape, and being a lowlander who spent most of 2013 in a small town only a few miles from the Mississippi in NE Missouri. Cameron didn't look that exciting from the summit since there was only a small marker and no register I could find.
Dead tired on Cameron
I went ahead and left Cameron after only a brief stop and pushed for Lincoln. The saddle from Cameron to Lincoln was definitely not as bad as the saddle from Democrat to Lincoln. The views on Lincoln are my favorite of the 3 I did and had the best view of Quandary.
The Obligatory pipe shot
After a brief rest on Lincoln it was time to get back down to Kite Lake.
Didn't summit. But the whole situation is stupid.
I read in some trip reports about a gully that would cut the infamous scree pile from Bross which I was wanting to avoid. Unfortunately when trying to find this route I cut the trail too early and hit the snow route.
The snow route I stupidly went down.
The snow route started fairly smoothly up until halfway when it got much more steep to the point to where the rest of the way I was sliding down on my fifth point of contact.... On top of that it started to sleet little ice pebbles. Needless to say I was fearing for my life. By the end of the hike my back side was brown, though not sure if that was from the dirt slide or me fearing for my life. j/k. When I hit the gully at the bottom I found the actual trail that I should have hiked down much further up the bypass. The trail down from there was very straightforward and hopped over a few pretty creeks. I also find it funny that there is concern about people summiting Bross (which the vast majority of hikers did that day) and no one was concerned that I came down on a trail that was closed for restoration.
When I got back to my campsite I packed up and headed down and went to Breckenridge. I got some food and found another item that needed to be replaced...shoes. I found a running store that had some trail running shoes and prepped to climb Quandary the next day. Here is where the big camping problems happened. WHERE IN THE BLUE HADES DO YOU CAMP AROUND BRECKENRIDGE?!?!? You would think a peak as popular as Quandary would have some defined places to camp. I went up the road past the TH around Blue Lakes and I didn't find anything. I looked around McCullough Gulch and all I could find were a bunch of no camping signs. I searched around other spots around the area, but it was too late to find private Campgrounds. As much as it pained me I chose to pass up Quandary for the trip and move on. I settled at the rest stop in Georgetown and tried to get some sleep.
I woke up around 6 am. Since it was fairly late...at least for hiking 14ers I chose not to backtrack and do Grays and Torreys so I went to Guanella pass to do Bierstadt. Also since it was late I chickened out of doing the Sawtooth traverse. I made it to the parking lot around 7 am with plenty of room though still a lot of cars. The way up to the summit was not too bad.
I enjoyed many of the creek crossings though after my last two days of hiking I was still pretty tired. About two thirds of the way up the trail had some slight water runoff that had been iced over. It was starting to melt, but still somewhat slippery and scary to climb up. Unfortunately because of this the trail looks to be artificially widened by hikers trying to avoid the ice and water runoff. The final pitch around the rock pile had a little bit of route finding and quite a bit of others choosing to do a bit of climbing cutting through the route. It is good to stay on the north side of the rock pile instead of climbing straight up. The summit was nice and pleasant.
The sawtooth from the summit definitely looks intimidating, but I would still like to do it in the future. The way down was not too bad. By the time I was going down the ice had melted and by the time the runoff left the trail it was not too steep.
The view of the sawtooth from the TH
Right along the Guanella Pass
After I got down it was time to get ready for the big climb...Longs Peak.
Longs Peak Fail:
Up until then I told myself no other trip mattered. I want to summit Longs! In 2011 I had some issues with my truck and had to cancel the trip then. 2012 I was working in South Dakota and was planning on coming down for a weekend and climbing Longs before I went home. Those plans fell through. This time I said I am going to get Longs so I gave myself an extra day to recuperate. So for the night of the 14th and 15th I stayed at Timber Creek Campground in RMNP.
On the 15th I went up the road that had this neat compass or something that you could see and locate Longs peak and quite a few other summits.
Sights set on Longs
My plan for the next day was to wake up at Midnight and try and get on the trail on the other side of RMNP and hike super early. I wanted to get to bed super early so I ate around 4 pm. Also at my site I had a crazy low wind that blew away my heavily staked tent over to the next campsite. One of the tent poles cracked.
Stuff blew away
Pole cracked...3 days I had this thing!!
Keep in mind I just bought this dang tent 2 days earlier!! Eventually I got everything situated and was in my tent trying to get to sleep around 5:30 pm. Here is the problem with that plan. Timber Creek is right next to the road and it sound like a friggin highway up until 9 pm. Unfortunately I could not get any sleep. Also there were some twenty somethings a couple campsites down who wanted to keep everyone up and didn't SHUT UP until about 11 pm. Needless to say I left my site on only about an hour of sleep.
I arrived at the Longs Peak TH at about 3 am and was ready to go. The parking lot was already very full, but it seemed as though this was still the early birds. I was in good spirits up until a bit after the tree line. I was probably half a mile from the treeline when I came to a sad realization. I was dead tired. One hour of sleep was not helping, and at that moment I made the very tough and frustrating decision to turn back. I don't even feel like I truly attempted the peak since I wasn't even near the keyhole. Longs has quickly become my new nemesis mountain. Move over Mt Princeton... I took a quick catnap and headed back to KC ending a great CO trip for 2013.
Overall I enjoyed my time in the mountains. I was disappointed that I skipped over so many peaks. Also the issues I had with camping was kinda laughable. I will definitely need to do more extensive research next time when choosing peaks. I guess I was spoiled for my first several climbs. Elbert and Massive have a giant dispersed camping area at Halfmoon Creek. Pike's Peak has a nice campground near the Crags. Also Princeton has spots near the Radio Towers and all the way up to the steps. I guess I figured other spots would be similar. My goals for next time have not changed a lot, but a few revisions have been made. Because I am a lowlander who still loves to climb my plan has always been to tackle peaks in batches of about 7 usually grouped together. I am not sure which batch I want to attempt next time, but Longs Peak has left me with a big chip on my shoulder. It won't be long before I come back for that one. I also thought many of the 13ers in the Mosquito and Ten Mile range looked nice. Sheridan opened me up to the fun that is CO 13ers. Around that area, Horseshoe Mountain, Dyer Mountain, Buckskin Mountain. Also Fletcher Mountain and others near Quandary looked nice. I don't know when I'll do those whether doing 14ers or later hitting a bunch of Centennials by themselves. I'm kind of in the same state I was after each of my last 2 summers where I honestly don't know when I will be in Colorado again. I would like to come back soon. Still plenty of Mountain memories to Make!