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 Peak(s):  Hunts Pk  -  13,071 feet
 Post Date:  09/04/2013
 Date Climbed:   08/31/2013
 Posted By:  bergsteigen

 Aftermath of the Ox-Cart Fire      


Hunts Peak


Trailhead: FS road 982
Mileage: 6.2
Elevation Gain: 3,418'
Partner: Solo

I wouldn't ordinarily do a TR for an easy 13er hike with such great reports already by Matt, Bobbyfinn and Lemmiwinks, but we've suffered a bit of a 13er tragedy at Hunts Peak this year. While major fires were burning around the state, a minor one was ignited in the western valley approach to Hunts Peak. It never left the drainage or crested the ridge line, but it did decimate the area. There are reasonable routes left that will minimize erosion, as that will be a problem low in the valley for years to come. The routes I took were mixed in terms of managing that erosion, based on the soil or lack thereof. Bottom line: Heavy downpours will erode this valley more than the handful of visitors this peak sees a year. Though picking routes to avoid the destruction may be best. until regrowth occurs.

I had originally planned on doing this hike with Valerie last fall, but an early snow storm stopped that plan. Then the Finncutters and I planned on it before Steve's memorial, but the fire blew up in the days previous to it. Then Kate suggested it a month or so ago, but I feared the area would be such a death zone of soot and heat, that it wouldn't be a good idea. Fast forward to the past weekend. After a long day on the Electric-Owen loop, there was no way I could recover in time to do what I had originally planned, so Hunts was the easiest thing I had already planned out in the neighborhood. I had hoped that some new plant growth had begun, but I wasn't sure what to expect. I have done a hike in Alaska a year after a major fire, and it was a magical experience to see such verdant growth so soon after so much destruction. The next two wildflower seasons should be spectacular up the Hunts drainage. I expect some great photography (hint hint Vonmackle, Kimo, etc)

So after following the wonderful directions of Lemmiwinks, I find the trailhead at the glorious hour of 9am! Soon after starting up the road, the destruction begins, and will continue well up to the high ridges. I slowly walk up the road, taking photos as I go along. I'm surprised there is so much regrowth, this soon. Insect life also abounds as well. I try to be careful to not brush up against any burned trees, but my pants do get a little sooty.

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And so the fire destruction begins...

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burned, but new growth exists

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spotty trees

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fireweed

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spider

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flowy stream

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Burned, but lush...

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Lots of rain, means new growth months after fire

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hollowed out tree

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holes where branches used to be


Once at the road switchback, I look for a rocky talus route up to the upper ridge that minimizes the "bushwacking". You can stick to the talus and avoid the burned soil areas with a little work. Once up on the ridge, the burned area ends, and then you have to do a little bushwhacking to get to the final ascent on Hunts west ridge.

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My route up to the west ride

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A burned cairn

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burned bark

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The burned valley

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Hunts, beyond the fire

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Ridge up to Hunts Peak

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Hmmm do sheep dig up something here?

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Looking at the upper burned basin

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Some 4 legged friends


On the summit I relax for a little while. The storms are to the north in the Sawatch mainly. So I sit down by the summit cairn and look south at the stretch of the Sangres. A weird buzzing whining sounds starts to get louder and louder. Then overhead buzzes a glider! They do a loop, and I wave at them as they turn again to the south.

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The summit!

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Sawatch looks stormy already

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Glider buzzing me

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Glider going south


Eventually I have to head down. The cloud over Antora to the west isn't looking friendly anymore. So I decide to drop the NW ridge instead of staying on the more exposed (to the sky) west ridge. Cairns also mark this route as well. Once on the lower part of the ridge, I hear the same buzzing whining sound. The glider then buzzes the summit, at what looks like feet above. Maybe they though I would still be there and give me a fright? Too bad they didn't look at the clouds to realize I would be gone by then!

The route down this ridge was pretty heavily burned in areas, and lesser so in others. The original unburned area shows lots of needles over pebbles/scree, so the fire merely burned up that, and not necessarily soil. So this slope is just naturally going to erode with heavy use and heavy rain storms. Once at the road, I take that back down to the valley below, stopping to take photos of flowers and insects, bringing life back to a burned valley.

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Dropping the NW ridge

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Destroyed tree

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A partially burned tree, Mt Ouray behind

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Looking at my uphill route, through the burned trees

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Fireweed, buzzing with life

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Stark contrast of life and death

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Insects bringing life back to the valley



My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Download GPX file cannot be downloaded (per author)




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
Dave B


Cool pictures!     2013-09-04 18:51:39
It's always amazing to see the aftermath of fires and how quickly things start moving towards recovery. Plus fireweed is just cool.


rickinco123


Awesome!     2013-09-05 08:59:26
Amazing how the aftermath of a fire has its own beauty. It would be cool to see photos like this each successive year. Thanks for posting this.



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