Starting Point: Mosquito Creek TH (11,560’)
Peaks Climbed (in order of ascent): Tweto (13,672’), Unnamed/Unranked Peak (13,500’ est.)
Route: modified SW ridge ascent
RT Distance: 7.4 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: ~2,600 feet
The "Mosquito"s were calling again. I needed a relatively easy "winter prep" hike and recent reports on conditions indicated that there would be varying amounts of snow/ice above 11K' so when the forecast called for sunny skies I took the plunge. Mt. Tweto was the chosen one today, its shapely peak having been on my mind since my recent trip to Buckskin. Tweto enjoys a unique spot amidst the Mosquito 13ers and can be combined with a few others if one were so inclined. My expectation today was low - I knew that snow conditions would make the hike that much harder, so one summit was all I wanted and if it weren't meant to be, I knew I'd still have a great day in the mountains.
The trailhead is the parking spot shortly after CR-12 turns a hard left to ascend to Mosquito pass.
The trail to Tweto follows another 4WD road from the junction and climbs the grassy basin west of the Buckskin-Loveland ridge at a leisurely rate. I hit ice and snow just minutes into the hike, the white cover getting steadily thicker as the trail switched back through the idyllic valley.
The heart of this basin lies nestled within the Mosquito range, and views to all sides were a treat - Kuss and Mosquito peaks rising to the west behind a rugged unnamed ridge, Tweto's south-west ridge to the northwest, Loveland Mountain and Buckskin to the east.
Kuss and Mosquito to the far west
The unnamed ridge to the west caught my eye right away and it's not hard to see why. It rises well above 13,000' and its southeast ridge is more rugged than those of its immediate neighbors.
I made a mental note to visit this ridge and its high point but that would be much later in the day and another goal lay immediately ahead.
At 12,600' the trail ends at the remnants of a mine. I paused here momentarily to take stock of the route I'd traveled so far.
The remaining route is off trail and one needs to contour west from this point aiming for the high saddle that connects to Tweto's southwest ridge.
I picked a route dodging the scattered snow fields as best as I could realizing that once I got higher this strategy would be futile. As I started approaching the higher part of the basin, I spotted a lone hiker making his way down the lower southeast slopes of Tweto. Clearly, the poor sleep from the night before had taken its toll and I was now hallucinating! So I shook myself vigorously like a wet dog and rubbed my eyes to wake myself out of this stupor, but he was real. Two random hikers choosing to spend not a weekend day but a random weekday climbing a peak that didn't make the top-100 list of Colorado - I knew I had to document this oddity or no one would believe it!
Yes, that's another lost soul!
I briefly chatted with the hiker - Tweto was his only voyage du jour as well - and enquired about snow conditions on the ridge before parting ways. Shortly after that, the post-holing adventure started in earnest. The snow depth was now up to about a foot and I dug in with each step, somewhat tentatively in the beginning not sure how well my gaiters would hold up. The going was not easy but after a few minutes of exposure to the powder-and -ice mixture I knew I wouldn't have to worry about moisture seeping in.
As I surveyed the slopes ahead and the other hiker's tracks in the snow, it appeared that I could almost entirely circumvent the southwest ridge by climbing the south slopes directly to the summit. The south slopes are covered by talus and today the snow cover on this aspect seemed to be less than what lay just ahead of me in the basin. Just past 12,800', I started angling directly up the slope aiming for the highest spot on the ridge. I stepped on the rocks, reaching for the largest boulders and testing them before committing. The next shot looks back down the basin, my tracks showing the route I took vs. the approach in blue that aims for the saddle.
Thankfully, there was not much loose scree on this pitch. I suspected that this direct approach was probably the easiest under the conditions. If I had tried to gain the ridge I would've encountered more snow over unknown amount of loose rocks. Another bonus of this approach - no false summits to endure.
The rocky terrain was a welcome change from the snow-covered terrain of varying depth that had slowed my progress considerably.
I aimed for the highest point which turned out to be part of the summit block.
Minutes later I was atop Tweto looking down the notchy ridge to twin-summited Buckskin and Loveland.
Looking down the ridge to Buckskin from Tweto
The summit plaque for noted geologist Ogden Tweto says it all - "His life matched the mountains that he so loved". A reminder that climbing mountains is easy for those that have the will. To live a life that will be remembered after all is said and done is special.
Ogden Tweto's Plaque
The views from the summit were wonderful as always.
I had no other peaks on the agenda for the day so I stayed my welcome and enjoyed the 40-degree weather, the bluebird skies and the incredible views.
To the south were the other notable Mosquito peaks that I had already decided to attempt on day two of the adventure. The only one that still drew my attention was the unnamed peak.
Mosquito 13ers to the south
There were two obvious approaches to its summit - ascend its west ridge or take a more direct approach to the summit from the basin; I chose the latter. I knew this would require some post holing but I was up for it - after all, that comes with the territory this time of year.
Aiming for the unnamed peak
The snow varied anywhere from half to nearly a foot and a half on this approach so progress was slow but I was in no hurry. The next shot shows my tracks starting from the base of Tweto and meandering across this snow field.
The going got a little easier as I reached the base of the "peak", and was able to do some boulder hopping to scale the slope.
A hop, skip and a jump later I was on this peak looking back at my route...
...then the rough ridge to the southeast...
Atop unnamed peak
...then west to the true high point of this ridge.
High point of the unnamed ridge
Of course, I had to visit the high point but before proceeding, I took a good look from this vantage at the peaks that I would attempt on the second leg of this outing.
Mosquito 13ers for Part Deux
I rejoined my tracks after descending off this ridge and followed my ascent route on the way back - more or less.
Day Two: There's "Treasure" In Them Thar Hills
Starting Point: Mosquito Creek TH (11,560’)
Peaks Climbed (in order of ascent): Kuss Peak (13,548'), Mosquito Peak (13,781’), Treasurevault Mountain (13,701')
Route: East ridge ascent of Kuss, ridge route to other peaks and loop descent
RT Distance: 7.9 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: ~3,000 feet
My reconnaissance of the area having been completed on day one, I was now suitably prepped for the trio of Mosquito peaks for part deux. The hike starts at the same location but continues along Mosquito pass road (CR-12). Some melting and refreeze of the snow cover had occurred thanks to the recent warm weather and the result was an icy trail as I started out.
Just minutes into the hike, another 13er, London Mountain, sprang into view, one that I'd have to relegate for another trip.
Mosquito Pass road turns a 90-degree right at this point and then makes a hairpin bend shortly after, providing a perfect vantage to study the three peaks up close.
The trail stays on the road as it switchbacks and climbs gently, the surrounding peaks coming in and out of view. So mesmerized I was gazing at the trio that after a few switchbacks, I completely missed a rather sharp left turn and headed straight into the snow-filled basin southeast of the peaks.
I attempted to correct my error and then decided against it, to see if I could regain the road at a higher point. Not one of my better ideas!
Off route in the basin
Studying the basin and where the road was heading it was clear that any attempt to regain the road would put me in tricky snow-filled scree. So I opted to lose some elevation to regain the trail at an lower point.
Re-routing to join the road
Back on track!
Next landmark was the saddle between Kuss Peak and London Mountain at 12,600'.
The route up to London starts out with a tower, a nice climber's treat but I'd have to come back another day to play on this one - there was much work to be done today.
The east ridge of Kuss stretched out in front of me - almost a thousand vertical feet that needed to be covered in just over half a mile - this would be the crux of this climb, the object of last night's dream. I had come armed with microspikes but one look at the ridge terrain and I knew that I wouldn't need them. The rocks were fairly solid and the entire slope went class 2 but the snow added a measure of difficulty that required some careful path finding. I tried to find boulders that were spaced such that I could just hop from one to another and this worked ok for the most part.
The next shot looks over toward London from partway up the ridge - its ridge would definitely need some good route finding to navigate its difficulties.
Surveying London's ridge
Up farther, Mosquito Peak's south ridge gently snaked toward its summit.
Eyeing Mosquito en route to Kuss
Back on the ridge to Kuss, there was still a little more negotiating to be done.
As I got past the tricky bits, the antenna on the summit came into view.
Summit comes into view
I encountered a bit more snow on the final pitch but by now post holing had actually become fun!
Final pitch to Kuss
The next shot looks down the ridge from close to the summit.
Thirty minutes after I'd gaped at its east ridge from the base, I was atop Kuss and treated to spectacular views of the Sawatch.
Not exactly bluebird skies, but the scattered clouds actually cast sinister shadows over the towering snow-capped peaks making for a truly awesome sight.
I spent some time enjoying the views before eyeing the ridge to my next goal, Mosquito Peak.
Ridge to Mosquito
The north ridge of Kuss descends some 300 feet to the saddle, the terrain a mix of talus and snow that I'd now become quite adept at navigating.
Mosquito rises some 550 feet above the saddle with Kuss and the elevation is spread over more than 0.4 miles, making for a gentle climb.
Viewing Mosquito from the saddle
Rocky terrain with relatively shallow scattered snow also added to an easy pitch to the summit.
The next shot looks back at the ridge route from atop Mosquito.
The next shot looks directly north from the summit at the ridge to the last peak of the day, Treasurevault, in the foreground.
I had wondered how Tresurevault acquired its name but as I peered closer at the saddle below, it was clear as day!
A hot dog stand! If this isn't a treasure, I don't know what is.
Just my luck though, they were closed for the day. I guess I would have to find my reward other ways!
Treasurevault rises less than 300 feet from the saddle with its neighbor and thus goes unranked but that doesn't mean it doesn't deserve to be climbed, so climb I did.
The next shot looks back at Mosquito peak from Treasurevault's summit.
For my descent, I traversed north then east on the ridge down to where it connects with the unnamed ridge that I'd visited on day one.
I then dropped into the basin, enjoyed some more post holing before connecting with the standard descent route from Tweto.
Ah, the "Mosquito"s - if I could only wrap them up and take them home with me. What a wonderful Christmas present that would be!
Yours Truly atop Treasurevault
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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