| Dry November
After our attempt of North Apostle the previous Saturday(November 3rd), Jamie and I were ready for another go-around with the centennial upon arriving at Winfield Friday night. Unfortunately, the small icy section from last week had grown into a monstrous, skating rink which we were unable to pass in 4wd. And we're stuck….ugh!
Let's see, the boulder field between North and Ice took us forever last weekend. Now we have another four miles to deal with in our attempt. What do you think? No thanks; okay what then? Well, we know that the French-Casco loop is accessible from the Halfmoon Creek Road, but we would like to be somewhat fresh Sunday in a vain attempt not to hold Mike up that much in the Gores. How's Oklahoma sound? Good, let's go! After an hour or so of driving back to Leadville and down the Halfmoon Road, we arrived at our desired trailhead at 9:30pm. Well, that was interesting….to say the least.
Saturday morning, our slumber is disturbed by a 6:30am alarm. We are delighted to discover that the predicted overnight low of 22 degrees came true so we could avoid freezing while prepping for the mountain!
Just before 8am, we started our day up the surprisingly(scary?) dry Halfmoon Creek Trail. Oklahoma was hidden as the lower north ridge of K49 and Mount Massive dominated our surroundings. After a mile or so of meandering along the trail up North Halfmoon Creek Drainage, we reached the lower meadow and voila. Oklahoma!
Oklahoma dominating the Upper Halfmoon Creek Drainage
There she stood presiding over the bone-dry basin with her upper slopes draped in a soft white.
After snapping a few photos, we resumed our trek up the easy trail. Shortly after, we arrived at the split for Massive.
Deer Mountain from the northeast
Here we continued straight towards the final grouping of trees between us and Oklahoma. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our first substantial snow of the outing. Our pace slowed as we begun to weave through the woods in an effort to discover the path of least resistance.
Snow in the last grouping of trees before reaching the base of Oklahoma
At the creek crossing, coming from North Halfmoon Lakes, we took a break to refuel and ponder how to overcome our next obstacle. The creek was raging for November, but its thinness made several spots an easy jump to the far side. From there, it was a short weaving path to treeline. Here, Oklahoma's southeast slopes jumped to the forefront to present their challenge.
Jamie Nellis with Oklahoma's Southeast Slopes looming
From our treeline vantage point, we were presented with a commanding view of the next section of our route. Although we couldn't quite see it for the moment, we knew that the ramp to the heights on Oklahoma began at the opposite edge of the plateau looming over us. With mellow, dry terrain leading around the plateau to our right, we followed that route hoping to avoid being cliffed out after rounding the corner. Fortunately, we were allowed easy passage with only a few, small snow patches and a short boulder hop to reach the base of the ramp.
The short boulder field with the ramp behind
Earlier in the hike, I was dreading this part of our climb figuring that it would be a nasty climb up loose scree. Not so fast. My outlook of obtaining the upper mountain improved upon viewing a fairly tame slope covered with more alpine tundra than loose scree. Keeping the rhythm going, we plodded along and reached Oklahoma's southeast ridge much quicker than possibly expected! Here we turned to the snowfield….
Normally I love snow! Put the plastics on and up we go….but in leather, hiking boots with substantial holes in the sides, we are talking about a different animal. Luckily, while I was taking in some food and water, Jamie began plowing ahead into the powder.
Jamie Nellis heading up Oklahoma's Southeast Ridge
Upon catching up, we started swapping the lead every few minutes in an attempt to keep our feet somewhat dry. As we climbed farther up the Southeast Ridge, more boulder patches jutted out from underneath the snow so we connected as many dry sections as possible to keep the process flowing as smoothly as possible. That didn't help as the final few steps before each patch of freedom would send the leader plowing downwards into clumps of soft snow. Atleast the top of this slope seemed to be getting much closer every time we looked skyward. Ten minutes before reaching the far point of our view, snowfall commenced.
Upon reaching the apex of the slope, we were presented with good news. The summit was only 30 feet away! A large snowdrift barricaded our way so we dropped 15-20 feet to the climber's left in order to stay on dry ground. Just a few feet and Oklahoma is ours! A quick peek in the summit register tells us that no one's been up here since October 13th.
Ten minutes later, we decide it's time to bail. With moderately damp feet, we decide our best descent route is to plow through the snowfield with the option of changing into dry socks later on. This proves to be much more efficient than the ascent route as we reach the top of the ramp very quickly. After descending the ramp, the skies really begin to open up as we regain the plateau.
Here she comes!
After donning an extra layer, we make haste towards treeline.
Headed for treeline! It's down there somewhere, right?
Within five minutes, the raging storm has disappeared leaving a light dusting of snow in the tundra.
The remnants of the short snowstorm as we approach treeline
Upon reaching treeline, we head straight down towards the open, bare fields to avoid any snow in the trees. That worked well and soon we reach an old, closed trail. From here, we followed this path to the main trail, which we connected up with just prior to the split.
Here we removed the extra layers from the storm and plugged onwards down the trail. Around 3:50pm, we arrived back at our vehicle hungry for dinner in Leadville and satisfied with our day's effort!