| Tour de Tucker Gulch
Route: Tour de Tucker Gulch
Length: ~6 to 6.5 miles
Gain: ~3,000 ft.
Participants: stevevets689, shanahan96, jamienellis, Chicago Transplant
When you're a student at Colorado School of Mines, any chance to escape for a day is readily taken. Hence, when I realized that I could probably take the better part of a day to go do something fun, I called Jamie (shanahan96) to see what he was up to. As it turned out, he, the other Jamie (jamienellis) and Mike (Chicago Transplant) were planning on an ascent of Jacque Peak (13,205 feet). Jamie invited me along and I set my eyes on the mountains again.
The first thing I did to prepare was to look up Jacque on summitpost.org to try to figure out what exactly we were in for. It seemed that it would be a fairly straightforward, off-trail hike. The catch was that part of the approach is owned by the Climax Mine and part of the upper mountain is part of Copper Mountain ski resort. That said, since when has private property stopped us? The summit itself is in National Forest and neither the mine nor the ski area are operating up there right now. It all looked good to me.
Sunday morning, November 11th, I woke up at 4:10 AM, the earliest I had woken up since before school started. I got my things together that I had prepared the night before and headed up I-70 to meet the rest of the party at a gas station near Copper. Once they arrived we drove up CO 91 a few miles until we had gone around Copper Mountain and saw a turn-off with a gate and big "No Parking" signs. We turned to the other (left) side of the road and parked, got ourselves ready, and began hiking at about 7:30.
We walked around the gate and began along a long, straight, paved road. Shortly before we arrived at Climax's first tailing pond, we turned right and started up the steep hill where we encountered a dirt road. In hindsight, we could've followed the dirt road instead of hiking straight up the hill to begin with, but oh well. We followed the dirt road a little ways further until we saw a retaining wall holding back the ground next to the road on the right. Mike looked at his pictures of the area from CO 91 and said that this is where we should turn and continue up the hill.
Cut in the retaining wall that we hiked through
After about 600 vertical feet of steep, class 2 hiking, we arrived on a small saddle looking into Tucker Gulch. To our left (west) was what we dubbed "South Jacque," a 12,631 foot point which is the beginning of Jacque's south ridge. We started hiking up the ridge, broke timber, and made our way to the top of "South Jacque." We took a quick break, and then turned north to make our way over the several bumps on the ridge to the summit, where we arrived at around 11:30ish.
Jacque from "South Jacque"
Jacque Peak has 2,067 feet of prominence, meaning that it's taller than most everything around it. Because of this, we were awarded pretty fantastic views from the summit. We could see 14ers from Grays and Torreys to Princeton, from Quandary to (barely) Capitol. We could see the entire Gore and Tenmile ranges, as well as large portions of the Front, Mosquito, and Sawatch ranges. And don't forget about the 13ers around, like the impressive Pacific Peak. If there is one thing I learned about this climb, it is that there is plenty of climbing to do near the metro area; you don't have to go all the way to the Sangres, Elks, or San Juans to find more challenging peaks.
Quandary Peak sitting behind the Tenmile Range
The Northern Sawatch sitting on the skyline
Copper Mountain's high alpine bowls with the Front Range in the background
The Gore Range
On the final push to the summit, we had decided to descend over Tucker Mountain, an unranked 12er which is part of Copper's high alpine terrain. To do this, we descended Jacque's rougher northeast ridge until it began to converge with Tucker's broad west ridge. At this point, we were technically within bounds at Copper, but we didn't really bother anyone since there was no one to bother. I have a pass to Copper so this was actually somewhat depressing to me, because I got to see just how little snow there is in the high alpine bowls. It's definitely going to be a while before the bowls are open to skiers.
Descending Jacque's northeast ridge
Heading up Tucker Mountain
Jacque from Tucker
A trail sign on the side of Tucker Mountain with, pathetically, no snow around
After summiting Tucker, we descended east until we came to the saddle between Tucker's two summits. From here we turned right (south) and descended into a sort of tributary gulch of Tucker Gulch, leaving Copper behind. The terrain gradually got steeper but eventually we came across a dirt road. We decided it would be best to see where the road would lead and followed it left (east) for a ways, until it started to go uphill. We then abandoned the road and descended steeply into Tucker Gulch. The angle was relentless and our elevation loss was very quick, but not quick enough. Descending slopes this steep is never all that fun. We were all highly relieved when we finally found the dirt road which we had hiked for a while on the way up.
Jacque from the descent. The skyline is our route
We turned left on the dirt road and hiked back down to the paved road, turned left again, and followed the road back to our vehicles. If I remember right, it was about 4:00 PM. We got our gear in the cars and took off. I was very happy to be able to hike with these three characters again. It reminded me a lot of the summer, when I was able to hike with people from 14ers.com all the time. I hope that I'll get back into the mountains with them again soon.
For more pictures from this hike, please visit my online photo album at: http://picasaweb.google.com/coloradoclimberguy/