| Burnin‘ off the Turkey
Bull Hill A (13,761') – 122nd highest
Southeast Ridge via Black Cloud Trail
Approximately 7 1/2 miles RT and 4061' Vertical
Well it has become my post-Thanksgiving tradition to go out and get a peak to burn off the turkey calories. Past outings have included Cupid/Grizzly and Bard/Parnassus. I decided to head to the Sawatch this year and decided to head up Bull Hill A near Twin Lakes.
This was the last bi-centennial that I have in Lake County, and would also close out the Lake County highest 20. With Elbert nearby there was even an outside chance of combining an outing with a fourteener, something I have never climbed in November. With year round access to the trailhead the plan was set!
It was -3 in Avon on Saturday morning, that's Fahrenheit folks, so I lolly-gagged through breakfast and got a late start to give the sun a chance to warm things up on the trail. The drive down went smoothly, although the trailhead is not well marked. There is a sign, its just right at the parking area so it's easy to blow by at 45 mph. The entire trail was covered with the light snow of the night before, about 2-3 inches. It was easy to follow though and although the trail is steep, it's a great trail and would be an excellent alternative to the crowded east side of Mt Elbert.
After a stream crossing at 10,800' there is a faint trail that leads to the southeast ridge of Bull Hill but I decided to go higher in the basin and either gain the ridge or climb the east face so as not to deal with the snowy faint trail in the trees. There was a second stream crossing at around 11,200' and here the views to the south and ahead of "South Elbert" really started to open up
A little farther and a clearing on the southeast ridge of Bull Hill presented itself, there were some willows around the stream (which I had to re-cross to get to the ridge) but there was a nice weakness through them that provided smooth passage.
I worked my way up the clearing and onto the ridge crest where I finally got a view of Bull Hill through the trees.
As I got higher on the ridge it became more defined and the views of La Plata were really impressive. Ellingwood Ridge was the headline grabber from this view, and with an old mining cabin below created a nice scene
Around 12,300' the ridge reached a large relatively flat section just above treeline that was a perfect spot for a break and had a great view of the remaining route to the summit. The whole route thus far, and moving forward, was covered in the same 2-3 inches of snow, but there was hardly any "old snow" beneath. No postholing, but the gaitors were on just to make sure I didn't get anything down my boots.
I continued across this flat grassy section to some talus along the ridge crest. Here just below a steeper section of the ridge the trail joined me and traversed across this crest. I instead took the ridge head on and continued on to the gentler upper slopes. One final moderate talus section and I was on the summit.
I was on the summit around 12.30 and it was mighty cold with the light winds. My hands and feet were feeling the cold sitting around the summit and I decided that Elbert, which was a mile and a half and over 1100' of rise from the saddle, was not in the cards for today. It was too cold to not get credit for a winter ascent anyway…
Casco and French:
I descended to a calmer spot on the ridge and had a snack break before hiking back down my route and out. I decided against trying to follow the trail seeing as had no footprints to lead me back to the main trail. Parts of the south facing slopes and parts of the lower trail melted out a bit from the sunshine, some even back to bare earth. It was a good day to be in the mountains despite the cold. It was a very clear day and the views of the surrounding peaks were spectacular. I decided one thing was for sure, "Hill" is a mis-nomer.
Rinker from the descent
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):