| A Whale of a Circuit
Michigan Hill (10140')
Whale Pk (13078')
Glacier Pk (12853')-unranked
May 3, 2008
16 miles RT/4600' gain
From CR-37 winter closure (9900')
Participants: John and Renata Collard, Kevin Baker
John, Renata, and I were planning on hitting 13er The Citadel in the Front Range, but with the recent snow we decided to hit some low angle peaks as we were unsure if a couloir climb would be safe this weekend. John suggested Whale and some 12ers nearby even though he had done all but Pt 12567 and I was game. I hadn't hiked at all in this area and was happy to explore some new territory.
We met in Jefferson at 5:15am expecting a long day. John and Renata couldn't even get out of town on CR-35 a couple months ago, so we didn't know how far up the road we would get. I parked my car at the CR-35/37 intersection and we headed up 37 to Jefferson Lake. We were bummed to find the road gated at 9900', which ended up adding 6 miles of road walking to our already long day! Thankfully the terrain was mellow, so it didn't feel like 16 miles.
We decided to hit lowly 10er Michigan Hill first since a house is very near the summit and it would be easier to stealth early. We drove back down the road and parked the car along the north slopes of Michigan Hill on French Pass Circle just before it curved south. From here, it was only 300 feet and 40' vertical to the summit, a sure gimmie! The house was just a couple hundred feet from the true summit, but we kept a low profile with quiet walking.
Back up the road we went for the main event. I had high hopes of adding interesting 10er Jefferson Hill on the way out, but that was a pipe dream on this day with the added mileage. We set out at 6:17am under clear skies and a brisk 10 degrees. Another bluebird day was in the making!
13er Guyot basking in the early morning sun:
The stroll to the lake went quick as the road climbs gently until the last mile or so. The road was still heavily drifted in spots but the snow was well consolidated. We left the road at the first switchback below the lake and continued north up a steep gully to intersect the drainage east of Jefferson Lake heading to the ridge.
We put on snowshoes at the base of the gully more for traction purposes as the snow was in great shape. Once on the ridge, it was an easy stroll to Pt 12088. Whatever snow had fallen up high during the week had been blown to KS with the recent high winds.
Glacier and Whale from 12088:
The walk over to 12567 was enjoyable over mellow tundra laden slopes. It seemed like this benign 12er kept on going though as it was a little tougher than it looked.
John nears summit of 12567:
We took a nice break here in the sun to refuel for the steepest part of the day over to Whale.
We were a little worried about cornices on the narrower section of the ridge over to Whale, but it was blown clean. There was a decent trail on the south side of the ridge that skirted a few minor outcroppings. Wow, a trail on a 13er! The trail petered out in a section of scree just before the slope relented just below the summit. I kind of wished I would have done Whale via the east facing couloir from Gibson Lake as it looked fun when peering down it. We topped out ~11:45am and soaked up the views.
Looking over to the Evans group from Whale summit:
John didn't know if he had ever hit 4 ranked summits before noon! After a long break, we decided to celebrate with a shirtless photo as Whale was my 100th ranked 13er. The wind picked up just as Renata was about to take the pic. It's not quite summer yet as it was a bit brisk!
We headed down at 12:35 and enjoyed another mellow ridge run over to Glacier Pk, an unranked 12er. I visited both summits and confirmed with a GPS and handlevel that the western one with the spot elevation was higher.
Off we went down the s.e. ridge of Glacier to complete the circuit. I was hoping for some glissade opportunities, but it wasn't steep enough. I was worried about a wallow fest in the snow below treeline, but amazingly it still held our weight without snowshoes! This was probably the best snow I have hiked on in May as the plunge stepping bushwack was fun. We stayed on the ridge until we hit the saddle with Pt 11147 then contoured down to the s.w. corner of Jefferson Lake. We put on our snowshoes near the saddle more for traction purposes. We had nice views of our loop at the head of the still frozen lake.
We were all not looking forward to a potentially brutal bushwack on Jefferson Hill, but we gave it a shot. We sidehilled and bashed our way across heavy fallen timber for about 15 minutes and decided to call it a day as progress was slow and the time was approaching 5pm. I'll have to come back and check out this cool looking 10er. We bashed our way back to the road and made it back to the car at 5:20pm. I must say that's the easiest 16 miler I have done in awhile. This is a great hike to get in shape for the summer on!
GPS track going counter clockwise. This hike is reduced to ~9 miles RT if the road is open to the lake.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):