| Huron Peak - standard - sunrise summit
The day started off pretty early when the alarm went off at 12:30am. I had some final packing to do and wanted to grab some breakfast before I took off. Gunner only needed breakfast and then he was ready to go...or at least go back to sleep in the back of the jeep. I wanted to get out of the house by 1 am but a camelback bladder malfunction caused a switch of packs before leaving so that added a few minutes. I topped of the gas tank and dropped into I-25 at 1:25am. I tried to make up some time but that is hard to do in a Jeep Wrangler when you are heading up I-70. I may have made up 5 minutes or so by the time I exited off at Copper Mountain at 2:55, but I was a still a good 20 minutes behind. I anticipated about a 2 hour drive thru Leadville and then about another 15-20 minutes to the trailhead from there. Well, I miscalculated a bit. The dirt road leading to the trailhead was about 17 miles of washboard and then 2 miles of jeep road so it took me about 30-35 minutes on that road. Rather than a 3:30am trailhead departure time, I ended up saddling up and heading out at 4:04am by the clock in my Jeep. So I figured, I could hoof it and maybe make up some time.
As I started out, the moon was a beautifully bright and full with a clear sky. I started with a headlamp as most of the 1st portion is in the trees. Gunner was doing a great job and stayed near me most of the time except when he had to take care of business (he is super trail conscientious and does his stuff about 20 yards off trail.) We zig-zagged thru the trees at a steady and what felt to be a brisk pace. I anticipated hitting the bench area at 12,300' before 5am and while I did hit treeline at about 5 - it took another 15 minutes before really gaining the halfway point. By the almanac the sun was to rise at 5:55 so as I looked towards the summit I was forced to do a little gut check and realize a sunrise summit may not happen. So I took the opportunity to take a couple pictures in the moonlight
Surprisingly, Gunner held pretty still for the 3 second exposure time the above picture took.
We kept a steady pace across the flat area of the bench and began to climb out towards the ridge of Huron Peak. The climb was relentless and very steep. I would guess a good 40 degree pitch for the most part. This considerably slowed our pace...well, okay, it slowed mine. I turned to the west and could see the horizon line creeping towards the tops of the mountains and knew that hitting the summit before 6am just wasn't going to happen this time.
We pressed on knowing that at the top we were to stop and enjoy some oatmeal and hot chocolate. It is also pretty satisfying and peaceful being the only one at the top for a while too.
Just before gaining the ridge the sun crept over the eastern horizon and tinted the summit of Huron Peak.
as well as the other peaks to the north and west that I could see...
La Plata to the north got it's first warm rays before I was able to enjoy them as well.
I pressed on and gained the ridge at about 6:05am and snapped a few more shots of the final pitch as it glowed in the morning amber.
The trail was very consistent and well maintained. The Colorado Fourtneer Initiative folks did a great job establishing a very walkable trail. The morning moisture made the trail packed and firm which helped with traction since it was so steep. With a few brief respites from the climb, Gunner and I summitted at 6:31am. Pretty much a half hour past our desired time.
The wind was very calm and the sky was a wonderful azure blue with no clouds in sight. I added a layer of warmth and donned a warmer hat before preparing our summit breakfast. Gunner walked around a bit and finally settled just outside the protective wind wall others had built. I think he was suspect of the cooking stove and the violent hissing sound it made as it heated the water for the hot chocolate.
So even when I enticed him closer with a dog biscuit he returned to the security he felt behind the wall and just looked on as I finished the hot chocolate. He had a few sips and then it was on to the oatmeal. Once the oatmeal was finished, the stove turned off and Gunner rejoined me for his helping of the last of breakfast.
After the oatmeal treat we both had a little more water and relaxed for a bit. By the time we chose to leave at about 7:21 the temperature had risen from 30 degrees to a balmy 35.
I snapped a few more pictures from the summit and admired the wonderful view of the Three Apostles group just south of us.
It was close to an hour later before we passed another hiker. He was just starting up from the bench and sweating thru his patagonia top. We chatted a bit and parted ways. It is always nice meeting people on the trail, especially those that tend to enjoy the experience as much as the accomplishment. I noticed several wonderful flowers in the meadow as we were headed up so I stopped to take a few pictures as they were greeted with the morning light.
When we reached flat area at 12,300' the meadow was a bright green and supremely lush with phlox and other riparian veggies.
Gunner delighted in the small rivulets of water that trickled from the still present snowfields on Huron's flanks as he rehydrated. He found it much easier to partake from the snow runoff than from the stream I was able to produce from the camelback.
We continued down and each time I turned my head I was struck with another vista that just enamored me once again with Colorado and wonderful nature that it holds. It truly is a place of beauty and I remember something my dad said when I took him to the top of his first fourteener. Previously he was very dubious and discounting of hiking up a mountain simply because it was there. However, when he first gazed out from the summit of Mt Democrat, he simply said..."Okay, I get it now." And I still feel that way each time I go out.
Just before dropping back into the treeline I noticed a small chipmunk watching Gunner and I approach very intently. He was not overly fearful but still chose to remain a safe distance away and within darting distance of a secure hole amidst the rocks.
A few times while in the trees there were some spectacular views that unfortunately were only modestly captured by my camera.
We arrived back at the Jeep at about 9:30am so about a 5 1/2 hour round-trip counting breakfast. Gunner still needed a drink and there was a wonderful little tarn just below the Jeep so we walked down to allow him to rehydrate before we jumped back in for the ride home. The pond itself was wonderfully placid and provided a beautiful reflection of the peaks nearby.
After snapping a few final shots we hopped in the Jeep and, despite the rough ride, Gunner was able to sleep once we were off the Jeep road. We hit pavement at about 10:15 and made our way back home. Even on the drive back home, I admired the surrounding peaks and wonderful lushness that seemed to stand out to me this day more than others. A wonderfully vibrant green that would make Ireland jealous blanketed the majority of the mountainsides and alpine meadows in my journeys back to Denver.
Happy travels through life and just as with hiking - 50% of the scenery is behind you so don't forget to turn around.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):