| Mount Jackson - deep in the Holy Cross Wilderness
Mount Jackson (13,670 ft)
21.0 miles RT, 6600' gain, 11 hours
Trailhead: Beaver Creek Village parking garage (8,100 ft)
Holy Cross Wilderness area, Eagle County
Partner: Mike (chicagotransplant)
Mount Jackson. This reclusive Eagle County 13er had been on our radar for quite some time. Mike is a current and I'm a former Eagle County resident. The peak is a bicentennial 13er, has a lot of prominence, and is rarely climbed. Initially we had discussed a backpack trip, but when the climb arrived I had other commitments at home for Saturday. Thus the trip evolved into a one-day event which we were confident we could complete with good weather in the forecast.
I met Mike at his place in Avon early Sunday morning and we drove up to the parking garage in Beaver Creek. Our first surprise was spotting a yearling bear cub poking around the trash dumpsters in the garage. I'd never seen a dumpster diving bear before so this was a great way to start the day. He scooted off before we could snap a picture. We geared up and started off about 5:40 a.m. under headlamps. Another first for me was using the outdoor escalators to ascend to the base of Beaver Creek mountain. Cool, that would save a few vertical feet of gain! At 8,100 ft this would be the lowest trailhead I've used for a 13er or 14er in Colorado except for Pikes Peak.
The hike begins following a road up the west side of Beaver Creek mountain, which passes a few luxury homes and the Beaver Creek maintenance facility. The road is eventually gated and then passes by the Larkspur and Grouse Mountain chairlifts (two of our favorites in the ski season). A couple miles after starting the road becomes a trail and enters the Holy Cross wilderness. This trail was the key to our success on a 20+ mile day. It's in good shape with only a gradual ascending grade and we made great time on it. Along the way we started to encounter snow in the woods and on the trail above 10,000 ft. but never enough to slow us down. We passed by Beaver Lake at 3.0 miles, lower Turquoise Lake at 7.0 miles, and finally upper Turquoise Lake (11,300 ft) at 7.3 miles. The lower lake is in a wide meadow and is very shallow. The upper lake is nestled at the base of the cirque and is spectacular. At 8:40 a.m. we left our wonderful trail and began the push to the summit.
Lower Turquoise Lake:
We found a steep grassy snow-free gully that ascends to the ridge, another key to this route. It was the first (and only) super steep section of the day and we busted it out fairly quickly. From here we looked south onto the crux of the day for us, endless snow-covered talus as far as the eye could see. It was a bit more snow than we were expecting but we went to work on it. While there isn't a huge amount of snow in the area, most of it seemed to be on the north ridge of Mt. Jackson. The worst of it seemed to be between 12,000 and 13,000 ft. Above that the ridge narrows and we had to do some scrambling, while the snow decreased due to wind scouring. We began to feel that wind and put on all our layers.
Endless snow-covered talus:
Looking back from where we'd come:
Mount Jackson and the final ridge to the summit:
The summit finally came into view about 13,000 feet and we pushed onto the top around 11:00 a.m. The snow had slowed us down somewhat but we were happy to be on top before noon. I dug the register out of the snow. It was a 1998 register with only a few names this year, most recently Brian Ehlers. We appreciated the view all around, Holy Cross and Holy Cross Ridge to the east (a different view I've never seen of them), rugged Gold Dust and Finnegan to the west, plenty of 12ers to the south, and the I-70 corridor far away to the north. Mount Jackson is truly a special place that I'll always appreciate.
Holy Cross, Holy Cross Ridge, UN 13768 - The big three in Eagle County (Left to right):
Grouse Mountain (been there, done that or we would have added it in):
Many fine peaks to the west:
Unnamed 13433, the next destination:
Of course there was another peak to do so off we went. UN 13433 is less than a mile away and it would be a shame to come this far and leave it unclimbed (though most people apparently do just that). To do this peak requires an additional 1.5 miles RT and 1000' gain (400' climb from the saddle and 600' back up Jackson). We descended to the 13050 saddle, which was south-facing and less snowy. Along the way I dropped my pack to reclaim on the way back. The ascent to 13433 was easy and we summited about noon. The weather was spectacular, not a cloud in the sky which was the kind of day we needed for this agenda. Another register here with much fewer names, only Brian previously in 2009.
Our route required a reclimb of Mt. Jackson, but only 600 vertical feet back up. My legs were starting to get tired, but it was comforting to know it was all downhill after this. After another summit of Jackson we charged downslope. It was easier going down the snow-covered talus, just had to be careful not to twist a leg in a hole. We left the snow behind just above our ascent gully and got back to the trail at 2:30.
Upper Turquoise Lake:
Key ascent/descent gully we used:
All that was left was the 7-mile hike out on the trail. The day had warmed nicely and I stripped down to shorts but passed on swimming any of the lakes along the way (we had pizza calling). Below Beaver Lake the wonderful full-color aspens of the Vail Valley appeared, it had been dark in this section on the way up. We scoped out all the chutes and glades we both enjoy skiing on powder days, they look much different without snow. A few people were out, the only people we'd seen all day.
Just before 5:00 p.m. we hiked out into the village, 21 miles done for two peaks. It was Mike's longest mileage day ever, and probably my second longest (after Pikes Peak Barr Trail). But I still felt reasonably well considering how far we'd gone. We celebrated with delicious pizza at Pazzos in Avon. A bonus was learning about the Broncos victory. They seem to do better when I don't watch the game, they are 3-0 now and I've been out hiking for all of them. Mount Jackson in a day will always be a sweet memory for Mike and I.
The End in sight:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):