TH: Sawdust Gulch TH
Those in attendance: Greenhouseguy and Derek
Distance : Around 6 miles
Elevation : Around 2700'
I debated on whether or not I wanted to write something up for this trip, but figured with the lack of information out there on these peaks (minus Roach's fantastic "Lost Creek Wilderness" book) some of the information could be useful.
This combo makes an excellent hike for the odd individuals who (like Greenhouseguy and I):
1- Have a strange fascination with bushwhacking.
2- Like to put to work their navigational skills.
3- Enjoy the ups and downs of multiple peaks.
For this trip, we used the Sawdust Gulch Trailhead. This trailhead is accessed (coming from the east) by continuing west on Highway 24 a few miles from Wilkerson Pass and turning north onto Co Rd 23. (Co Rd 23 is also named San Juan Street.) Continue on Co Rd 23 as it heads straight north for a few miles. After passing Garfield Road, Co Rd 23 curves left and begins heading west. Turn right (north) onto Turner Gulch Rd, and follow this as it wraps all the way around the west side of "Roachaburger". As Turner Gulch Rd begins to head towards the east, it passes an intersection for another faint road angling off to the right. We parked at this intersection.
**Note: If using Mapsource GPS software, be aware that this intersection (as well as the next one further down Turner Gulch Rd) is inaccurately mapped. We assume that it is the software because both Greenhouseguy and I had the roads listed at the exact same incorrect spots.
Some curious observers on our drive to the trailhead along Co Rd 23.
We began by following the faint, snow covered road towards the southeast. We only stayed on the road for a couple hundred yards, as we discovered that it was leading us too far south towards the Rishaberger-"Roachaburger" saddle. Our plan was to go after Schoolmarm first, so we broke away from the road and began following our contour line to the east.
Derek starting off from the TH. "Roachaburger's slopes are seen in the background.Photo by Greenhouseguy
Looking back at the road we originally followed just prior to branching off to the north.
I had placed a waypoint where Roach's book indicated that we should break from the gully and head for the ridge. While headed to this waypoint, we started to realize that we had not parked in the exact spot that the route description states we should start. As a result, we were in a position that made it easier to just gain the ridge from where we were at and not traverse further into the gully. So we aimed for a direct line to the Rishaberger/Schoolmarm saddle. Every once in a while, we were able to follow some old tracks left by a previous hiker who appeared to be headed for the same saddle.
Although we ended on the ridge farther and lower from Schoolmarm's summit than Roach's route description indicated we should, we were now able to follow the ridge the remainder of the way without worrying too much about navigation. (The route description had us hitting the ridge at 10,500', but we hit the ridge around 10,250'.) Following the ridge up was steep, but staying to the right side (south side) we were able to stay clear of too much snow.
Greenhouseguy on Schoolmarm's ridge about a couple hundred feet up from the Rishaberger/Schoolmarm saddle.
Derek on the way up the slopes of Schoolmarm near 10,600'.Photo by Greenhouseguy
Navigating through the trees near the top of Schoolmarm.
We stayed on the ridge almost until it ended. There were many times that we could have saved elevation by skirting some of the ridge bumps, but we weren't able to see that they were avoidable until at the top. It didn't matter, as the extra elevation was minimal. We angled south just prior to the top of the ridge and aimed straight for the summit. (The actual summit is on the south end of the "summit plateau".) After maneuvering around a couple more rock outcroppings, we arrived at the summit of Schoolmarm.
The summit gave some great views of the surrounding area. To the west, most of the Mosquito and Sawatch Range could be made out. Greenhouseguy made the observation that there was an extremely distinct cross shape coming from the south Sawatch. We realized that we were actually seeing a far away view of the Angel of Shavano. It was quite interesting to see the angel so clearly from such a distance. The summit also consisted of a wooden tripod device. I can only assume that it had been there awhile, as a summit register entry from the late 1970's commented about the "crap on the summit".
Views to the west from Schoolmarm's summit.
Summit of Schoolmarm.
We hung out for a little while on the summit taking in the views before descending the same path as we ascended all the way back to the Schoolmarm/Rishaberger saddle. (This was where we had originally gained the ridge.) It was only .4 miles from the saddle to Rishaberger's summit, but fighting through the tangles of trees made it feel longer. We went on a direct line to the summit, only veering to the left or right to avoid deadfall which was all over the area. Once arriving at the summit area, we had to wander around for a bit to pick out the true summit. (I believe I ascended 3 different points before discovering the actual high point.) The true summit and register is the southern most point.
We again signed the register on Rishaberger, which is a named but unranked summit. (The rise is only 240' from its saddle with Schoolmarm.) Within the register we found familiar names, as well as signatures from multiple frustrated hunters who claimed they climbed the peak looking for elk with no success.
The summit on Rishaberger. Hidden among the trees, it took us a couple minutes to locate the true summit.
"Roachaburger" from the summit of Rishaberger.Photo by Greenhouseguy
The descent from Rishaberger to its saddle "Roachaburger" appears very steep, but we were able to make our way down quickly and without too many difficulties. Once on the saddle, the ascent up to "Roachaburger" is abrupt. The deadfall challenges continued to increase and slowed us down a bit. Also, being our 3rd summit of the day on a Saturday (Greenhouseguy and I have both agreed that Saturday's are "low energy" days) this become the toughest summit of the day. We eventually made it to the top, which compared to Rishaberger had an easily distinguishable summit. The views from "Roachaburger" were probably the worst from the 3 summits, and unlike Rishaberger it was ranked.
Derek on the summit of "Roachaburger".Photo by Greenhouseguy
"Roachaburger" summit. Obscured by Trees. (Rejected Pink Floyd album title?)
We stayed on "Roachaburger" only briefly because there was no register to be found and we were anxious to get back to the car. We pulled out our navigation tools again and descended directly north off the summit aiming for our track from the morning's ascent. The 900' from "Roachaburger's" summit to our morning tracks went by extremely fast. The descent was steep and snowcovered, and we boot-skied much of the way down. Being in the northern shadows of "Roachaburger" was causing the temperature to drop significantly. After biting it from tripping over deadfall, I used the "break" as an opportunity to add layers. Greenhouseguy was able to demonstrate his supreme boot-ski skills by staying upright the entire way down.
We met up with our track right at the point where we left the road earlier in the day, only a couple hundred yards from our parking spot. It felt nice to be on a trail and the final distance went quick.
Navigating snow covered deadfall on the way down "Roachaburgers" north slope.Photo by Greenhouseguy
Meeting back up with the road and our tracks from earlier in the day.
Great day to be out, but one note of caution: Watch your face on this hike. You spend so much time watching your feet to prevent tripping that it's easy to walk into some camouflaged branches. Trust me. I have the marks to prove it.
GoogleEarth view of our track from the day.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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