Route: Villa Ridge
Trailhead: Mayflower Gulch 2wd Parking
RT Distance: 6.8 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2920 ft
Reference: Colorado's Thirteeners by Gerry Roach and Jennifer Roach
Start time: 6:45 AM
Summit time: 10:00 AM
Party: Me (Dan), Michelle
A family reunion in Breckenridge starting Friday night and finishing Sunday evening boded poorly for getting any serious hiking in on Saturday or Sunday, but Michelle and I decided to make the best of it and take Friday and Monday off to fit in something interesting. Neither of us has summited Quandary yet but I was hoping to find something less crowded so I flipped through Roach's thirteeners book looking for an interesting route. We needed something near Breckenridge that would be short enough that we could be on time and reasonably functional when it came time to meet up with all the relatives. Villa ridge on Drift Peak appeared to fit the bill. I wasn't able to find very much route information on the internet, but the description in the book sounded pretty straightforward (gain the ridge, hike up the ridge, turn north and hike up to the summit - sounds pretty simple, right?)
As far as I could tell, the Mayflower Gulch parking area and 4wd road were unsigned but Roach's directions (6.1 miles south of I-70 on 91) were very accurate. We left the Elantra at the paved parking lot and started up the puddle-ridden road.
Pacific Peak, with halo
The first 1.5 miles were on the pleasantly flat road. Just before reaching the end of the trees (with some old mining cabins just beyond), the route leaves the main road to follow an old mining road up to a grassy flat area on Villa Ridge.
Mining road turn-off
Sunrise over Atlantic Peak
Drift Peak at center, ridge start at right (image taken on descent)
A closer view at the first obstacle. Note cairn on lower left. (image taken on descent)
This beginning of the ridge is on fairly steep talus and there is a useful miner's trail that switches back up the slope but it did disappear in some places. The start of this trail is slightly to the left of the obvious cairn in the above image. Once we reached the top of the first bump, we were rewarded with a clearer view of the remaining route.
From near the top of the first obstacle (image taken on descent)
Michelle on the flat part of the ridge
Second obstacle (image taken on descent)
Now, this ridge is technically very simple if you stay on route. Except for the two big bumps early on, a majority of the ridge is simple walking. However, around an area of orange rock near an old mining shaft (or something like that) in the image below, we veered from the route.
We went on the ridge crest, but the correct route follows a faint miner's trail on the left. (image taken on descent)
Had I better remembered the route description, I would have known that we were at this point supposed to leave the ridge and follow go up the south side of the west slope to the summit. However, I thought we were supposed to go all the way up the ridge and then ascend the south slope to the summit. I had the book in my pack, but nothing looked sketchy enough to the point where we felt a need to re-evaluate, so we didn't find out we were off route until the summit.
Looking up the top portion of the ridge. Very approximately correct route in blue, something like our route in red (image taken on descent)
We stayed on or near the ridge crest with occasionally deviations to the north side until reaching the last tower of rocks on the ridge which we avoided to the South. From this point, we carefully made our way up to the summit over steep and not entirely stable talus. Just below the summit, the rock transitioned into much more solid boulders and we very much enjoyed the brief scramble up these to the top.
Quandary and Fletcher from the summit
Me on the summit
Pacific, Atlantic and Fletcher from the summit
We did end up descending the prescribed west slope which was certainly easier and more straightforward than our ascent route. There was some buildup of clouds, though nothing threatened too badly so we were able to descend fairly leisurely and take a good number of pictures on the way back to the car.
Looking back down the ridge
Looking south. L-R (I think) are North Star, Bross, Lincoln, Wheeler (foreground), Democrat, Traver, Clinton, McNamee
Looking north towards the Gore
Looking up Clinton Ampitheatre towards Clinton Peak
Dinosaur-esque rock, Jacque Peak in the background
Flowers on the ridge
Looking back at the peak and ridge from the gulch.
From when we started until we were off the ridge, we saw no other people. Once we were back in the gulch, there were a number of people checking out the flowers and the old mining buildings. We joined them for a bit and then headed back to the car and a much welcome beer. Overall, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Villa ridge as the scenery, solitude and variety of terrain were all wonderful.
If you've gotten this far, then thank you for bearing with me. This is really the first time I've ever tried writing about an experience in the mountains, and I would have liked to have written the report after a shorter delay. If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them, so feel free to PM me or something. I do really enjoy the wealth of information available on websites like this one and I'd like to make sure that my contributions are as useful and enjoyable as possible.