Peak(s):  Gold Dust Pk  -  13,382 feet
Notch Mtn  -  13,237 feet
Post Date:  02/19/2011
Modified:  05/01/2011
Date Climbed:   08/28/2010
Posted By:  Matt Lemke

 A weekend in the Northern Sawatch   

Me and a college friend went out Friday August 27th on I-70 until we hit Eagle CO and went south to the Fulford Caves Campfround and TH. Slept in the truck and woke early at 4 am to start up the Lake Charles trail. One has to start summits in CO very early as there are thunderstorms in the adternoon everyday. It's imperitive you are headed back down by 10-11 am if you don't want to die from apocolyptic lightning storms. The goal for the day was to summit Gold Dust Peak; a class 3 scramble at elev. 13,365 feet. Since this is a Colorado thirteener rather than one of 56 famous fourteeners (peaks over 14,000 feet) there wouldn't be anyone here. After a couple hours on the trail we left the trail and went up towards Negro Basin with mild bushwhacking. This is a high alpine basin surrounded by peaks and rugged ridges. Got there right at sunrise and shot these morning reflection photos of Gold Dust Peak.
Sunrise on Gold Dust Peak from Negro Basin

Sunrise on Gold Dust Peak from Negro Basin

Started heading streight up Gold Dust along the face visible in the previous photos. Was about an 80% grade which is hard to do this high in elevation compared to the lower Cascades.
Crested the ridge and at 8:15am summited the mountain and signed the summit register.
We were the first to summit Gold Dust in over a month and the 5th group all year! I love thirteeners

Didn't spent too much time at the summit as it was below freezing (yes even in August, the Rockies are much colder than the Cascades).

Shot these summit panoramas though
Gold Dust Summit view - North

Gold Dust Summit View - West

The Rockies look a lot different than the WA mountains
Back in the Basin

Views from Negro Basin

Views after the climb

Negro Basin

Backtracked back down to the trail and finished the short distance to Lake Charles where we ate lunch. By now, the thunderheads were forming and drizzle had started.
Good thing we were back down.
Lake Charles

Hiked the 5 miles back to the car and headed to the Mount of the Holy Cross TH where we saw loads of cars and people since this is a fourteener TH. The plan was to spend the rest of Sat. relaxing and wake up at 3 am Sun morning to traverse completely around the Bowl of Tears and summit Holy Cross from the other side.
Spent the remainder of the day watching the hoards of people start up Holy Cross and the thunderstorms that came through.

The next morning it was cold. Wished I had my gloves but I had been used to the milder Cascades all summer and forgot the Rockies were always cold at night...period
Anyway, we started up the Half Moon Trail towards Holy Cross Peak and turned off towards Notch Mountain (another thirteener) and summited the north summit of Notch right at sunrise.
First rays of light of Holy Cross from Notch

We then started the Notch traverse. Notch Mountain does have a very large notch in it and there is one(1) class 3 route through it; otherwise it's a class 5 climb.
We took the class 3 route and 45 minutes and 1/8 mile later (this was a diffucult traverse with exposure) we crested the south summit where a very well built shelter filled with campers was seen.
Traversing the Notch in Notch Mountain

Notch Mountain Shelter

We started heading to the south along the Halo ridge and the goal was to get all the way to Holy Corss Peak encircling the large basin known as the Bowl of Tears and complete the loop down the trail back to the Half Moon TH.
However halfway along the ridge my partner got altitude sickness and we had to turn around. Luckily we didn't have to traverse the Notch again as there was a switchbacking trail down from the shelter to the valley that met up with the Fall Creek Pass trail that went back to the Half Moon TH.

Here is a panorama of Holy Cross Peak from a point on the Halo Ridge.
Halo Ridge Panorama

Holy Cross

We simply had to backtrack instead of completing the loop which was ok for me. Although I was disappointed about not getting peak 13,800 just to the left of Holy Cross, I didn't really want to summit Holy Cross anyway as there is frequently a line at the summit on weekends since it's so busy.
I was happy with overlooking Holy Cross from Notch Mountain, a much less climbed peak.
Heres a panorama of the switchback trail on the way down Notch Mountain.
Switchbacks Panorama

And a view of the Clinton Reservoir on the drive back to Golden.
Clinton Reservoir

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions
Matt Lemke

Thanks!     02/21/2011 19:18
I think you were the previous name. I climbed it in late August and it was well over a month since the last person had done it.
I saw Pika Peak the whole time and know about that route however I still have to get comfortable with exposure.
Thanks for commenting

Chicago Transplant

Nice shots!     02/21/2011 19:05
Great photos of Gold Dust sunrise, I have hiked that route twice but never at the right time of day to match the lighting in your images. Gold Dust is my favorite ”local” peak (I live in Avon), I actually might have been the previous name in the register, I think I climbed it July 10th last year. For some 4th class fun, you should to the traverse over to the ”Pika Peak” sometime.

Matt Lemke

wow!     02/20/2011 17:21
I did Jackson a couple weeks later than Labor Day. I did the Northern Gore Range traverse over Labor Day weekend and lets just say it was an adventure.

Great Jackson TR BTW


.     02/20/2011 12:57
Your google earth images are tagged with your name, so that's one way I knew!

I did Jackson on Labor Day weekend, 2010.

Matt Lemke

Isn't that wierd...     02/20/2011 04:12
I never got someone to ever recognize and correlate photos from my trip reports to the same ones in GE.
They are indeed the same!
Have fun out there

BTW...when did you do Jackson? I did that one in September last year


Gold     02/20/2011 04:07
Nice photos! I hiked Mt Jackson last summer and looked at Gold Dust and the rest thinking they would be fun to hike someday!

I recognized some of your Halo Ridge/Notch Mtn pix from viewing them on google earth the other day. I'm going up that way soon...

Thanks for sharing.


photos     04/29/2011 00:10
What kind of camera setup?

Matt Lemke

photos     04/29/2011 00:44
I use a Canon 30d with mostly two lenses...a Canon 28-105 mm and a Canon 10-22 mm wide angle lens.


photos     04/29/2011 00:52
Goes to show it's always the photographer, not the equipment. Great work.

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