Huron Peak - North Ridge from Lulu Gulch
Climbing mountains is dangerous! Please read the Mountaineering Safety Page and make sure you have a map+compass and can use them effectively. A GPS or cell phone can be very helpful with navigation but you should still be able to use a map+compass in case your device stops working.
(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:|| Class 2 |
|Total Gain:||3,980 feet|
|RT Length:||8.40 miles|
|County Sheriff:||Chaffee: 719-539-2596
|National Forest:||San Isabel|
From Leadville: Drive 20 miles south on U.S. 24 and turn right on the Chaffee County 390 road.
From Buena Vista: Drive 14.5 miles north on U.S. 24 and turn left on the Chaffee County 390 road.
On the 390 road (dirt), drive 11.8 miles to Winfield. Turn left and measure from here. Drive 0.1 mile to reach the lower, 2WD trailhead on the left. After 0.4 mile, the road gets rugged and narrow (4WD required). After 0.7 mile, stay right at a junction. After 1.7 miles, the Banker Mine road is to the left - stay straight on the main road and continue to the end, at 2.1 miles. The trail starts past the parking area.
This route is little bit longer than the standard route for Huron Peak but has several advantages:
1. Much less traveled and crowded - You probably won't see another person from the time you head up the Lulu Gulch 4WD Rd until you rejoin the standard route for the final push to Huron's summit.
2. Much more scenic - After you gain the ridge you will be able to enjoy and savor very unique and spectacular views of Huron Peak's very rugged East Face. You never see this face from the standard route. You also get great views of Missouri Mtn, North Apostle, Ice Mtn, Iowa Pk, Emerald Pk, Sayres BM, La Plata, and Hope Mtn along the way.
NOTE: This route DOES NOT START at the Upper 4WD TH as is described in the Trailhead section above. Follow the directions below.
From the lower Winfield 2WD TH either hike or drive 0.4mi to the upper 2WD TH. This is where the metal sign signifying "4WD ROAD" is. Park here even if you have 4WD as there is no parking where the Lulu Gulch 4WD Rd splits off. From the upper 2WD TH hike up the road 0.3mi to a junction. Photo #1 The Lulu Gulch 4WD road splits left here while the road to Huron's standard route continues straight. (NOTE: If you have a VERY capable 4X4 vehicle with high clearance AND low gearing you could feasibly make it up this road to ~11,600' in the Lulu Gulch Basin below Browns Peak)
Follow the Lulu Gulch Rd 1.4mi as it switchbacks up the side of the valley. Photo #2 As the road gains elevation you'll get great views of La Plata Peak and Sayres BM to the north. Photo #3 After 1.4mi you'll come to another road junction at 11,400'. Turn LEFT. (Don't go straight/right as that road dead ends at an old mine and climbing Browns Peak from there would be a miserable and dangerous "choss-fest".)
Continue to follow the Lulu Gulch Rd as it curls around Browns Peak's north ridge and into the Lulu Gulch Basin. 0.3mi later you will reach treeline at 11,600'. (CAUTION: If you are doing this route in Winter the 100yards after you leave treeline tends to be loaded with snow and can be avalanche prone, proceed with caution, one person at a time)
From here you will be able to see the two options you can take to gain the ridgeline. Photo #4 Stay on the 4WD road as it re-enters the trees and crosses Lulu Gulch. The rapidly deteriorating road will then head SE and reach treeline at 12,000' at the location of a large switchback, the first of a series of switchbacks that climbs Middle Mountain. From here you can choose which route you would like to gain the ridgeline. A birds eye view from the Browns Peak summit shows the two options. Photo #5
Option 1 - Direct via Browns Peak. This option is shorter and works best during the summer. Leave the road at the switchback and head Right/South up further into the Lulu Gulch Basin as shown in red in this picture - Photo #6. This slope is mostly tundra and avoids much of the loose talus elsewhere. At 12,800' you'll reach a small upper basin nestled between PT13,462 and Browns Peak. Angle right and head across mixed grass and tundra to the pass between PT13,462 and Browns Peak. Photo #7
Option 2 - Via Switchbacks and Middle Mountain. This option is longer and works best if you want to bag Middle Mtn and PT13,462 or if you are doing this in the Winter as the switchbacks are south facing and tend to have less snow on them. Also this route allows you to have better views of Huron Peak's East Face and have them for a longer period of time as you summit Middle Mountain and PT13,462. Follow the series of switchbacks Photo #8 up as you climb 700' to PT12,622. Here the "road" ends at an old mine. From here follow the ridge crest SE towards Middle Mountain.
There is a short rocky section at the beginning and then it will mellow out and turn into tundra for much of the way up to Middle Mtn's summit. Photo #9 If you wish, you can also bypass Middle Mountain by following a use trail that traverses across Middle Mtn's SW slopes. From Meadow Mtn's summit you will get your first view Huron Peak's magnificent East Face and also much of the route you have left to get to Huron's summit. Photo #10 with snow Photo #22 A nice use trail will lead you to PT13,462. The ridge becomes more rocky as you near PT13,462's summit. The views of Huron, North Apostle, and Ice Mountain from PT13,462's summit make it worth the extra effort to gain this summit! Photo #11 with snow Photo #12
Traverse across the easy ridge and up to Browns Peak. Now you see your final stretch to Huron Peak Photo #13 with snow Photo #14 You can either stay on the ridge crest until you reach the standard route's trail for the final push to the summit or you can stay lower and traverse across fairly solid talus until you reach the trail. Photo #15 Staying on the ridge proper allows you to summit UN13518 along the way. This summit gives you front-row views to Huron's wonderful East Face Photo #16
After you intersect Huron's Standard Route trail at ~13,500' it will quickly lead you up the last 500' of elevation gain to Huron's compact and airy summit. Here you will have a view of much of the route you just traversed. Photo #17 With snow Photo #18
For the descent, you can either return to your car the way you came or make it a "Tour de Huron" and descend the Standard Route and walk the road back to your car.
Here are some more photos of this route with snow on it:
Photo #19 Lulu Gulch and Browns Peak with snow
Photo #20 Saryres BM and La Plata across the way
Photo #21 Upper Clear Creek drainage
Photo #22 View from Middle Mtn to Huron
Photo #23 Missouri Mtn, Harvard, Iowa, Emerald and Mt Yale across to the east.
Photo #24 The Three Apostles from Huron's summit
Photo #25 Summit view of Mt Harvard, Mt Columbia, Missouri Mtn, Iowa, and Emerald
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