Peak(s):  Huron Peak  -  14,003 feet
Date Posted:  08/30/2011
Date Climbed:   07/08/2011
Author:  wegerje
 Huron Peak via Monarch Pass  

Getting to the Trail head

Well actually just below Monarch Pass. The real purpose of the trip was to do a section of the CDT, the Continental Divide Trail, from the paved road below Monarch Pass to the paved road below Independence Pass, some 70 or 80 miles. We got started noonish on July 4th and ended noonish July 9th. Huron peak was to be a bonus high point (pun intended) of the trip.

The trip members were myself, wegerje (65), here and other places and my daughter Anna (26). Huron peak would be my second 14er and Anna's first. My first was Mt. Harvard when I was 30 and had lived in Leadville for a year. That climb was so easy that someone remarked that I wasn't even out of breath. Not entirely true but pretty close. Needless to say but I will anyway, for Huron Peak I was only "out of breath" when going up. Luckily that was just half the trip.

It took us three and a half days to get to the trail head. We were slowed by the altitude, various saddles and passes and snowfields. We had spent the night before we started hiking in Denver after having spent the night before that in Chicago. In normal years the CDT in Colorado is pretty well snow clear by July. The only previous wilderness snow experience for us had been at 10,000 feet in New Mexico's San Pedro Peaks Wilderness two years before at the end of April. We were sectioning the CDT there a month too early and lost the trail and post-holed down a valley for six hours. Neither of us had ever done anything like that before. Well not entirely true because Chicago does get snow and people spend time in it. But not 1500 feet of downhill snow.

In a good year it would have taken us a day less, two and a half days, to get to the trail head via Monarch Pass. Before Huron Peak the high point had been the pass above Lake Ann over the divide. Going up was snow free and then we hit the top. There we hit a big bank of snow that extended horizontally away from the pass until it curled ominously at the edge before dropping straight down for what? 50 feet? 70 feet? I suppose that it has a name that bit of snow reality. We named it our worst nightmare. It was beyond our experience level and possibly beyond our skill levels. There was no going around it because of cliff bands.

Approaching as close to the edge as I dared I thought I saw to my left the only hope for going forward. On day two we had been passed by two other CDT hikers. They were young and experienced. They even carried those things called "ice axes". If I could just see how they got down we might could follow their path. I could just make out steps going down a section of the snow cliff where the curled edge had already broken off and presented us with a solid edge to go over.

We hiked over to where it appeared they had gone over and I peered down. There were clear footsteps in wet snow descending at some angle well less than 90 degrees. There were no signs that either had had to arrest an unexpected fall with their axes. It looked to be maybe only 30 feet down. We went for it. It was really pretty easy. But, hey, it was big excitement for us.

We crossed the two biggest snowfields of the hike and were just entering the treeline when we began to get hailed on and rained on and chased by lightening. Oh had I not mentioned the gathering clouds to the west when we had reached to pass top? Well that was another thing that slowed us down getting to the trail head for Huron Peak.

At the Trail Head

We got to the trail head for our fourth night, Thursday evening July 7th. We ascended up the trail some 500 to 700 feet up and pitched our tarp beside a rotted log a bit off the trail halfway up the ridge. We got a bit of rain that night. Since it was such a short hike to the top we slept in a bit in the morning allowing two groups to precede us up the mountain.

We got to the top. We enjoyed the view. We came down.

This is Huron Peak we talking here. A short, straight forward, no drama peak. No losing the trail. No exposure. No route finding. No handholds. Etc. etc. Some clouds rolled by but it was still too early for serious weather. On the way down we passed a couple more groups going up. Then we caught up to a group that had decided to take a pass on summitting because they were now too late in the morning and the weather was looking iffy.

It was still a wonderful accomplishment for me at 65 and my daughter's first 14er

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