Peak(s):  Huron Peak  -  14,003 feet
Date Posted:  09/18/2011
Date Climbed:   09/17/2011
Author:  docfrance
 Blown Off by Huron  

The weather reports made it seem like Saturday was going to be the most promising day for a climb, so we committed to doing Huron by last Wednesday. We left COs at 0415 and arrived at the trailhead with no issues just before 0700. The trail past Winfield to the start was challenging but no impassable by a decent SUV or 4WD. There was a Subaru or two there when we arrived. the only real issue seemed to be a rather deep, muddy bog where folks had already started a "go around." Now that go-around is almost as bad as the original and I can see a lower clearance vehicle getting stuck there easily and almost permanently.

When we arrived it was raining lightly and there was new snow on the surrounding moutains, plus lots of clouds. It was apparent that there was also wind well above us. We started out in light rain shells, but the rain stopped and we soon shed that outer layer as we warmed up.Image

The Huron trail is realy one of the prettiest and nicest I've seen and I was glad we'd made the decision to climb it--my first time back in five years. The switchbacks are easy through the trees and you gain elevation pretty quickly. The trail's in great shape, too.ImageImageImageImage

We broke above treeline onto the meadow and by now the sleet had turned to snow--the battle of the seasons was on with fresh snow still covering the green plants and the pond in the meadow free of any ice. Temps had dropped into the 30s and the wind was picking up, too. We could see the moutain, though the summit was shrouded in fast-moving clouds.ImageImageImage

From the meadow, the trail was evident as it zig-zagged up the first step towards the ramp-like feature just above. The first section is like going up a staircase. We had some sections where the winds were calm, but we could tell that the going was going to get rougher. The snow got a little deeper, too, and the wind was now causing the snow to drift across the trail and cover the footsteps of the two hikers above us. I put on my microspikes to help with traction and my poles were very useful. ImageImage

By the time we got to about 13,000 feet, it began to look dicey. by now I'd put on my snow goggles and was very happy to have brought them. The wind just got stronger, culminating at the point where you acheive the ridgeline direct down from the peak at about 13,550 ft, east-northeast of the peak. I waited for one of my hiking companions at that point trying to find some shelter. the snow was pelting me very hard and the winds were at least 30 mph. I knew we had one group of two above us as we'd seen them on the ridgeline going up. There were four in our group below us and I didn't think they'd be too disappointed if we turned around. All were adequately prepared for bad weather, but maybe not this bad. The clouds were also thickening and visibility wa near zero.Image

When my buddy made it to the saddle, I suggested turning around and he didn't put up much of a counter argument. He didn't have goggles--only sunglasses and that was a factor. We heard the two above us call down and we yelled that we were turning back--their repsonse was unintelligible, but it was obvious that they were on their way down.

We caught up with our third hiker a few hundred feet down and he agreed with our choice. The three farther down were just coming up from the staircase and had had a full and satisfying workout. ImageImage

We spent the rest of the hike down just enjoying the aspen trees in the distance, taking some photos, etc.
Huron should not be in issue for another week or two barring big snow, as long as the wind stays down. We had a great hike, enjoyed the drive into the valley, and hope to get one more in before the snowshoes come out, but if we don't it's no big deal. Since our little group started up again in mid-July, we'd done Quandary, Harvard, Columbia, Humboldt, Sherman, Elbert, Torreys, Grays, Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross--not a bad hall. Let it snow!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

09/18/2011 17:13
My wife and I hiked Huron in a light drizzel w/ low hanging clouds 6 years ago, we had lunch on the way down by the pond and sun cleared the clouds for an hour while we ate. One of my favorite hikes of all time.

Love your pics! Actually looks like a great day.


09/18/2011 23:48
All were adequately prepared for bad weather, but maybe not this bad.

My thought exactly!

I was on my way down as you guys were heading up (lone hiker with the black lab).

Doesn't look like things improved much.



Similar Conditions
09/19/2011 01:04
Wow... We were way on the south end of the state climbing Uncompahgre Saturday and the conditions/pictures were almost identical! We made it to the top, but had very strong winds, drifting snow, overcast, with cold temps. I also brought ski goggles, and was glad I did!


Same situation, 5 miles away
09/21/2011 01:51
My buddies and I hit the trail up to Mt. Belford at 5:00am Saturday morning, just 5 miles east of you. we never thought it would be such bad weather above 13,000'. When we summited Mt. Belford the wind was pelting us with snow and it was 15 degrees. We hunkered down behind a windbreak to contemplate Oxford. My hydration tube was frozen, my right thumb was beginning to freeze through my glove and we started to shiver, so we turned back. People an hour behind us were able to summit belford and oxford with less cold weather gear than we had. Apparently we summited at the worst possible time. Apparently you were climbing at the worst possible time too. So much for a 30% chance of precipitation. It drizzled, rained, and snowed a lot on friday and Saturday.

Sunday morning we made first tracks in the snow up and down Huron Peak. it was 25 degrees on the summit at 9:00am. I feel your pain. We hated to turn back, but it had to be done. Good judgment, guys. you did the right thing.

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