Peak(s):  Gold Dust Pk  -  13,382 feet
Date Posted:  10/03/2011
Date Climbed:   10/02/2011
Author:  MtnHigh

 Gold Dust Peak - still looking for those A10 bombs  

Photos from August and October treks to Gold Dust Peak, with a summit in October.

In early August, a buddy was dirt-biking near Fulford and told me "there's a trailhead marked for Gold Dust Peak!” Intrigued, Andy and I packed up the lightweight gear and set off from the trailhead at sunset, hiking until the moon rose.
Trailhead - not on many maps

We camped above Nolan Lake, and the next morning set out towards point 12,600, looking for snow and hoping for a ridgeline traverse all the way to the summit of Gold Dust Peak. The first snow patch was more like ice, but we needed water so we traversed over and down into Gold Dust Basin, taking a wild elk trail down the cliffs. We found plentiful water in the basin, and then followed the trail, well, more like an elk highway, around the end of the ridgeline leading to pt 12,900. Dropping our gear at the campsite, we hopped talus to an old mine on the ridge. Shortly after my quads started spasming and I had to rest while Andy went to the point. Reality had set in - after a second lumbar discectomy in December 2010, my lower back muscles and overall stamina were still recovering. I eventually topped out, only to see that the point was a dead end for us - the 80-foot class 5 drop prevented further travel without protection.
Peak from Pt 12900

We ambled back down the ridge and set up camp for the evening. The next monring we followed the elk highway into the high alpine rock garden northwest of Negro Basin - Andy ran to the summit, while I ambled over to Negro Basin and just enjoyed the smooth rocks and lush summer flowers. Every time I looked up at the summit my lower back said "no climbing that rock pile!".
Resting my back while Andy summits

We met back at camp, packed up and made our way along the elk paths, eventually relocating the trail, and finished a fun weekend with cold beer at the Bonfire Brewery in Eagle.

Fast forward almost two months later - and I'm still itching to get up the peak while the weather is holding. I've been working out more and hope that a long day trip is easier on my body than carrying a backpack with camping gear. My son Forrest and I drive to the trailhead and enjoy the sunset, and burning a bag of marshmallows in the campfire. We're up at 7:15 - not exactly an alpine start, especially with 20% storms in the afternoon forecast, but both the teenager and his "old man" need their rest. We're on the trail by 8:30 though, and quickly warm up as we climb 1600' before the trail levels out. This time we stay on the trail, opting to climb to the Nolan lake overlook on the return. We marked the trail with cairns and flagging as it traverses timberline before dropping into Gold Dust Basin. We took a long rest at an old campsite, inspecting the remains of a camp - old camp stove, glass bottle, and large can. Following the elk highway again, past a large balanced rock
Balanced Rock #1 - glacial ice at 12,200

and my August campsite, at the end of the pt 12,900 ridge and then round the corner and we see the Peak. I'm up for climbing the rubble pile this time - and we enjoy the carved rock garden and another balanced rock, shooting some fun pictures.
Balanced Rock #2 - glacial ice at 12,400

After looking around, we decide the best route is up the chute of rubble. If you take this route, looker’s left has a good rock edge starting at the narrow point that’s easier to ascend and descend. We topped out of the chute and trudged up the low talus to the summit. The clouds were building, but I kept an eye to the south and west, knowing that any “jellyfish” dropping from the clouds near Capitol Peak were a threat. Aside from a cool breeze and a few graupel pellets, the weather wasn’t much of an issue. And what a great summit view – we could see the entire upper West Lake Creek Basin, East Brush Creek, and the high ridgelines off of Mt of the Holy Cross, Mount Jackson, and a close-up of Finnegan’s Peak. Dang, we did NOT see any bombs from the A-10. We hadn’t seen anyone all day, although three people signed the summit register before us. The cheese Pringles as a summit reward were very tasty.
Happy Forrest!

After about 30 minutes on top, we headed down, ugh, back down the rubble pile. The chute wasn’t bad going down, although a lot of hiker traffic would loosen it up dramatically. It took us three hours to and from the summit after leaving the grass. From there, we hoofed it back to the truck, stopping for a water refill in Gold Dust Basin and comparing the last of our orange chips to the flame-colored foliage.
What's more orange?

The sun set as we traversed around the end of the Craig Peak ridge,
End of a wonderful October day

and we were back at my truck 11 hours after heading out. I’m glad that Forrest has his driver’s license, as I was too tired to drive back to Avon.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Chicago Transplant

Pot of Gold
10/04/2011 15:18
Gold Dust is one of my favorites, I have done it twice now but both times from the Lake Charles trail and up into Negro Basin. Cool alternate route from Nolan, thanks for sharing! I want to come back sometime and go up the north facing snow field as well, lots of cool route potential on that peak.


10/04/2011 16:35
I agree with Chicago Transplant ... interesting route. We, too, did that peak from Lake Charles climbing Pika Peak first and continuing on the ridge to Gold Dust and down Negro Basin. Congrats on your success (sometimes you savor that more after failing the first time ... I know I do). Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


Nice Work!
10/04/2011 16:44
I was working at Beaver Creek when the plane crashed. They had huge military helos flying very low over the resort, at the time there were all these wild rumors that the pilot maybe punched out and delivered the bombs to terrorists, it was all very exciting. The New York Mountain area is a great place, one of my old stomping grounds when I lived up there.

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