Peak(s):  Windy Peak - 11,970 feet
Date Posted:  05/14/2012
Modified:  05/15/2012
Date Climbed:   05/13/2012
Author:  Derek

 Wet and Weary on Windy Peak  

May 13th, 2012

Lost Creek Wilderness

In Attendance: Derek and Rufus (the dog)
Windy Peak Peak Info
Trailhead: Rolling Creek - 8 miles south of 285 off Park County 68
Route: North Ridge
10 Miles
3,600' Elevation

Since there doesn't appear to be any reports on this fine LCW peak, figured I would throw some data out there for anyone interested!

Windy Peak Data

This high 11er sits alone on the south end of the Kenosha Mountains and within the Lost Creek Wilderness boundary. Most people know Windy Peak as that “bare topped peak” they see in the distant south as they descend Crow Hill on Hwy 285. Compared to some of the other larger LCW peaks, it doesn’t see too many visitors. A major reason for this is not only is there no trail (like most LCW peaks) but that each of the major routes require a good amount of stiff bushwhacking. And let’s face it: most people don’t care to finish a hike with cuts and bruises!

There are three main routes for those interested in summiting Windy Peak:

East Slopes from Rolling Creek TH or Wigwam TH-
This is probably the least popular of the three routes, and also the longest. The idea is to get as high on the Rolling Creek Trail as possible to the east of Windy, then bushwhack west towards the summit area. You can also summit UN11507 (a nice unranked subpeak) on the way when using this route. The Rolling Creek Trail can be accessed from the north at the Rolling Creek TH, or from the south via Wigwam TH. (Follow the Wigwam Trail west from the TH to the south end of Rolling Creek Trail.)

West Slopes from Lost Park TH-
I have never tried this route, but it seems from what I’ve heard to be the most scenic of the routes. For this route, it is 100% off trail. Just head straight east from the Lost Park TH to the summit, crossing a majority of Windy Peak’s summit plateau on the way. Due to the high trailhead, this would probably be considered the easiest route.

North Ridge from Rolling Creek TH-
This is the route used in this trip report. This is arguably the most popular route, mainly because the TH is accessible year round and has become a known winter hike. This route has the advantages of being a quicker drive from Denver, making use of the NICE Colorado Trail, and its fairly straight forward in terms of route finding.

Windy Peak Trip Report (Photos after text-block)

Rufus and I arrived at the Rolling Creek Trailhead about an hour after first light. Rolling Creek TH is a few hundred yards west of County Rd 68 on a short spur road. You will see a sign marking the spur road indicating the Colorado Trail access. The short spur road is rutted a bit, but still accessible with low clearance. (With careful driving, my Jetta made it up just fine.) The main spot to be careful if you’re driving low clearance is the intersection of 68 and the spur road, as it has quite a dip. Be sure to hit it at an angle. Parking is odd here as there is plenty of space, but no real flat ground. The trailhead services two different trails: the Colorado Trail (Northeast end of the parking area) and the Rolling Creek Trail. (South end of the parking area)

We started along the smooth Colorado Trail and took advantage of the mellow incline by keeping a quick pace. We were aware that the weather for the day was not looking too good, so we didn’t want to waste any time. For this route, we planned to use the CO trail for about 3 miles, up until the intersection of the Payne Creek Trail. We wouldn’t be using the Payne Creek Trail at all, but this intersection would be the marker for starting our bushwhack up Windy Peak. The trail was covered most of the way with a random thin ice/snow layer which didn’t effect our travels. However, one annoying thing was that the same ice/snow that was in the trees from overnight began to melt and drip non-stop onto us. By the time we reached the Payne Trail intersection for our first quick break, we were both already pretty wet.

After taking a quick drink, we left the trail and began the southward journey off trail to the summit of Windy. From the intersection, it is about 2 miles and 2,600’. The first .75 miles is easy terrain- not much deadfall and a very mellow grade. The terrain finally starts to form into a ridge near 10,200’ Around this elevation, the terrain also got a little tougher and the snow started to get a bit deeper. Instead of following the ridge directly, we stayed off to the west side of the ridge about 100 yards. Roach also mentions in his route description to stay to the west of the ridge in order to avoid various boulderfields throughout the ascent. A number of times I was tempted to go too high towards the ridge top, but it would always end up with snow covered/loose boulders. Once we neared 11,200’, we came across the one major boulderfield that I had been expecting. Unfortunately, we were still too high on the ridge so we had approached the field halfway up. Not wanting to backtrack or lose any elevation, we slowly picked our way across the field. Without the wet snowcover on the boulders, I doubt it would be too bad to cross. As it was, I had to take my time to prevent slipping. Once past the boulderfield, things got nasty. Snow drifts unable to support my weight started getting 3-4 foot deep in spots. Since the snow was melting, it was heavy and tough to plow through, and trying just left us soaked. We were also in a heavily bouldered area, so it wasn’t always solid ground under these drifts. One of my postholes exposed a good 10 foot drop inbetween boulders. Luckily, I was easily able to catch myself. In many spots, I resorted to a swimming/crawling motion to get across, other times I literally rolled my whole body. These weren't the classiest moments of my peaking career. By the time we reached a flat area around 11,500’, we had spent almost an HOUR ascending the 300' from 11,200’. (Correction- I spent an hour. Rufus and his light self was doing just fine.) Another tough section between 11,600’ and 11,800’ finally left us with a simple boulder hop to the top of Windy Peak.

The views from the top were grand. The rolling clouds put on some nice artsy shows, and the cloud sea to the east was scenic. I planned to stay on the top for a little longer than we did, but a sudden and heavy roll of thunder urged us to pack up and head down. I originally planned to descend a portion of the west ridge, but rain and graupel made me feel that the best option was just to descend the same way we came up. Grudgingly, we again attacked and re-soaked ourselves amongst the drifts and boulders between 11,800’ and 11,200’. At least on the way up, we had the luxury of taking in some nice views. Now, the clouds had us locked in and visibility was nil. We reached easier terrain before the REALLY hard rain/graupel mix started to come down. However, by this point I didn’t care too much. We were already wet and muddy, and the rest of the way out would be a nice cruise on autopilot. I slipped and landed on my butt a MINIMUM of a dozen times on the way down, but eventually we reached the Colorado Trail for a quick 3 mile hike back to the trailhead.

Hard earned summit in the Lost Creek Wilderness.

Photos (text under photos)

The Colorado Trail (west bound) starts on the northwest side of the trailhead parking area.

The first portion of the trail is smooth and gradual, making the mileage go quick.

The Colorado Trail.

Towering aspens about a half mile shy of the Payne Creek Trail intersection.

Intersection of Colorado Trail and Payne Creek Trail. This marks the leaving point of the trail and the beginning of the bushwhack.

The first portion of the route after leaving the trail. Downed small trees, but nothing too bad.

Near 11K, the terrain gets a bit more snow covered and a bit tougher.

We got our first distant views around 11K, and what great views they were!

Boulderfield near 11,200'. I recommend traversing UNDER the field instead of across.

Around 11,500', the posthole/slush fest really gets started.

Along the north ridge, looking up towards the summit area of Windy Peak.

Summit of Windy Peak finally visible.

Clouds playing around from the summit of Windy.

Views to the east.

Views to the west.

Windy Peak benchmark.

Summit area of windy.

Like some of its LCW neighbors, Windy has some interesting rock art.

Starting our descent, the clouds start rolling in.

Clouds are done playing, now they're mad. Views go to nil.

Snow starts spitting, thunder starts rolling, and we start boulder hopping at a quicker pace.

My first experience of being pummeled by graupel AND rain at the same time. Crazy.

Slipping and sliding northward.

Nearing the trailhead, Windy Peak finally decides it has made its point and the precipitation ceases.

Map of the day.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):


 Comments or Questions

The sage of the LCW!
05/14/2012 20:12
Yet another one that I will have to do based on your TR. Although I might wait a few weeks!

Nice pics and report - as always!


05/14/2012 21:23
I guess my pano services are no longer needed. Like we discussed last week, it's time you promote me to navigator, anyway. Weather wise your hike looks like a unique day.


05/18/2012 03:30

Pics 2 and 3 are awesome. Thanks for posting.


05/18/2012 04:43
It all looks very primal, like pterodactyls are flying overhead, especially after the cloud moved in. Moody, like the kind of trip that would strip the tarnished veneer of work-day life. It's a special place worthy of the tremendous effort. Congratulations on the summit. Our attempt on Windy Peak last spring remains one of my favorite back country weekends. It's very cool to wake under a cozy blanket of fresh spring snow.

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