Peak(s):  Powell A, Mt  -  13,580 feet
Date Posted:  09/02/2013
Modified:  09/14/2013
Date Climbed:   09/02/2013
Author:  Hoot
 Top of the Gores - Mount Powell from Piney Lake   

Mount Powell (13,580', CO #198 in six way tie)
Date: 2 September 2013
Climbers: Bill Tarvin and me
Trailhead: Piney Lake
Distance: 11.9 miles round trip
Elevation gain: ~6000' total
Time: 8:23 round trip (4:26 up, 3:34 down)

Once again a forecast for lots of rain changed my plans for the weekend. I had planned to do the Trinity Traverse in the San Juans this Labor Day Weekend with Bill and Sam, but we decided that it was just too much driving and hiking with such a high probability of getting rained out. Based on a report from Sue Personnel whom we were supposed to meet in Vestal Basin, it sounds like we would have been able to get the traverse between showers had we not bailed. As Labor Day Monday looked like the driest day of the weekend, Bill and I decided to climb something and he suggested Peak C in the Gore Range just north of Vail. After a little research, I countered with Mount Powell right next to Peak C as it is the highest peak in the Gore Range. And Powell's interpolated 13,580' elevation estimate just barely ekes out bicentennial status in a 6-way tie for the 198th highest Colorado peak. It may or may not be a true bicentennial peak. Having never climbed in the Gore Range, I was excited to check it out as I had heard so many good things about climbs in this range.

We left Bill's house at 4 pm Sunday afternoon and made a quick stop at a Subway in Dillon for dinner and my Monday lunch. About a mile west of Vail's central exit off I-70, we turned north on Red Sandstone Road which quickly turned to dirt as Forest Service Road 700. As the road was pot hole pocked in places, it took about half and hour to drive the 11 miles to the trailhead near the Piney River Ranch. If wet, I'd definitely want a 4WD on this road, but when dry a passenger car shouldn't have too much trouble making it all the way. We saw lots of people camped along the road on our way in and I thought we were going to have to squeeze our tents in a hopefully flat spot somewhere next to the road. But we got very lucky as there was one developed campsite open in a free 4-site camping area just 600 feet from the trailhead! It took us 3 hours to reach the Piney Lake trailhead from Colorado Springs. I got a good night's sleep in my tent.

I got up Monday morning at 4:30 am, made coffee, ate breakfast, and packed up my tent in time to start hiking as planned at 5:15. The Upper Piney Trail trailhead is about 20 yards left of the entrance to the private Piney River Ranch recreation area and events center. The trail skirts the north side of Piney Lake and was very easy to follow in the dark with headlamps. The only disadvantage of our early start was that it was too dark to view the Piney River Valley where many hikers have seen moose. The first mile was nearly flat and we only climbed 1000' in the first 3.5 miles which took us 90 minutes. Then we paid the price of admission climbing over 4000' in the next 2.5 miles.

At about 3.28 miles from the trailhead we hiked past two turnoffs leading north away from the Upper Piney Trail. After passing some campers just rising and checking my GPS, we backtracked a short distance and turned up the second turnoff which was not marked by cairns. From that point on the trail climbed steadily through the trees on the north side of the creek flowing down from basin below Kneeknocker Pass. We lost the trail briefly in the wet marshy area between 10,200' and 10,600'. At 7:45 am, we passed the last of the trees and entered the beautiful alpine meadow below Kneeknocker Pass. After hiking through the meadow, we began the steep climb to Kneeknocker Pass on a surprisingly good trail up the left side of the talus-filled gully. We reached Kneeknocker Pass at 8:30 am after 3 hours and 15 minutes of climbing. From the pass we could clearly see Piney Lake to the southwest and Mount Powell's summit to the north.

The crux of the route was descending from Kneeknocker Pass to Powell's south face. There is often a large snow field on the east side of the pass well into summer which complicates this descent. We had left our ice axes in the Jeep and made the right decision this day. There was no snow on the route. While steep and a little exposed at the start, the crux was no worse than class 2 for us. We descended about 180 feet on dirt and then boulders before starting up Powell's initially grassy but moderately steep south slope. The final push up Powell's south slope took longer than expected. About half way up the grass gave way to fairly stable talus and boulders. The view of Peak C's towering north side from this point was spectacular. Bill and I took slightly different routes to the summit, his more east of mine, but both routes worked fine. We reached Powell's large summit at 9:43 am, 4 hours and 26 minutes after starting out. The summit provided spectacular views of the rugged Gore peaks, most to the southeast. Piney lake was just visible to the southwest and we could see many of the Vail and Beavercreek ski slopes to the south. Bill and I were almost certainly the only people to climb to Powell's summit that day and perhaps all weekend. It seemed like we had the whole Gore Range to ourselves. The weather was holding out nicely and we enjoyed the summit for 23 minutes before starting back down.

Before heading back to Kneeknocker Pass, we climbed down the summit mount and hiked west to Point 13,448 on the Summit County-Eagle County line. From there we did a little scree surfing down the center of the gully between Powell and Point 13,448 until we reached the grass. As we were climbing back up to Kneeknocker Pass, we passed close by a big mountain goat headed down. After descending from the pass, we stopped for a short lunch break at the start of the trees. On the way down to the Piney River, we passed a few cascading waterfalls and lost the trial briefly one more time. We joined the Upper Piney Trail at a junction about 500' southwest of the junction we had used earlier that day. This junction was marked by a cairn which we had missed that morning. We passed and talked with several hikers on the way back. There were a lot of Piney River Ranch guests having fun on Piney Lake. From the lake, I enjoyed the clear view of Kneeknocker Pass and Mount Powell. I returned to our campsite at 1:39 pm after 8 hours and 23 minutes of hiking. My new hiking boots passed their second big test with flying colors comfortably handling 11.9 miles on and off trail with a total of 6000' of climbing (according to my GPS).

On the drive back home, Bill and I debated whether to take the back way home over Hoosier Pass or risk slow holiday weekend traffic on I-70. The traffic signs were reporting a 45 minute delay heading east and that turned out to be pretty accurate. We should have taken the back way! Despite the painfully slow traffic west of Denver, we made it home in time for dinner. I really enjoyed this climb and look forward to returning to the Gore Range for some scrambles and perhaps a snow climb of Peak C.

Mount Powell Route

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Thank you!
09/27/2013 15:09
Your report was helpful for us last Saturday.
We also missed the turn off and had to back-track.
GPS clocked 12 mi and 5700 ft elev gain total.
Great peak! Superb views.
We counted 13 others total on the mountain that day.
Surprised me a bit. Guess the Gores are becoming more popular?
Thanks for the informative and helpful TR.


You're welcome
09/27/2013 18:53
Glad my TR was of use. I was suprised we saw no one else climbing Powell on Labor Day.


Great TR
11/24/2020 13:49
Very detailed description of the route, hope to use this to guide my trip when I go. Sounds like a great hike!

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