Peak(s):  Casco Pk  -  13,908 feet
Bull Hill A  -  13,761 feet
Silverheels, Mt  -  13,822 feet
Rosalie Pk  -  13,575 feet
Epaulet Mtn  -  13,523 feet
"Epaulie"  -  13,530 feet
Date Posted:  06/25/2016
Date Climbed:   06/14/2016
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Casco - Bull Hill - Silverheels - Rosalie  

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Mt. Evans from Summit Lake


After not climbing any mountains since October, it was time to get off the couch and get back out there. But where to begin? A lot of mountains were still quite snowy, particularly from some heavy spring snowfall, so it seemed best to start with a few easy peaks. My older son (Randy) had two days off in a row, so we settled on an excursion to Rosalie Peak (near Mount Evans), to be followed by Mount Silverheels near Fairplay.

Monday, June 13. After Randy got home from work, we drove north on I-25 and west on I-70 through a fair amount of heavy rain. We arrived at Echo Lake Campground (at the start of the Mount Evans Road) a few minutes after 10 PM, glad that we had a reserved campsite waiting for us. The National Weather Service forecast called for a 50% chance of snow tonight and high winds tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 14. No snow, but NWS correctly called the high winds. We drove up the Mount Evans Road to just below the third switchback past Summit Lake, where the winds threatened to blow away anything not nailed down. This was about the time that we realized bringing balaclavas and ski goggles would have been a good idea. We would just have to deal with the wind. We headed southeast along the ridge over Epaulet Mountain (13,523') and "Epaulie" (13,530') and found surprisingly little snow for mid-June, though there was some ice in various places.

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Mt. Evans from the ridge to Epaulet


The howling wind kept us company as we descended to the Epaulet - Rosalie Peak saddle and continued to the summit of Rosalie Peak (13,575'). We were treated to a strong headwind for much of the return trip to our car.

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Epaulet from near the Epaulet - Rosalie saddle


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Rosalie from near the Epaulet - Rosalie saddle


Although Walt Borneman calls this approach to Rosalie Peak "less than sporting" in his book Colorado's Other Mountains, the round-trip was still about 2000' of elevation gain, plus we were lapping the people sitting on their couches today. Trivia item: Rosalie Peak is named after the wife of the western landscape painter Albert Bierstadt. You may know him as the guy named after the nearby 14er, Mount Bierstadt.

After an early lunch at Summit Lake, we drove through Frisco to Fairplay to climb Mount Silverheels. My dad and I had climbed Silverheels in 1992 via a western approach from near Hoosier Pass, so this time Randy and I decided on an approach from Beaver Creek, south of Mount Silverheels. From Fairplay, we drove north on Beaver Creek Road and... What??!! We found the road blocked by two locked gates at the winter trailhead. We drove back to Fairplay and stopped at the Forest Service office to inquire "What's up with that?" The nice lady told us that the road was closed due to snow at 12,000'. I pointed out that the road's high point is only 11,180' but that failed to impress her. "The road will be open in a week," she said. "Come back then." Randy and I decided to do just that as soon as his work schedule would allow.

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A closer look at Summit Lake


Sunday, June 19. Randy had two days off in a row again, so as soon as his work shift ended at 8:30 PM, we jumped in his 4Runner and headed west through Hartsel to Fairplay. One of us had called the Forest Service office on Saturday to determine if Beaver Creek Road had been opened but failed to take into account that the office was only open Monday - Friday. (I won't name names, but he's writing this trip report.) Randy and I were happy to find both gates open and at about 10:30 chose a nice campsite at Beaver Creek Campground (nothing formal; it's just a pullout).

By the way, the mileages to the Beaver Creek trailhead listed in Gerry & Jennifer Roach's Colorado's Thirteeners book are incorrect. Here are the correct mileages (as measured from the intersection of Fourth Street and Highway 9): Go 0.3 mile NE on Fourth Street and turn left (N) onto Beaver Creek Lane. At mile 2.8, turn right (E) onto Forest Service Road 659. The gates marking the winter TH are at mile 3.1, and Beaver Creek Campground is at mile 5.0. The 2WD trailhead is at mile 5.3. If you have 4WD, turn right (N) onto Forest Service Road 184, cross the creek, and follow it 1.0 mile to the 4WD trailhead.

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Mt. Silverheels is tomorrow's goal. The benchmark was placed on the summit in 1964


Monday, June 20. We slept in due to today's nice weather forecast and our late arrival last night. We finally got moving and found Beaver Creek was about 8" deep but not a problem to cross in Randy's 4Runner. We drove on to the 4WD trailhead, where a now-closed jeep road begins. Interestingly, this old road is shown on the 1970 USGS topo map but not on the supposedly-current caltopo.com. We hiked up the road as it climbed NE and NNE.

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The trail to Mt. Silverheels is about to climb out of the trees


Once we got above timberline, Mount Silverheels looked far away, but the summit is an easy stroll with a couple of ridge points along the way to go over or contour around. Either way works just fine.

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Mt. Silverheels looks far away, but the mileage goes quickly


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Eddie on the trail to Mt. Silverheels


An employee from the Forest Service's Morrison office reached the summit just before us.

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Looking west from the summit of Mt.Silverheels


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The ridge just below the summit of Mt. Silverheels. This is the majority of the snow we went near on Silverheels


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Eddie and Randy on the summit of Mt. Silverheels


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When returning to the trailhead, be sure to turn right where indicated by small logs. If you go straight, who knows where you'll end up?


After spending a half-hour on the summit, we retraced our footsteps to the trailhead, arriving at noon. We drove down the road to just east of the creek crossing, where we stopped to explore a couple of abandoned buildings and an old excavator. We were surprised to find an electrical outlet in one of the buildings.

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Two old buildings just above the creek crossing


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An old excavator


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The excavator's straight-six engine (or what's left of it)


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The interior of one of the buildings, complete with an electrical outlet


After driving back to Fairplay, Randy and I went into tourist mode (minus the Hawaiian shirts) and spent a couple of hours in South Park City, a reconstructed mining town.

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A steam locomotive at South Park City


After a much-needed and well-deserved visit to the local ice cream shop, we drove past Twin Lakes to the Echo Canyon trailhead for tomorrow's objectives: Casco Peak (13,908') and Bull Hill (13,761'), the highest 'hill' in the United States. Gerry & Jennifer Roach's Colorado's Thirteeners book says the turn from Highway 82 is 12.5 miles west of US 24 and is marked with a small sign, while a previous trip report says a building at the turn is identified as Echo Canyon Lodge. Another trip report mentioned a real estate sign at the turn. We saw neither the signs nor Echo Canyon Lodge but found the turn regardless and headed north up the road to its end at an old building's concrete foundation at 10,200'.

The Roaches state that the Echo Canyon Trail starts just west of the foundation, but the trail actually starts at a creek crossing east of and about 25' below the foundation. A signpost at the creek crossing is missing the sign that undoubtedly would have identified it as the Echo Canyon Trailhead. Echo Creek was swollen by snowmelt, but we found a good place to cross the creek on a makeshift log bridge about 100' upstream.

We finished dinner and headed into our tent under a full moon, and a thunderstorm began only five minutes later. It's nice to have a tent that doesn't leak!

Tuesday, June 21. We started up the Echo Canyon Trail at 5:30 AM and in about a mile reached a trail intersection marked with a cairn.

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The pleasant Echo Canyon Trail stays close to Echo Creek


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The cairn marking the right turn to Bull Hill. The Echo Canyon Trail continues straight ahead


A right turn at the cairn heads up to the Last Chance Mine and Golden Fleece Mine directly south of Bull Hill's summit, while going straight continues up Echo Creek toward Casco Peak. Today's forecast called for clear skies in the morning and a 40% chance of rain beginning after 2 PM, which was nice because the ridge between Casco Peak and Bull Hill is two miles long and not a good place to get caught in a storm. While Casco Peak was our primary objective, we decided to climb Bull Hill first so that we'd be off the lengthy ridge sooner. It would also make it harder for us to be slackers and only climb one peak.

We explored an old building at the Last Chance Mine - what a great name - before continuing up the trail to its end near the Golden Fleece Mine.

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An old mine building at the Last Chance Mine. The building is leaning, not the photo (or the photographer)


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An old car at the Last Chance Mine had been stripped of its car body and was used...


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...to power this blower which provided ventilation to the mine


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Golden Fleece Mine ruins


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It's an easy climb up Bull Hill's south ridge from the Golden Fleece Mine


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The ridge to Casco Peak as seen from Bull Hill's south ridge


From the Golden Fleece Mine it's only about mile and 1150 vertical feet to Bull Hill's high point. After looking at the mine ruins, we headed north up the ridge until reaching the summit of Bull Hill at 9:00. Surprisingly, we didn't see anyone on the summit of nearby Mount Elbert. Perhaps the summer hordes will arrive in a week or two.

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Looking south from Bull Hill's summit toward Rinker Peak and La Plata Peak


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Another view from Bull Hill's summit


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The ridge to Casco Peak from Bull Hill's summit


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Eddie on Bull Hill's summit with Mt. Elbert in the background


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Randy on Bull Hill's summit


The ridge to Casco Peak was mostly snow-free, and the snow that was there didn't look like it would be an issue. The weather was still great, so off we headed toward Casco Peak.

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The ridge to Casco Peak from Bull Hill


The Bull Hill - Casco ridge was as long as I'd remembered from doing it in the opposite direction in 1992, but the ridge is no harder than Class 2.

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Looking down at the Echo Creek valley from the Bull Hill - Casco ridge


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Frasco Benchmark and French Mountain from near the Casco - Bull Hill saddle


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The ridge to Casco from near the Casco - Bull Hill saddle


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Casco Peak's summit block


We were glad we'd brought our microspikes, as they made the snow easier to ascend, but it wouldn't have been a showstopper if we didn't have microspikes. Casco Peak's summit block was a fun but easy scramble, and soon we were enjoying lunch and the view of the surrounding mountains from Casco's summit.

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The view from Casco Peak's summit


After lunch we returned to the 12,880' saddle SE of Casco and began descending toward Echo Creek. Unexpectedly, we found a good climber's trail that descended to the NE side of Echo Creek.

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Looking up the Echo Creek valley toward Casco Peak


We followed the trail down the valley and eventually lost it in a maze of willows. The willows thankfully weren't wet, but the ground certainly was soggy/swampy from the snowmelt. Eventually we found ourselves back on the Echo Canyon Trail and engaged the cruise control until we returned to the trailhead. The Echo Canyon Trail is a nice alternative to climbing Casco from the east via South Halfmoon Creek, and we highly recommend it, especially if Bull Hill is on your radar.

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Willows near Echo Creek, shortly before we temporarily lost the trail. This view is down the valley toward the trailhead


After breaking camp, we drove to Boy Scout Camp Alexander near Lake George, where we had dinner with my wife (Judy) and younger son (David), who are both on staff there. An hour later we reached our home, pleased that Randy was now up to 93/100 centennial peaks.



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 Comments or Questions
drewski

Average Snow
06/25/2016 16:13
Thanks for the Report. I was looking to see how much snow there was this fairly average snow year and compare it to 2011. I and my son Climbed Casco on the same date in 2011 there was solid snow from treeline to the summit. He was skiing, so it was good.



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