Peak(s):  Bull Hill A  -  13,761 feet
Atlantic Pk  -  13,841 feet
Date Posted:  11/27/2016
Date Climbed:   11/25/2016
Author:  Tornadoman
 A Thanksgiving Weekend 13er Pair   

In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, my wife and I knew we wanted to get out for some high peaks. Neither of us are much into shopping and with no family in town and a good weather forecast the situation seemed ideal. We went back and forth between what peaks to try, I was interested in the always scenic Sangres but couldn't quite seem to pull the trigger on the slightly longer trip to Westcliffe. Ultimately, we decided to sandwich an overnight stay in Leadville Friday night with peaks both Friday and Saturday, although the final decision on which peaks to attempt didn't happen until the last moment. With at least some snow I decided that peaks that could be easily accessed from paved roads would be ideal.

Day 1: November 25, 2016
Bull Hill- Elevation 13,761 feet
Start Time: 8:37 am
End Time: 3:32 pm

A not too early start from the house, and a little bit of a struggle to find the beginning of the Echo Canyon trail ensured that it would not be an alpine start. There was a wooden address sign marked 12715 on a tree right at the beginning of the road/driveway. If it remains this should be a good reference point to confirm that you are at the right place.


There were maybe 3 inches of snow on the super short road/driveway to the true trailhead, and we opted to take no chances in the low clearance 2wd and parked at a pullout a couple tenths of a mile up route 82 and spend a few extra minutes on our feet. The temperature (after bottoming out at -2 on the drive south of Leadville) was a balmy 10 degrees at the trailhead. The hike up Echo Canyon followed a fairly good trail, I had read that there were one or two cutoffs that would lead toward Casco Peak, so at the couple places that looked like possible junctions I made sure that we headed right which always seemed like the more well traveled trail (there seemed to be cairns at these points anyway). The trail was generally covered with between 1 and 6 inches of unbroken snow up to treeline.

Easy trail through the trees

Visible wildlife was scarce but we saw lots of footprints

As we approached treeline the views continued to open up and eventually we came to this old cabin/mine building. The sun was hot and the wind was light, and we both were overheating. There were plenty of old nails/hooks in the building which made for a great spot to hang a couple jackets and lighten our load for the remainder of the ascent.

La Plata in view

Cabin near treeline

Views opening up.

Above this first cabin the route remained obvious as it followed old mining roads toward the remains of the Golden Fleece mine. Above treeline conditions varied from bare ground to several inches of snow, with a few calf to knee high drifts. Probably enough to slow things down a bit but certainly not worth snowshoes.

Train to nowhere

Golden Fleece mine

The slope above the Golden Fleece mine steepened a bit and was a bit annoying at times, but we kept the spikes in the back.

Remnants of a portable toilet?

Turning left on the ridge and the false summit is visible. I am pretty sure every 13er has some sort of false summit....

Naturally that's a false summit.

The summit views were excellent and showcased a very dry south side of South Elbert/Elbert.

Elbert and South Elbert looked very dry from the south.

More summit views.

Jess relaxing on summit.

Loving the views.

The descent was not noteworthy and other than stopping at the cabin to pick up the remainder of gear, went with no real rest breaks.

Back to the cabin on the descent.

Day 2: November 26, 2016
Atlantic Peak- 13,841 Feet
Start Time: 8:20 am
End Time: 3:09 pm

After a not so alpine alarm of 7 am and a bit of hotel breakfast we headed to the trailhead and geared up for the day ahead, leaving the car around 8:20 am under sunny skies with a very reasonable (by late November standards) temperature of 16 degrees. We carried a bit less gear then on the prior day after overheating, and this ended up being a good decision. The first part of the trail follows a 4 wheel drive road which was nicely packed by lots of ski traffic, and it was an easy mile and change to the summer trailhead.

The gate which marks the summer trailhead

Turning left between the gate and the cabin we broke trail through 6-12 inches of snow. For a brief period of time we seemed to be on some sort of trail, but it was hard to follow and eventually we lost it.

Old cabins just beyond the gate

We ended up too far right under Atlantic's ridge and we had to traverse left across some snow covered rocks to eventually meet the correct route (where we found footprints from other recent climbers).

A bit far right at this point

Heading toward the trees to get back on course

We gained the ridge and simply started heading up over snow and rocks.

Pacific off to the left and the ridge to Atlantic right

Steeper section on ridge

Quite a bit of work left to do

There were footsteps all the way to the summit.

I didn't really look at a lot of information on the route other than Bill's route description (which showed summer conditions). I was a bit surprised by how narrow the ridge appeared, and decided that we would turn around if things became too intense.

A few sections of ridge required a hint of scrambling due to snow

Pacific framed by cornices.

Slightly exposed section.

In places the footprints from the previous climbers formed a nice path. This made routefinding easy and provided a stable trench for traveling. Without the prior steps we probably would not have reached the summit, especially since we forgot our poles in the car.

Following the snow trench.

Snow trench.

Finally the summit is visible not too far ahead!

The summit if finally in view.

The footsteps we were following went beneath an area of deeper wind drifted snow and even a small corniced section prior to the summit. Looking around I couldn't see any better options around the feature and the thought of turning around went into my head. The snow seemed stable though and the footsteps were secure. I told Jess that we needed to pass one at a time under this obstacle just in case and we continued on the summit.

We followed the footsteps under the cornice.

The summit views were great, and we could see several people on the summit of Quandary.

Jess "trailrunner" on summit.

Summit views.

Andrew on summit with Quandary in background.

There was a 2nd high point that looked equally high, so of course I touched it.

Passing back underneath the cornice area was again just a little nervewracking, but after that I was confident that the descent would go smoothly.

Back below the cornice.

Better view of the cornice traverse.

Rugged terrain of the Mayflower Gulch Traverse.

Enjoying the view

Careful traverse

When we approached treeline we stayed on the path made by the other climbers, and this route ended up being a great shortcut following a nice path through the few trees and willows and reaching the road about 1/2 mile below the gate.

Back to near treeline.

Jacque Peak

After a couple days of hiking it felt great to reach the trailhead!

Trailhead at end of the day.

It was a fantastic weekend in the mountains, and I am already thinking about future trips! Hope everyone else enjoyed some time off, and hopefully some time outside over the Thanksgiving weekend!

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

Nice job, guys!
11/28/2016 09:15
Well documented TR, glad you guys were able to enjoy the weekend!
Both areas are worth exploring. Nice pics!


What Sunny1 said.
11/28/2016 09:39
Very, very nice, Andrew! Looks like you and Jess had a fantastic time. Better than dealing with the crazies at the mall, eh?


This is how you avoid getting fat over the holiday
11/28/2016 13:22
I'm glad someone got out and wrote a TR for my Monday morning enjoyment.
Nice work!


11/30/2016 10:10
@Nancy- Thanks for the kind words... keep us in mind as winter plans evolve.

@Jay- Shopping isn't really my thing... ok, isn't my thing AT ALL. Being outdoors beats being inside at a mall any day!

@Matt- Glad that the TR helped your Monday. I think I burned enough calories to make up for all the food I ate while watching football Sunday.


Nice Work!
12/09/2016 12:04
Great Report, Andrew! I'm glad to see you getting out there and getting some peaks.Looks like it was an incredible day!

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