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mileage: 23.41 (pack in/out 7.97, peak from camp 7.47)
elevation gain: 7098' (pack out -2145 +774, peak from camp 4179')
trailhead: Cross Creek
With another monsoon lull in the beginning of the week, I had to come up with a 13er plan. Last week I worked on breaking in my new-old boots on some 14er grid slots. New-old, because I bought them back in 2013, when I knew my old Vasques were going to die soon. But with the broken leg(s), I didn't want to put my swollen/cranky ankle into these stiff boots, so I started using other lighter boots with my tender ankle. Now it was time to get back to these boots. With my 13er list dwindling, I figured it was time to tackle a near by backpack and get into that mode of travel. Sure, some have been day tripping Jackson from Beaver Creek, but I didn't think my feet in new boots would even make it. So an overnight was called for. So I decided that with similar mileage and elevation gains, the Cross Creek approach would at least allow for a sheltered camp below the ridge.
I got to the trailhead at the ripe ol time of 10am, and started up the trail an hour later in the heat of the day. A few groups started off before me, but I soon caught and passed them, and after the 1.5mi overlook, I never saw another person again, except briefly on the summit of Jackson. The trail for that first section is really great, but soon as the easy hikers stop, the trail becomes a lot more over grown and trickier to follow. Thankfully there are some cairns when the trail becomes really sparse. Overall I made great time on the trail, but there were a lot of ups and downs. Those downs would turn into ups on the pack out, and hurt quite a bit!
The farther out on the trail I got, the smaller and fainter it got. 14ers worry about LNT. On these type of forgotten trails, if we don't leave a trace, it seems like the forrest and meadows will reclaim the trails completely!
I went as far on the trail as the second bridge crossing of Cross Creek. I touched the railing of the bridge and it was barely still attached. I didn't want to tempt fate by trying to cross on one log, when the other had snapped in half previously. So I made camp back where the "climbers trail" for Jackson started up the steep slope. The mosquito's were pretty bad still, so after eating my dinner under head net, I finished the evening reading some Dumas in my bivy tent.
I started my trek up the steep slope by the mini stream as soon as it was light enough to navigate. The first 1K pitch is steep but doable. Farther to the left is more cliffy and even though there is a tempting grassy slope you can see from afar, the base of that looks horrific. Thankfully there is a game/climber trail that contours into the basin below the peaks. I was quite happy to find that trail after that steep morning workout! Made for some faster travel after the slow ascent.
Once into the upper basin, it was mostly navigating by GPS, since you are still in a dense forrest. I didn't want to gain too much too fast, only to loose that elevation. Sometimes contouring next to the stream worked well, other times it's full of deadfall. So it was back to a slower pace, as the navigation is less obvious, despite a cairn or two along the way. I was following game trails where applicable, but typically it was just a forrest bushwack. Sounds of the stream that drains the peaks are always with you and sometimes reach a cacophony that require a bit of an inspection and diversion from the uphill trek.
It was really nice to finally break out of the trees and see the peaks for the day, after all that slow moving travel! I ended up hugging the right side of the valley, for better or worse, instead of crossing the stream where I did on the way out. This lead to some class 3/4 giant boulders to navigate. McMansion sized boulders.
Beyond the boulder garden, I then had to stay hard right to get up next to the slab waterfalls that dominate the access to Jackson's north slopes.
Once above the latest section of waterfalls, the valley turned into a talus fest. Low angle and stable, so travel went back up in speed again.
There's still some snow on the north side, but it was all easily avoidable. Went within a short distance of the summit too. Would be tough to carry the skis in all that way though!
After what felt like a long time, I finally reached the summit of Jackson. I found a pair of gloves on the summit cairn, and a few minutes later, their owner showed up! I asked if they were the owner of a blue truck with Missouri plates that was parked at the CC TH, but he said he came from Holy Cross... dang, that's a rugged way to get to Jackson!
I had originally planned to descend from the saddle between the 2 peaks, but that steep snow and no ice ax gave me pause. There was a spot without a cornice, but it was steep and the runout was short. A slip could easily end with more broken bones!
It was a short trek over to 13,433 where the other hikers had already left.
Since I didn't feel safe descending the saddle with the snow and no ax, I dropped down the east ridge for a bit, until I saw a slope to contour back to the left again. It appears to cliff out to the right, or at least gets too steep on loose talus for my taste. Going back to the center of the circe worked well, and I even got in some boot skiing on the snow.
As I dropped lower through the drainage, I encountered a few more snow patches, and got a nice butt ski glissade in. Just the perfect angle to control speed with the feet on. Other patches were too low angle to slide, but made for easy travel still.
After the snow crossings, I started to contour my way back to my uphill track. Interesting terrain that requires some unique navigation. Lots of boulder cliffs. Wouldn't want to do this in the dark!
I was able to contour on the far side of the swampy stream to get to an easy crossing to regain my game trail from the way up. Probably would have the best way to go on the way up too, since it looked like there was an easy way to get to Jackson's north side on the far left side of the slabs.
Once back into the forrest, I had to revert to GPS tracking to navigate around all the glacial knobs and features to get back to the traverse trail.
Back at camp, I really didn't want to pack up and trek out, but I knew I wouldn't sleep well and the bugs were still a nightmare. So 8 mile trek here we come. I did let my feet out of my boots while I packed up. So necessary, yet not enough time for them to recover
Made quick work of the first part of the pack out, while I still had light left. Then I got slower as it got darker. My feet were not liking me at all!
I took a couple of nice breaks on the way out to let my feet rest. This was my longest day on my feet mileage wise for the season so far. Glad I didn't day trip!
Soon enough the sun set fully, and I was in the dark for the last couple miles. Instead of using a headlamp, I put a little lantern on the bottom of my camera case, so it would illuminate the trail and keep all the moths out of my face. Worked quite well! The closer I got to the trailhead, the slower I got. All those uphills were killer! Once I got to the truck, and could take off my boots, it was glorious. Though my feet threw a temper tantrum for the next hour, made driving a stick a wee bit more painful than normal!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
What an adventure you had!. The mushrooms described in the pic as "morning shrooms and lots of these around" are hawkwings and edible, so that you know. You can look them up!.
I did go up that way this summer but mosquitoes were eating me and had to turn around... I also had a bear encounter a little bit after the 1st bridge!.
Jon - Also a different route. I was second guessing my route choice with all those bugs!
mtngoatwithstyle - Good to know those aren't poisonous! I should get a kindle book on edible plants so I can look these things up in the field. Maybe next summer you can continue the trek, without the bear encounter!
Thank You kindly for posting trip reports on your selected 13er routes. It helps me and a lot of other summit-inclined folks
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