Peak(s):  Flora, Mt  -  13,146 feet
Date Posted:  11/25/2019
Date Climbed:   11/23/2019
Author:  WildWanderer
 Following the Road  

Colorado Mines Peak – 12,493 & Mt Flora – 13,146

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RT Length: 7.75 miles

Elevation Gain: 2334’

The weather always wins. The day before this hike instead of getting 1-3” of snow we got more like 8” and I’d spent quite a bit of time shoveling my driveway. This extra snow occurred all over the state and the peak I’d intended to climb now wouldn’t have a reachable trailhead. So I did the easy thing and just switched my plans to hike a peak with a 2WD trailhead. Admittingly, I didn’t do much research and just left the house with a topo map and a vague idea of where I was headed. Luckily this is one of those peaks you can do that with.

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I’d never been to Berthoud Pass before and was surprised at how large the parking lot was. It was 12* when I arrived around 5am and I decided to put on all my gear while sitting in my truck. Then I waited for a little bit of light before heading out. It had snowed here quite a bit yesterday as well and there were several feet of fresh, sugary powder on the ground. Since there were no tracks I wasn’t sure where the road/trail was so I just headed up the mountain (dotted line). This was more difficult than I‘d expected, as I kept sinking up to my waist in the snow. Snowshoes weren’t helping. Eventually I made my way to a road (solid line) and realized where it went all the way down to the parking lot (whoops!) and took it all the way up to Colorado Mines Peak. The road is located at the south end of the parking lot and without snow should be easy to find. In the afternoon there were several tracks made to the road by others who’d known what they were doing.

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The road was easy to follow because there were poles placed every 50 feet or so along the trail. I was postholing here as well, and my legs were getting quite a workout.

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As soon as I was out of the trees the wind picked up and never stopped. It wasn’t more than 20mph, but it just wouldn’t let up.

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There wasn’t much route finding on this part of the trek, as the road was easy to follow all the way to the top of Colorado Mines Peak. At the top there were radio towers and buildings, etc.

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I wasn’t sure where the summit was, so I just walked all around, taking pictures of the various structures. They’re larger than they look.

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It was windy and cold and I didn’t feel like setting up my camera so I just got a quick selfie

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I didn’t see an established trail from the top of Colorado Mines Peak to Mt Flora, but I could see a trail heading up the ridge of Mt Flora so I headed northeast down the side of Colorado Mines Peak towards the saddle

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The wind was still blowing, forming a cornice along the ridge

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The trail from the saddle up was easy to see. Snowshoes weren’t needed here, but due to the wind and cold temperatures I didn’t want to take off my gloves to take off my snowshoes, so I left them on.

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Did I mention the wind? At about this time it was getting really annoying. I kept thinking every time I went around a corner or over a hill that the wind would die down, but it didn’t seem to matter which side of the mountain I was on: I was getting pounded by the wind (and ice)

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This was all very frustrating because this was a relatively easy hike, yet I was starting to get a headache from the constant wind

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After winding around the mountain for what seemed like a long while I could see the last bit to the summit. Here the sastrugi was beautiful and in most places solid, making it easy to cross

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There were several large cairns indicating the path to the summit

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The summit was large and relatively flat, with cairns, signs, and windbreaks full of snow

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I’m not sure what time I summited, but it still felt like early morning.

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It was still early in the day when I summited and I wasn’t tired at all, yet I was starting to feel nauseous. This wind was really getting to me. My balaclava had frozen to my face and I was worried I was getting frostnip on my nose (I was). I walked around the summit and looked at some of the other peaks I’d wanted to hike today

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This should have been such an easy hike (and it was) but I decided here not to continue on. Yes, I’d wanted to summit a few other peaks today, but the forecast called for increased winds in the afternoon and I’d already had enough. This wind was making the morning miserable. Looking ahead at an added 6 miles of wind sounded like torture, and that’s not why I hike. I told myself I’d come back and do this hike again when the conditions were better (less wind). So I turned and headed back towards Colorado Mines Peak

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As the wind increased and I became ever more nauseous I celebrated my decision to head back and enjoyed the views

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Instead of going back up and over Colorado Mines Peak I decided to follow the trail that went around the mountain. Until the trail was obscured by snow and I couldn’t follow it anymore. Then I just made my way around the mountain until I found the road again.

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The snow here was thicker and I was glad I’d kept on my snowshoes

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Here’s a look back at my tracks to the road

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Once on the road again I noticed all of the tracks I’d made this morning were gone

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Here the wind let up and I took a minute to take some ibuprofen. Almost immediately I began to feel better. I could see the parking lot was full of vehicles and if I had skis I’d just slide my way down there. The snow was all powder and the skiers seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

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About halfway down the mountain I came across plenty of new tracks and two trenches on either side of the road. Needless to say, hiking down with a trench is a lot easier than trenching on the way up. I was thankful for everyone who came after me and made a solid trench.

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I was also thankful to be out of the wind. The trees were lined with fresh snow and made for a beautiful trek out.

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I made it back to my truck around 11am and was surprised to find people tailgating in the parking lot. I guess that’s a skiing thing? The parking lot was buzzing with activity, too many vehicles, people and pets, and I had to be careful not to run anyone over in the parking lot on my way out. I looked at my nose in the mirror. Yep, I’d definitely gotten a little bit of frostnip. I wish I could find a way to keep my balaclava from freezing? Hmmmm. Maybe I just need to try a different brand.

I started this hike around 6am and finished just before 11am, making this a 7.75 mile hike with 2334’ in elevation gain in 5 hours. I was a little disappointed I hadn’t done more today, but felt trenching in powder had given me a good workout just the same. Any day above treeline is a win. I’ll be back to complete this hike soon.

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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
TomPierce
Frostnip
11/25/2019 15:54
A couple of ideas...
1) Dermatone: Buy a tin (REI, Amazon, etc), I've had good luck putting it on in the parking lot around the eyes, and esp the tip of the nose. It's billed as a frostbite preventive cream. Not so sure about that, but IMO it does work to prevent frostnip. SPF 23 too. But of course if you blow/wipe your nose it'll come off. Just don't leave it in a hot car, it melts in high temps.

2) Maybe change balaclavas? I've found those made by OR fit my face well, the model I currently use is called the Sonic, but it had a different name when I bought it a dozen years ago. Anyway, it allows exhalations without fogging glasses or goggles, covers the tip of the nose pretty well. Maybe worth experimenting?

-Tom


Tornadoman


Wind
11/25/2019 16:48
Tried to get Bancroft and Parry from the east that day and the wind really kicked up above 12k. Eventually called it as those summits were just a constant whirl of blowing snow. It wouldn't have improved any if you kept going along that ridge Ended up in a ground blizzard when we got back to the glacier...


shelly+

totally irrelevant.... still...
11/25/2019 18:10
that's a lovely woolly hat you have.... the pattern is nifty. i recall in the past you saying you hand knit hats... is it one of those??


supranihilest

When you go back
11/27/2019 09:12
The full traverse to James Peak is pretty awesome, especially the final scramble up James. When you go back for the remaining peaks give the whole thing a go, it's super fun. Nice job in less than ideal conditions!


WildWanderer

Thanks!
11/27/2019 09:27
TomPierce: Thank you for the suggestions! I'm really interested in a new balaclava, and will try the one you mentioned. Unfortunately my nose runs too much while hiking to make a cream useful :/
Tornadoman: The wind was indded not fun that day. Glad you made it back safely!
shelly+: yes, I knit hats for School in the Woods, a school for 4th graders in my area that focuses on outdoor education. The kids are outdoors no matter the weather, and I like to make sure they all get a hat to help stay warm. Since they're 4th graders they still think these types of hats are cool I make a couple hundred of them a year and they get a kick out of seeing me wear one of theirs
supranihilest: I definitely want to do the full traverse! Sounds like fun!



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