Hagerman Peak - 13,841 feet
Hagerman Peak - 13,841 feet
|Hagerman peak via Roach 20.A1V high route|
For anyone looking about information regarding Gerry Roach's 20.A1V route listed in his book, Colorado Thirteeners this trip report contains beta about that approach.
First off, I'd like to climb on a little soap box for a moment and reach out to anyone driving 4x4 roads in Colorado, especially to the climbing community driving these 4x4 trails. With the increase in traffic most peaks are seeing, I've seen a huge increase in people on these 4x4 roads, which are quickly eroding and becoming more difficult and also attracting more dedicated off-road enthusiasts. This results in vehicles and people of different capabilities being on the roads at the same time and needing to coexist peacefully. Lately, I've been having more run-ins with road users lacking basic courtesy. In Colorado, I've heard the adage that "uphill traffic has the right of way" repeated endlessly. This isn't entirely accurate, and I think this community could help spread the word about how the law is actually worded. Colorado Revised Statutes Title 42: Vehicles and Traffic § 42-4-711. Driving on mountain highways states:
"On narrow mountain highways with turnouts having a grade of six percent or more, ascending vehicles shall have the right-of-way over descending vehicles, except where it is more practicable for the ascending vehicle to return to a turnout."
That last portion is key: "except where it is more practicable for the ascending vehicle to return to a turnout." I've been placed in several dangerous situations because people will keep driving right at me uphill without stopping, even if they have an obvious pullout only feet away. I assume they're doing so because they believe they have the ironclad right of way. That is not true!! If you're forcing the downhill traveling vehicle to reverse up dangerous terrain, or there is no nearby pullout available for them, the uphill-traveling traffic still has some obligation to try to pull over as well. This happened twice on my trip up & down the Lost Trail Creek road. The last guy was driving a well-equipped blue Jeep Renegade and all he had to do was back down 30 feet on a level road to a wide pullout, but he refused to even look, insisting I had to back up no matter what, which forced me on the side of one of the erosion control berms with a tire hanging over into the creek and barely enough room for him to safely pass.
A couple quick notes about the "upper" Lost Trail Creek road into Lead King Basin:
The "High Route" Approach to Geneva Lake
I woke up in the morning and found I was coming down with a decent cold, so I half-heartedly decided that since I'd spent the effort to drive up there, I might as well not let the day be a complete waste. I set out to explore Roach's old variation to Geneva Lake and see if it would work to bring my wife back that way on a later trip to climb Snowmass. I'd spent a while before the trip looking at Google Earth and could see at least some remnants of an old trail on satellite view. The trail looked strong enough that if I could find it, I was reasonably sure it would go all the way to the lake. The trick would be finding it. It doesn't really become visible until it crosses some of the grassy slopes higher up on Meadow mountain above some prominent gray gullies (approximately 39.086831, -107.095950). I knew if I missed the trail, the traverse over would be problematic since the terrain becomes incredibly steep in places. Luckily, the trail is there and it goes pretty well once you're on it. Using satellite view on Google Earth, I traced the trail and made a map in CalTopo. (I don't hike with a GPS, so any coordinates given are pulled from Google and weren't collected on location).
To start Roach's high route variation to Geneva lake, I parked at a large pullout just below 10,800' shortly after the "trailhead" for the Silver Creek Pass (approximate coordinates of 39.078526, -107.102475). There' enough room for 3-4 vehicles to park here, or a small party to camp. The road Roach mentions to start the hike on is marked as private and I didn't see any other boundary markings, so I headed northeast directly up the forested slope aiming for a clearing starting around 11,000' (approximate coordinates: 39.079253, -107.100760; if anyone has info about where the property boundary is here please let me know so I can revise the map and update this report). Once out of the forrest, the foliage up here was thick and very tall! In September, the plants were waist to chest high and it made the next 0.75 of a mile slower going that I would have liked.
From the clearing, I contoured over as best I could without gaining unneeded elevation into the next drainage east of Silver Creek coming off of Meadow Mountain above. My goal was to more or less maintain my elevation around 11,000' without getting too high, knowing that I'd need to cross the drainage before finding the trail. I bushwhacked through the large clearing, weaving around a few clumps of trees until I was in the drainage, then spotted something of game trail leading up around one of the clusters of pines on the opposite side of the small creek. I followed this, but it quickly petered out on the grassy slopes above, so I set off NNE up the broad grassy ridge hoping I'd intersect the trail. As I continued gradually up the slope, I noticed what looked like post or dead tree stump above the last pines on the broad, grassy ridge at about 11,200'. I made my way over there and saw it was indeed a human-placed post and found the trail about 10' above. Vundebar! (approximate coordinates: 39.086837, -107.096341).
From the post, the trail more or less stays right around 11,200' as it contours above several prominent gray gullies and crosses the upper portions of two avalanche chutes on the SSE slopes of Meadow Mountain. After about 0.25 mile, the trail passes through some trees, then begins to switchback down about 200' to pass below a small band of cliffs. A few of the switchbacks were easy lose, but it wasn't difficult to guess where the trail was leading, so it was pretty easy to get back on route if I found myself going too far past one of the corners. (I believe there were 10 total switchbacks).
After the switchbacks, the trail crosses the relatively prominent gully below the cliffs and traverses across some very steep terrain around the 10,900' - 11,000' foot level. In several places here the trail was quite narrow with extremely steep slopes dropping away below. I would not want to hike this section if it was wet or snowy and it would be nearly impossible to cross this area of the mountain without the trail. The slopes are covered in small aspens and thick vegetation at an impossible angle and without the trail you'd be grabbing at branches to keep on your feet.
Past this section, the trail briefly heads uphill in a more northerly direction into a small flat area with a few willows. It's easy to lose the trail here, but it you do, you're close to the Geneva Lake trail, which is just a little below in elevation and to the east. The trail intersects the Geneva Lake trail at about 10,960' and is marked with an old primitive post (see photo later on).
Overall, following the trail proved to be a mostly easy task and was definitely faster than wading through the chest-high labyrinth of grass and foliage encountered on the first 0.75 mile. The trail is definitely disappearing and thin in many areas, but with a sharp eye, if you know where it should be, it's not too difficult to keep track of. In some of the more grassy areas I suspect it's only a matter of a few years before it's completely overgrown unless the deer and elk frequent it or it gathers a little more use. Because of the thick vegetation for the first half of the approach and the accumulation of small elevation changes, it's probably less effort to just drive to the main trailhead and start there. This is especially true on the return trip when it would take far less effort to just plod downhill on the Geneva trail instead of traversing the additional distance AND gaining about an extra 300' in elevation on the return. Based on my Google measurements, the high route adds a bit more mileage and elevation than Roach's book indicates. I came up with a round trip mileage of 4.25 miles and around 800' of elevation gain (~500' on the way to the lake; ~300' on the return) vs about 3.5 miles and 1,300' of gain (all on the way up to the lake) for the traditional approach up the Geneva Lake trail. The upper route essentially adds 0.75 miles and saves about 500' at the cost of some slower moving terrain. If hiking this in the morning after a nice dew has settled or after a rain, the first portion of the hike would be miserably wet. The second portion (on the primitive trail), if wet, would be outright dangerous. However, there was lots of wildlife to see up here and if you're up for a bit more of an adventure, or the parking is full at the main trailhead and you're a confident, competent route finder, this route is a viable alternative.
On up to Hagerman....
I still wasn't feeling 100%, but I wasn't feeling outright lousy, so I decided to keep plodding along at a reduced pace for as long as my body would tolerate it. I didn't feel like any more bushwhacking and the area around the lake was covered in a thick coat of frost—making wading off-trail through more foliage downright unappealing—so I opted to follow the Trail Rider pass trail along the northern edge of the lake and around the south ridge of Hagerman to the standard south slopes route instead of trying for one of the couloirs leading up the south ridge or shortcutting the Trail Rider Pass trail by bushwhacking across the creek below the lake and up the forested hill on the other side. There's no sign indicating where the trail for Trail Rider Pass splits off from the trail going further up the valley, but if you follow what looks like the "main" and not any of the side trails to various campsites, it'll lead you there anyway. Crossing the creek would probably involve some wading well into July, but in mid-September is was easy to hop across on a few small rocks. Once across, I bashed through some obligatory frozen willows along the trail and followed the comparatively nice, easy Trail Rider path on up the starting point for the Hagerman south slopes route.
In my research, there seemed to be a LOT of information directed at finding some obscure path through the willows once you leave the Trail Rider Pass path and not getting confused regarding which gully to use on the approach. This is all overkill; it's really pretty simple. At about 11,500' the Trail Rider path leaves the drainage coming off of Hagerman/Snowmass Peak and makes a long switchback almost due south as it climbs steeply uphill. This is obviously not the way to Hagerman, so just leave the trail around the switchback and there's all sorts of room to avoid the willows. If you've come from Geneva Lake, this switchback is a bit past a signed intersection just above 11,400'. (Just before this intersection there's a path branching off into the willows toward Hagerman that has several stones piled up blocking it. Based on a few descriptions, I thought this might be fabled passage through the willows. Do not take it. Just follow the main trail until the switchback). At the switchback, there's a smaller somewhat grassy-looking gully more to your left and the main watercourse/gully that veers more to the right. The one to the left is route outlined here on 14ers.com and seemed more direct, so I went up that. The gully would present a few obstacles if there was water in it, but it was dry this late in the year, so it was pretty easy going on to the grassy bench before the ascending traverse to the rock gully.
There's not too much to say about the route past there. I ran into a couple of guys who indicated one member of their party was climbing in the gully, so I strapped on my helmet and slowly scampered on over that direction. While it looks somewhat cliffy below the couloir, there are ample breaks in the minor cliff bands and they presented no particular difficulty to get up through—just some fun (avoidable) scrambling. Once in the main gully, I found the terrain closer to the east "ridge" to be the most stable, so I more or less just picked my way up the next 1,000' of rubble-fest until I gained the summit ridge.
The ridge definitely has some awe-inspiring drops on the north side looking down into Snowmass Lake, but aside from the exposure on the ridge proper (which can be avoided), it was just a quick, fun scamper up to the summit. I met up with Dan, who was visiting from Houston and chatted with him for a bit before enjoying a nice lunch break solo on the summit. I took a few minutes to admire the ridge over to Snowmass. At one point, in the comfort of my home office, I was seriously considering taking a crack at that traverse with my wife in an effort to save a trip and link both summits. Seeing it in person, I'm reminded how easy it is to underestimate that kind of stuff. The exposure for the first ½ looked far worse in real life than anything online can convey. Combined with the crappy nature of the rock, I stand in admiration of those who have done it. It must take nerves of steel. Mine are apparently made of a softer material.
The way down was uneventful. I passed Dan part way down and we arranged to stay on opposite sides of the couloir to avoid any potential rockfall issues. I needn't have worried anyway. For as loose as the rock was, I marveled at how quietly Dan descended. He may not have been the fastest man I've met, but he was definitely the most light-footed! Not so much as a single pebble seemed to move underfoot and he barely made a single noise the entire 1,000' descent down the couloir. From there it was lots of trail plodding back to the high route intersection.
At that point, I wish I would have just driven back to the trailhead as the mental and physical fatigue were starting to get to me far more than usual. Nonetheless, the route went easily enough and I found myself back at the car a disappointing 9 hours after I'd started. For climbing a peak the week before where I covered nearly 7 miles and over 3K vertical in under 4 hours round trip, I was disappointed to have to slow myself so much due to my cold. But, at least I got another Centennial. Only 12 more left now, which is exactly the same number I had left at the end of last season after climbing three new Centennials this year. Curses, LiDAR!!
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