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Getting to the Waldorf Mine:
Whether is was the early morning, traffic up Guanella Pass, or the construction, I missed the turn off to FS 248. As I was sitting at the 2nd light, I wondered if I had just passed it. After going farther up, I found out I did. So I turned around and had to go through the 2nd construction zone again.
The first section of the 4WD road is rough, but passable to stock 4WD vehicles. A couple of the switchbacks were a bit tight for my long wheelbase truck, so I had to do a couple 3 point turns. Once past the switchbacks, the road while narrow in places, is rather smooth.
The only other difficulty along the road, are all the secondary roads in the area. The Roach 13er book give a description of the turns, but I found using the "road most traveled" and "which road is bigger and smoother" rules to be enough to get past the intersections. There are a few road signs to help in a few areas as well.
Once arriving at the Waldorf Mine, I quickly get ready and start heading up what looks like a small trail that headed towards the drainage between Edwards and McClellan. It was probably just an old mining irrigation system, but it sufficed. After a short distance I decide that I'd rather go up the ridge to McClellan where the mining roads are, to avoid excessive willows in my path. So I turn around and contour up to where the roads are. On this route you get rewarded with a view of the Santiago Mine.
Santiago Mine with McClellan behind:
The ridge is steep, but makes short work of the elevation gain. Roughly half way up, the wind was so strong, it took off my hat and sent it rolling down the slope. I quickly drop my pack and camera and race after it. I catch up to it before it makes it to the first switchback at the bottom of the ridge, but just barely. Since I'd rather not do that again, I put the hat away, until the wind is less.
View after retrieving my hat. Wilcox, Squaretop, Argentine (l->r):
Wildflowers abound on the ridge:
I didn't spend much time on the summit of McClellan, as I had a long day planned, and it is an unofficial 13er. But the views are worth it. I could see the very busy Guanella Pass glinting in the sun, and all the travelers on Stevens Gulch Rd. Glad I wasn't there!
View of Grays&Torreys from McClellan:
I descend off of McClellan to see a couple and their dog making their way up Edwards. After not seeing another vehicle, I was a bit surprised to see another group this early. There are a couple snow fields on the traverse over to Edwards, but all are easily avoided.
Spent a short time on the summit of Edwards, enjoying the views and taking a few photos.
View over to McClellan:
Taking advantage of someone to take my photo:
The route to come:
Made fairly quick time over to Argentine Pass, contouring around some of the high points. A fairly decent trail with cairns exists between Edwards and the Pass. Afterwards it would fizzle out to nothing, leaving me to find my way (easily enough).
View of Argentine Pass, and the ridge to Argentine:
On the way up the ridge, looking back at Grays&Torreys with Horseshoe Basin:
Some wildflowers along the way:
Between the largest bump on the ridge and Argentine, there is a small snowfield that I decided to cross, since I didn't want to loose elevation. It was pretty easy in the warm sun.
On Argentine Peak I take some time to refuel and take a couple photos.
Evans, the Sawtooth and Bierstadt, with its perpetual overhanging cloud:
Since Bierstadt seemed to have a cloud over it all day, sometimes building, other times going away. I decided to make my way over to Wilcox before the gloomy cloud got any more threatening. To the west, there was barely a cloud in the sky. At least this ridge route allowed for ditching off of it at every saddle, and most other places. So if something built up quickly, I had a plan B.
Argentine still has some snow on the east ridge, so I had to go all the way over to the southern aspect of the ridge to Wilcox to find a mostly snow free route. Probably by next week, this won't be much of an issue anymore.
The power lines on the Argentine - Wilcox pass area hummed in the wind as I passed by them.
View of Wilcox from the pass:
Pausing to admire the flowers
Nearing the summit to Wilcox, looking back at Argentine Peak and the snow along the ridge:
Ever since I started up the ridge to Argentine, there was a constant stream of vehicles coming up the basin and parking on Argentine Pass. At one time, I counted at least 20 vehicles that I could see on the surrounding roads.
4WD traffic on way to pass:
Once on Mt Wilcox, I take a nice break, knowing that I can make it around the loop without weather issues. Especially as I have no interest in adding on Otter Mtn, a 12er. It barely looks like a summit, just another rounded bump on the horizon.
View of Edwards, Grays & Torreys:
Evans and Bierstadt:
A startled Ptarmigan:
Evans and Bierstadt through the bliss of wildflowers
From the summit of Wilcox I traverse over to where I remember a stream drainage that will take me most of the way down into the Leavenworth Basin. It is roughly across from where I went up on the other side. Nearing the bottom of the drainage, there is a sea of willows, looking foreboding. Luckily there is a fairly visible trail off to the right that goes into the woods. Looking over towards the mine, I pick out the remains of an old road that crosses the stream. The trail in the woods peters out after awhile, so I just angle to where I should be able to access the road and the best path through the willows.
Upon exiting the woods, I find two abandoned buildings. One which looks like an outhouse with the remains of a building around it. Amusingly, only the outhouse is still intact. Just below this, I find the jawbone plus teeth shown/mentioned in another TR.
Some flowers in the valley:
The "road" across the stream was really marshy and surrounded by giant willows. In one place there was a large pool/mud pit that I had to circumvent by swimming through the neighboring willows. Not pleasant. Especially as this was the time that one of the off-roaders started shooting, up by the Santiago Mine. The sound reverberated around the basin. Time to exit these willows!
After the willow bashing the road is marked by flowers:
With all the rain and run-off, the stream was gushing. I started to willow-whack upstream a bit to find a better crossing, but got tired of it quickly. Instead I decided that since I was so close to my truck, and the end of the day, I would just run across the stream. Yeah, my socks got wet, which then traveled down into my boot, but I didn't care at this point.
Here's a map of the loop:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
I‘m surprised you didn‘t add the illustrious Otter to the loop. Congrats on a fine loop that I really enjoyed when I did it. Doesn‘t it feel great to be away from the 14er crowds on these ”lowly” 13ers?
I love the Waldorf area. It can be loud and busy, but it was one of the first areas I explored when I moved here nearly 10 years ago - my first taste of big mountains. It was easy to get to by vehicle and was gorgeous (ignoring the powerlines). It wasn‘t until I climbed Mt Edwards in June that I realized the real beauty up there is found by boot. Great flower photos. I was up there a couple weeks ago and was fortunate to see great flowers, a Ptarmigan up close, and many grazing deer. Thanks for the report.
I used your TR to hike this yesterday. I was intent on getting the whole loop but had to bail down the Argentine-Wilcox saddle due to the that infamous Bierstadt weather coming straight at me. Once in the basin, the lightning started so I was glad I saved Wilcox for another day. I got back to the car in time for rain, graupel and very cool finger-like clouds coming down through the crags near Santiago Mine. The flowers are gorgeous now-just stunning! Thanks for posting this~
Man, this reminds me so much of being up there. It really is a great place once you leave the Jeep roads and mine.
Sweet pictures too!
Gonna link this to the page over on Summitpost!
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