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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was windy and cold and I didn’t feel like setting up my camera so I just got a quick selfie
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
The wind was still blowing, forming a cornice along the ridge
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.
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)
This was all very frustrating because this was a relatively easy hike, yet I was starting to get a headache from the constant wind
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
There were several large cairns indicating the path to the summit
The summit was large and relatively flat, with cairns, signs, and windbreaks full of snow
I’m not sure what time I summited, but it still felt like early morning.
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
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
As the wind increased and I became ever more nauseous I celebrated my decision to head back and enjoyed the views
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.
The snow here was thicker and I was glad I’d kept on my snowshoes
Here’s a look back at my tracks to the road
Once on the road again I noticed all of the tracks I’d made this morning were gone
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.
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.
I was also thankful to be out of the wind. The trees were lined with fresh snow and made for a beautiful trek out.
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.
2 thoughts on “Colorado Mines Peak – 12,493 & Mt Flora – 13,129”
Laura,I’m so thankful forYour instructions in mountaineering and survival techniques in safety.You are simply amazing as a soloist in the field of summiting the 14ers and now capturing all the 13ers and all that stands in Your way of being the one and only to accomplish this feat solo. I love You for who You are and the many accomplishments that You are entitled to.I don’t care if others know that You are Loved and prayed for daily. Hoping God hears my prayers for You and Your family. There is so much to say of the many summits You have reached and yet I cannot find the words to express and un-seen Love for what You do. Love ya Lady Laura and hope others do also.I really mean that.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever found a single person who didn’t get windblown on top of Flora. It must just always be windy up there.