RT Length: 11.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2762’
My flight actually made it in on time and I drove from DIA to the Mosquito Creek trailhead starting at around 11pm. I70 was closed for rock mitigation so I used 285 instead (and passed fire trucks rescuing drivers from vehicles that had slid off the road). I was a bit worried about the conditions of the roads since it’d snowed yesterday, but I had no trouble making it to Alma. From there the 2WD dirt road was icy but drivable.
I saw signs indicating Mosquito Pass was open, but I was headed to the Mosquito Creek Trailhead. I turned off the 2WD road onto the 4WD road and drove up about 20 yards before deciding to turn my truck back around and just park at the junction. I didn’t feel comfortable driving my truck through the snow on the road, and I knew it would most likely just get worse as the day warmed up. So I parked my truck and since it was only 1:30am I decided to try and get some rest before starting the hike.
I set up my sleeping bag(s) in the cab, ate a few pieces of turkey jerky I’d made with Thanksgiving leftovers from last week, downed a few shots of whiskey and I went to sleep. My alarm was set for 5:30am, and although it was 12 degrees outside and the wind was howling I was warm inside my sleeping bag inside the cab of my truck. When the alarm rang at 5:30am and it hadn’t even begun to turn light and that wind sounded less than fun I made the decision to re-set my alarm for 6am and got in another half hour of sleep before starting the trail at 6:15am.
I was immediately glad I’d decided to park where I had. Just following the road the conditions ranged from bare dirt to 6 inches of ice to 4 feet of snow. There were quite a few drifts covering the road I wouldn’t have felt comfortable driving my truck through. There was a constant wind coming through the lower basin, changing the drifts as it went.
I wore my microspikes from the time I left my truck until I made it back, but didn’t need snowshoes until I reached the London Mill.
After the London Mill the snow picked up on the 4WD road and I was postholing up to my knees, even with my snowshoes on. It was slow going and very tiring. Here’s a look at the rest of the route
I followed road 656 into the upper basin.
There wasn’t a ton of snow, but there was enough to completely cover the road in areas.
Once I was in the upper basin the wind stopped but the snow levels were still uneven. I made my way towards the aerial cable. I could see what was left of it littering the mountain even from hundreds of yards away. Here the road stopped.
I turned left and headed west
My goal was to gain the ridge. It was a straightforward snowshoe with no large rocks/obstacles to overcome.
It’s steeper than it looks, but I didn’t need to put the risers up on my snowshoes.
Once on the ridge the wind picked up again, but it wasn’t giving me a headache like I’d had on Mt Flora.
Side note: for those of you who remember the curious headache/nausea that caused me to turn back after summiting Mt Flora instead of hiking the ridge, I found out what happened (and no, it hadn’t been the wind). Before hiking Flora I’d woken up in the middle of the night and needed a quick drink, so I went to the fridge and half dazed with my eyes squinted closed to block out the fridge light found some iced tea in the back and chugged it straight from the container. It had tasted awful, but I hadn’t thought much of it. I travel to China for work and bring home loose leaf tea, which my kids love to make. Sometimes it has a curious taste/texture. The next day I’d had a terrible headache accompanied with nausea while hiking above treeline and attributed it to the constant wind. Well, a few days later I was cleaning out my fridge and when I found the tea in the back of the fridge I noticed what I’d thought had been leaves had actually been mold: Big clumps of mold floating in the tea and covering the sides of the container. Thinking of how I’d swallowed a good cup or more of that stuff made me nauseous all over again, and I felt lucky a headache was all that had happened. The container was beyond cleaning so I threw it away. Needless to say, I will be looking much closer at my late night drinks in the future.
I followed the ridge north. There were a few cornices forming on the ridge making snowshoes helpful and just enough rocks to slow me down.
Towards the top the wind really picked up and you could actually see the cold. I kept on my snowshoes even though they were overkill. I just didn’t want to take them off to put them on again in the cold and wind.
As I got closer to the top I noticed a plaque to the left of the summit and went to get a closer view
The actual summit was just to the right (east) of the plaque
I summited at 10:20am
I hadn’t seen my daughter all week because I’d been in Florida for work, so I decided to just head back the way I’d come instead of heading over to hike Treasurevault, Mosquito, etc. It was my goal to be back home when she got home from school, so I turned around and headed back down the ridge
I followed my tracks back down the ridge
Back through the basin and to the 4WD road.
Most of my tracks were gone in the upper basin, but once I made it back to the road they were easy to follow. I did my best to make a trench, but it could use a few more people on the route.
I was once again glad I’d decided not to drive the road up.
I started this hike at 6:15am and finished at 1:15pm, making this an 11.2 mile hike with 2762’ of elevation gain in 7 hours. I didn’t see another person hiking all day.
I made it home in just enough time to take a shower before my daughter came home from school. She was a little sheepish when she walked in; the kitchen was a mess with dishes in the sink and on the counter and opened packages and mail all over the place. She’d thought she had another few hours to clean up before I arrived. I was just happy to see her. We chatted and cleaned up the kitchen together before making dinner and heading to the ice rink.