RT Length: 19 miles
Elevation Gain: 6661’
I feel like I was just here. Well, actually, last week I climbed Cottonwood Peak which is 2 miles away, so it stands to reason.
I got a picture of the shoes on the drive in this time… easy 2WD dirt road to the trailhead.
This time I got to spend the night. I arrived at the trailhead early (around 2pm) after my failed attempt at 13,636.
I was excited to discover I had cell service, and the first thing I did was order a new water bottle (I’d lost mine on my last hike). So, what to do with all this extra time? I really wanted to sleep, but I just…. Couldn’t. It was too hot outside. I know, right? Too hot, in the first week of May? But there you have it, I was roasting in the back of my truck, so I kept the windows open. The view was great. I’d parked near a copse of scrub oak.
I decided to write down some trip notes from the day and text a few people (since I had service). There was a nice breeze outside. I heard a loud buzzing noise, and had a hummingbird fly into my truck and back out again. So cool! Someone drove in with a rather large horse trailer and I thought I may have neighbors for the night, but they lived adjacent to the trailhead and just drove through.
Oh, I should eat. But I wasn’t hungry. I forced myself to eat some tuna and a handful of pistachios. And I had 3 shots of whiskey. There, that should make me tired. But nope, I still couldn’t fall asleep.
So I set up everything for tomorrow and walked around a bit. When I got back to my truck a car was parked in front of mine, and I saw an older woman walking around. I said hi, and that I hadn’t heard her drive up. But that wasn’t her car. She lived across the street and was just checking the trail register. A man had signed it, saying he was headed towards Major Creek and should be back by 5. Well, now I wouldn’t be able to sleep until after 5. He didn’t show up by 5:30, and I decided to was exhausted by that time, so I fell asleep.
I only woke up once during the night, around 10:30pm, to barking. The barking didn’t stop all night, and I assumed it belonged to the lady I’d seen earlier in the day (ok, her dog). My alarm went off and I snoozed it for an hour (the dog was still barking), but eventually I left my warm bed and got ready for the day. I was on the trail by 3am, armed with 2 16oz bottles of water. The dog was still barking.
To expedite things I’d signed the trail register the night before, so today I was able to start hiking right away. The trail starts to the right (southeast) and hugs the mountainside.
Then the trail switchbacks down to Major Creek.
I must admit, this caught me off guard. Not the part about crossing Major Creek, but the part about losing 300’ of elevation to do so. In fact, I got out my map and compass several times to check that I was going the correct way. Unfortunately my compass wasn’t working correctly. It must have been the location, because I could clearly see the town lights to my right yet my compass was telling me I was headed in the wrong direction. In any event, yes, the trail does switchback all the way to Major Creek, and then quickly crosses it twice. I was easily able to rock hop across without getting wet.
The trail winded through brush and chaparral
Before entering Aspen groves
Here’s a look at the route
After a mile of hiking I could no longer hear the dog barking, and I started seeing discarded deer legs on the trail (and hanging in the trees) from hunters last fall. I even saw a dead mouse in the middle of the trail. Oh, how I was regretting binge watching Stranger Things last month! After hiking about 3 miles I heard a loud “Woof!”. I stood still for 3 seconds, trying to figure out if I’d really heard what I’d heard when I heard two more quick barks: “Woof! Woof!”. I thought to myself “What wild animal barks? Coyotes yip and howl and so do wolves”. I concluded it must have been a dog (a large dog) and continued hiking. Weird since I was the only one for miles…
There was one annoying aspect to this hike (besides all the horse poop): So far I wasn’t gaining any elevation. I’d lost 300’ going down to Major Creek, and from then on I kept hiking up and down small hills. I’d think I was gaining in elevation only to lose it again and head back down to the creek.
At 4.8 miles (10100’) I came across measurable snow on the trail, and at 5 miles I crossed a small creek and came to a camp.
It was obviously a horse camp and I figured the guy who lived adjacent to the trailhead spent a lot of time here (in the summer).
The trail had been nice up until this point. A few downed aspens here and there, but nothing major. However, it was obvious not many people used the trail after the camp area.
I just kept heading northeast, and every now and again I’d find the trail. And then the snow began. Around 10,900’ snowshoes became mandatory.
At 11,000’ I turned right (east) and rounded a boulder field. I put some surveyors tape on a tree so I could remember where I exited. I only barely skirted the boulder field, and then continued southeast through some trees and into a meadow.
There was a lot of evidence of elk and moose in the meadow. I think they may bed down here at certain times of the year. At the end of the meadow there were cairns and I turned left (northeast) and followed a much better trail up the mountainside.
At times this trail was covered in several feet of snow, and at times it was bare, but it was always easy to follow. Postholing wasn’t fun, so I put on my snowshoes for a bit, and kept them on until the snow subsided.
Making it to the saddle was easy
From here I chose to do Electric Peak first, mainly because it was the taller of the two ranked peaks, and a little longer of a hike. I turned right (southeast) at the saddle, and followed the saddle towards the peak. This is much easier than it looks.
However, this is not the peak
As with Cottonwood Peak just a few miles away, Electric Peak A has a hidden summit
Luckily it was an easy ridge walk, first starting out with tundra, and then moving to larger rocks (all pretty stable)
I summited at 9:15am
Electric Peak A
There was a summit register. I don’t normally sign these things, but since it was apparent I was the first person to summit since October of last year and it was warm enough for me to take off my gloves, I signed it.
And turned to head back. I was a little worried about where the true summit to Lakes Peak was, considering all the false summits in this area. Originally I’d thought it was the peak to the left of the saddle, but now I was worried it was the peak behind that peak. I decided to get out my altimeter when I made it to the top of the false summit and do the math. Here’s a look at the ridge back
When I made it to just above the saddle I was very pleased to find out the peak before me was indeed Lakes Peak. I headed down to the saddle, and then up the ridge, being careful to stay just to the left of the snow
There was still a lot of snow in the basin to the east, but not much to the west. While hiking down I saw a boulder the size of a microwave break off and roll down the hillside, coming to rest in the basin. It was neat to see the trail it left behind.
The trek up Lakes Peak was full of very loose rock. I felt that at any minute I was going to cause a rockslide, so I placed my footing accordingly. By this time I was quite tired, so it was slow going.
I summited Lakes Peak at 11:10am
There was a summit register here too, but I couldn’t open it so I didn’t sign it. Also, the clouds were moving in quickly and I wanted to get below treeline. I turned to head back down the ridge
When I got to the saddle I stopped to fill one of my water bottles with snow. It was a hot day and I wanted to be prepared in case I needed more water: It was still 7 miles back.
From the saddle, here’s the route back (after you make it to the basin)
The snow at treeline to about 11,000’ was awful: Mushy stuff that I sank in with every step (with snowshoes on) for about 2 miles.
I made it back to the basin, found the cairn, and headed back over the boulder field, found the yellow surveyors tape I’d left, and headed southwest back down to Major Creek
No, it was not a fun trail to follow, even in the daylight
I passed the horse camp, and an old abandoned cabin at 9780’
The entire way back there were hundreds (thousands?) of dead trees littering the sides of the trail. It looked like an avalanche had come through, or the trees had all been killed off and the wind had blown them over. Speaking of wind! It didn’t stop! It kept getting stronger and stronger, and I feared one of the dead trees would fall over on me as I was hiking. I heard lots of creaking and swaying.
I’d been worried about the last 300’ of elevation gain climb from Major Creek up to the trailhead, but it ended up being easier than I’d thought, mostly because of the great cloud cover and wind cooling things off. I just took it slow and kept putting one foot in front of the other. The cactus blossoms were nice.
I made it back to the trailhead at 3:45pm, making this a 19 mile hike with 6661’ of elevation gain in 12 hours, 45 minutes.
OK, I’ll do my whining here: I bought a new pair of winter climbing boots last week and wore them for the first time yesterday. I didn’t think much of it, and my feet did well. Today however, not so much: my feet did fine on the way up, but on the way back I was limping. The new boots were just too tight around my shins and when I took off my shoes at my truck noticed large bruises (3 inches in diameter) and blisters on my ankles both inside and outside. I really, really like these shoes, as they kept my feet warm, but I’m worried they’re going to take a lot of breaking in. Tonight I’m going to put them by the fire and hit them with a hammer for a while, trying to loosen them up, after soaking my feet in a salt bath.