RT Length: 12.06 miles
Elevation Gain: 5417’
After climbing Mt Emma I drove from Yankee Boy Basin to Telluride and parked at the Eiler Creek Trailhead. There were already a few cars there when I arrived, and two more drove up and parked before the day was out. This was a busy 4th of July weekend!
After today’s hike and lightning scare I decided to check the weather again for tomorrow’s hike. The forecast indicated a slight chance of rain beginning at 10am, with thunder beginning at 1pm. OK, so I needed to be below treeline by 10am to avoid the rain. Thunder/Lightning shouldn’t be a problem. I set my alarm for 3:30am. As I was going over topo maps for tomorrow’s hike my friends from yesterday drove by. I waved, they stopped, and we talked for a bit about our days adventures under a nice rainbow.
They had tents to set up and I needed to get to bed early so we said our goodbyes, I ate the rest of my sandwich for dinner, and after a glass of Skrewball I went soundly to bed. I was on the trail at 4am. The Eider Creek Trailhead is located at the north end of the parking area, and immediately splits into two trails. Take the trail to the left.
Just after this split is a nice camping spot, no more than a few yards from the parking area
I followed the class 1 Eider Creek Trail, staying right at the first junction
And left at the second to stay on the Eider Creek Trail.
This trail was very easy to follow and well marked with signs.
There was one creek crossing that was easy to rock hop across (and a rather large tree you could traverse if you preferred, but I thought it overkill).
I stayed on the Eider Creek Trail for 3 miles and then left the trail, turned right and headed north through an area filled with downed trees. This was tons of fun to navigate in the dark.
Luckily this area was short, only lasting about 100 yards, before I came to a clearing.
From the clearing I needed to gain the ridge. There are several ways to do this, and both the gully on the left and the gully on the right ‘go’. I took the one on the left, hugging the aspen trees and then ascending via tundra and clumps of bunch grass. This was by far the most difficult part of the hike: the terrain is much steeper than it looks, gaining 1650’ in less than 2 miles. It seemed never-ending.
Once on the ridge I turned left and followed the ridge northwest
From the ridge you can see both Campbell Peak (behind the obstacle) and Telluride Zero Peak
The obstacle took a little bit of maneuvering. Yes, you go right over the top, and this is class 3. I put on my helmet. These are the steps I took:
After ascending this little wall I was greeted with the crux of the route. Here’s how I climbed this point, first going to the right, and then left up the center. I placed some cairns here in key areas
The chimney has a lot of hand/foot holds, but beware: most of them are loose.
Once on top of the chimney I could see Campbell Peak. The rocks were loose but this was class 2 all the way to Campbell Peak
From Campbell Peak it’s an easy ridge hike to Telluride Zero, losing 200’ of elevation and gaining 750’ in just under a mile
This was a simple ridge hike, if a bit chossy. I stayed on the ridge direct for 95% of this part, and only dipped down when obvious to the right.
I summited Tellurize Zero Peak at 8:15am
Telluride Zero Peak:
It was a beautiful morning, so I stayed a little longer than usual on the summit, taking in the views.
Here’s the route back to Campbell Peak
And then down to the class 3 section. To get there, aim for the area that looks like a dropoff. I placed a few cairns here as well.
Here’s how to work your way back down the chimney. Here I threw my trekking pole down so I could use both hands to downclimb.
Once down the chimney I hiked down the little wall and followed the ridge to the gully. There are several gullies here: be sure to take the right one. I remembered the gully I took in because of the large rock outcropping on the other side of some aspen trees.
I was about a quarter of the way down the gully when I heard it: a loud clap of thunder to my right. I turned my head and saw a dark skies where just minutes ago there’d been blue, a flash of lightning, and heard another clap.
Where had that come from? It had been nice and sunny all morning. This storm must have built up on the other side of the ridge as I’d been hiking down the gully. I looked at my watch: 9:30am. Seriously? A thunderstorm at 9:30am? Rain had been forecasted as a possibility after 10am, but thunder wasn’t supposed to be a possibility until well after noon. This was just great. Another lesson from mother nature: mountains make their own weather. The storm looked close, and it looked to be building fast. There was nowhere for me to hide above treeline so I made a beeline for the trees.
This took an agonizing amount of time, as the storm kept getting fiercer and the terrain kept getting steeper. I could see the thunderclouds developing before my eyes. I had to be careful with each step not to twist an ankle, but wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. I made it to the end of the gully and sprinted through an open field towards the nearest trees I could find as thunder rolled all around me. Yes, I know how dumb that sounds in an electrical storm but that was my best option at the time: to get under the relative safety of the trees.
I made it to the trees, hiked about 10 yards into them for good measure, and stopped to catch my breath as the skies opened up and I started getting rained on.
I was now ‘safely’ in the trees, but had entered in a different area than I’d exited. I got out my map and compass and decided to head SSE through the deadfall, towards where the trail should be. I was thrilled when I finally stumbled upon the trail.
The trail was easy to follow back to the trailhead. The only downside? It rained the entire time. The thunder sounded kind of cool though. I felt bad for my friends attempting Dallas: this storm wasn’t giving up and I was fairly sure it would have been a miracle for them to have summited before it hit.
I made it back to my truck at 11:15am, making this a 12.06 mile hike with 5417’ of elevation gain in 7 hours, 15 minutes. Here’s a topo map of my route
As I drove back through Telluride I saw a herd of about 75 elk grazing in a soccer field. Colorado is so cool! I drove the 6.5 hours home and made my kids hamburgers for the 4th of July and watched the city fireworks from our front porch. It rained the entire way.