Mt Jackson – 13,675 & PT 13433

RT Length:  28.33 Miles

Elevation Gain: 6674’

I’m not entirely sure why I chose this approach, but I wouldn’t recommend it; the route finding below treeline is arduous.  In any event, if you still want to do this hike, this is how I climbed Mt Jackson and 13433. 

I arrived at the Cross Creek Trailhead and was the only vehicle in the lot.  It’s a poorly designed lot that doesn’t offer much room but can fit 5-6 cars if everyone parks nicely.  It looks more like a horse corral than a parking lot, and there’s not a lot of room to turn a vehicle around.  There is parking across the way as well.  I arrived and left in the dark, so unfortunately, no pictures of the trailhead.  I was on the trail at 3:45am.  Cross Creek trail starts behind obvious signage at the west end of the parking area.

This is an easy to follow class 1 trail.  There’s a new bridge to cross over Cross Creek, and some nice stairs to ascend. 

After hiking for 3 miles I came across some avalanche debris on the trail.  As I was navigating at night I stepped over a log, and instead of hitting solid ground my right foot sank in watery mud up to my thigh. 

I quickly extricated myself and did a quick assessment.  My shoe and pants were soaking wet, cold, and covered in a layer of mud.  It was only around 5am, 30 degrees outside, and I had a serious decision to make.  Did I turn around now or continue hiking?  I was worried I’d eventually have a Raynaud’s attack, especially if I didn’t dry out before making it to treeline (where it would be windy:  I could already hear trees snapping all around me in the dark).  I cursed myself for not bringing at least an extra pair of socks.  In the end I decided the only way to dry off would be to keep moving, and I could do that either by heading back or forwards, so I continued on.  I followed this class 1 trail for a total of about 8.5 miles as it paralleled Cross Creek, staying straight at the Grouse Mountain Trail Junction (but noting where it was in case I wanted to make this a loop).

After hiking for 8.5 miles I crossed a stream and the real route finding began

After crossing the stream, I turned right and headed straight up the mountainside, passing a small pond to my left.  There is no trail here, and the bushwhacking is intense.  I passed several sets of bear tracks while route finding here.

I’d gained 800’ of elevation in 1 mile heading northwest when I came upon a trail!  Woot!  This was a pleasant surprise.  It looked like a game trail, but every now and then I’d see a cairn. 

I followed this trail southwest for just over half a mile, until it suddenly ended. 

There was a cairn here, but it didn’t seem to lead anywhere.  I went about 20 yards in every pertinent direction and couldn’t locate a trail. The snow on the ground wasn’t helping.  I got out my map and realized I’d gone too far south, so I turned right and headed north up this drainage. 

At the top of the drainage I headed west.  You can see how much fun route finding was here as well.  I kept wishing for treeline so I’d have a visual of my route. On a positive note, my shoes and pants had dried out, so while I was still dirty, at least I was dry.

I also passed more bear tracks here.  These tracks had a different gait than the ones I’d encountered before, so I figured there were multiple bears in the area.

Hiking west eventually led me to a marshy area, and here I was finally able to get a good view of where I was headed

I skirted the marshy area to the south and then headed southwest.  It’s important to head up over the rocky area and not stay low because going low will lead you to a large rock wall bordering a pond with no way to cross.  Here’s an overall view of the route

And step by step up the (first) gully

And second and third gullies.  This was really just one long gully that leveled out at times and started again.  The snow was bothersome because it was sugary and every once in a while, I’d posthole. It did make me roll my eyes at being worried my feet would be wet from the swampy water:  the snow had made sure of it. 

At the top of this long gully I continued southwest

Until I hit another (you guessed it) gully.  It was here the battery in my camera died and I had to switch to using my cellphone (I’m still figuring out my new camera, and the battery seemed to die rather quickly).

Here I got my first good look at the upper basin.  There are several routes I could have taken from here.  I’d heard there was a path up the north side of 13433, but I wanted to gain the saddle between UN 13433 and Mt Jackson.  I figured my best shot for today would be to stay high and hugging the south side of Mt Jackson.  Here’s my overall route

And step by step. 

The ground here was surprisingly stable, I just had to watch out for rolling rocks every now and then

Here’s how I gained the saddle

Up until this point I wasn’t sure which peak I was going to climb first.  I had the possibility of making this a loop (coming back down via the Grouse Mountain trail), but once I got to the ridge I was able to feel the wind I’d been hearing all morning.  Winds were predicted at 20-25mph, sustained, with 45mph gusts.  They were at least that.  And brutally cold.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make one mountain today, let alone three.  I got out my balaclava and heavy-duty winter gloves, turned right, and headed north to the summit of Mt Jackson.  This was a fairly easy ridge hike.

I summited Mt Jackson at noon.  The summit was relatively flat.

Mt Jackson: 

The wind was blowing so hard all the straps on my gear were slapping me in the face and several times I had snot fly into my sunglasses.  Ah, to be a mountaineer!  I turned and headed back the way I came, bracing myself against the wind as I made my way towards the Mt Jackson/13433 saddle.

From the saddle here’s looking back at Mt Jackson and up at 13433

It was a short and simple ridge hike to the summit of 13433.  I summited at 1pm.

UN 13433: 

Here’s a view of Mt Jackson from 13433

At this point I couldn’t feel my fingers, so I quickly retraced my steps back to the saddle.  The wind refused to let up, and was blowing loudly long after I left the ridge.  I saw two crows playing with the currents above the saddle.

Here’s my route back down into the basin

And down the gullies

Here’s how I ascended the rock to avoid the pond to my left

And headed back out of the marshy area

Let the route finding begin again.  I tried to re-trace my steps, but it just wasn’t happening.  I kept looking for my original route in, but finally realized that wasn’t going to happen.   I knew Cross Creek Trail was below me, and as long as I headed down and east I’d eventually run into it.  So I headed east. 

After wandering down and east and down and east I connected up with Cross Creek Trail and followed it back to the trailhead.  I heard trees snapping in the wind the entire hike back.  They’d make a loud, booming sound I initially thought was rockfall, except there were no reverberations from rockslides, just a loud crack and boom! 

I got back to my truck at 8pm, making this a 28.33 mile hike with 6674’ of elevation gain in 16 hours, 15 minutes. 

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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