RT Length: 9.37 miles
Elevation Gain: 3246’
Trailhead: Just before South Fork Lake Creek, where 391 and Trail 1466 meet.
I drove in the night before, so I could start early the next morning. The only problem? I wasn’t able to drive all the way to the trailhead. There was a small ice flow that still hadn’t melted, and it’s the middle of June! It wasn’t very big, but so far no one has been able to cross it.
It wasn’t a big deal, but I did have to back up for half a mile before I could find a place to turn around, which happened to be at a nice campsite at 11,000’, so I parked there for the night.
I woke up at 1am, 1:30am, and 2am to something moving around underneath my truck. It sounded about the size of a squirrel, and made sleeping difficult, so eventually I got up and sat in the front seat of my truck, ate breakfast (vanilla Breakfast Essentials shaken with a sleeve of Folgers instant coffee crystals), and was on my way at 3:30am. I could smell the Arizona and New Mexico fires as I hiked. I followed ROAD 391 for .8 miles to the proper trailhead.
The entrance to the trail is to the left of the gate
I followed the trail until it ended in the upper basin. This is a class 1 trail, but it goes through willows and since it’s currently spring conditions, there was an excess of water running in the middle of the trail. With no way to avoid it, my feet became wet and muddy early on in the hike.
When I made it to the upper basin, my intent has been to take the trail to the saddle, and summit Prize Benchmark first. The intended route is the solid route, the route I took is the dotted line. Note: the solid route wouldn’t work, because it was too chossy on the other side to utilize.
I put on my microspikes and started crossing the ice. I got about halfway across and felt out of my comfort zone: The ice was too slippery, and I didn’t have an ice axe. Instead, I turned and headed northeast towards a different part of the saddle
Now at the saddle, I turned and looked over at Prize Benchmark, but the route the rest of the way across the saddle looked sketchy. It was loose, with spires and talus.
I got out my map, considered my options (did I want to backtrack?) and decided to change my plans for the weekend and head over towards PT 13460. I headed east along the ridge.
This was all easy class 3 or below, with a few scree gullies and rocks. The route was obvious, but there were a few false summits
The summit was obvious, with a summit register clearly visible
I summited PT 13460 at 6:10am
From the summit I could see my next intended summit, Middle Mountain, to the southeast. Sorry for the bad picture… the smoke from the fires created a haze that was hard to photograph through.
I didn’t have a good view on my way in of the snow conditions, so I walked southeast for a bit along the ridgeline to gauge the best descent route.
The conditions looked sketchy: All I could see from above were drop offs and snow, so I got creative and headed down into the basin, avoiding cliffs and snow. I found out I had cell service, and ssat for 30 minutes on the mountain, checking weather forecasts. Here’s my route:
I came to some tundra gullies, and was able to navigate down them without a problem.
Here’s my route into the basin
And through the basin to Middle Mountain. You can see the ridge to the left I was trying to avoid
Here’s a look back on the route down into the basin
The upper basin was still melting out, and very… squishy. Once again, my socks and shoes got wet. I slogged my way southeast towards the saddle
Here are the last few bits before the saddle. I was trying to avoid a large boulder and the willows
Middle Mountain was also easy class 3, with several false summits.
I went right here
And then right again
Now it was some easy scrambling over false summits to the true summit. I always stayed right (south)
I summited Middle Mountain at 8:25am
Here’s looking back at 13460
Now to head back to the trail. This was easy, and choose your own adventure. I just looked and headed south, doing my best to avoid the willows (etc.).
From the lower basin, here’s looking at the route I took down from Middle Mountain
Now back on the trail, I followed it back to my truck
I made it back to my truck at 10:15am, making this a 9.37 mile hike with 3246’ of elevation gain in 6 hours, 45 min.
On to the next trailhead!