Mt Soso – 13,417

RT Length: 7.04 miles (From Rock Lake)

Elevation Gain:  2793’ (From Rock Lake)

This trip report starts at Rock Lake.  For instructions on the approach to Rock Lake, as well as the drive to Beartown from Silverton, click here.  

Since I was already at Rock Lake, at around 11850’, I made it a late start and was on the trail at 6am.  I was in the camping area directly in front of the lake, and from there I headed south towards the pass.

There is a trail that picks up on the east side of the lake, that will take you all the way to the pass on a class 1 trail

It’s rocky, but there is a well-defined trail here with cairns

At the top of the pass I headed southwest, following the cairns as they descended a bit. The trail goes on to Half Moon Lake, but I didn’t want to go there, so after descending down a small gully I changed directions, and gained the ridge to the west.

I spent a lot of time putting cairns in this area to help with navigation, but as long as you gain the ridge, the next part of the route will be obvious.

From the top of the ridge, this was my route up to the ridge of Mt Soso. 

It looks straightforward, but I ended up losing a lot more elevation than I wanted to, mainly because there’s a gorge that you can’t see from the pass.  I initially tried to go straight over the large boulders to the left, but it cliffed out.  You’ll need to stay more to the west. I lost almost 600’ of elevation making my way down into the basin.

This is all class 2, and easy to navigate.  Here’s a picture of the gully that will lead you to the ridge.  This is a class 2 gully, and you’ll find a game trail if you stick to climbers left.

From the top of the gully, looking back on the route I took there, I had a better view of the gorge I’d been trying to avoid.  There was a beautiful waterfall I hadn’t been able to see from the other side.

Once on the ridge, I turned right and followed it southwest. 

After about a quarter mile of class 2 terrain the ridge became class 3 for a bit.  I spent a lot of time putting together cairns for the rest of the route.  This is the route I took

Here are some step-by-step pictures.  Most of this is class 2, with some easy class 3 thrown in

Now is a good time to get a visual on the rest of your route.  The upper ridge is sustained class 3, but I dipped down a bit and took the grassy gully to the summit

Here’s a better look at the ridge

And some close-up pictures of the class 3 scramble.  I was able to stay directly on the top of the ridge for this, until I came to just below the grassy area.  If you’ve made it this far you can probably just go straight up and over the ridge, but I felt safer dropping down and taking the grassy gully up. I put a ton of cairns in the area to help guide the way.

Here’s where I dropped down about 20 feet

And then went up the grassy gully (class 2+)

Topping out of the grassy gully

And then it was a quick walk north to the summit

I summited Mt Soso at 9am

Mt Soso:

From the summit I could see my hike into the basin, and the cliff band I’d needed to avoid

I stayed on the summit longer than I normally would, because it was such a nice day.  Then I re-traced my steps back to Rock Lake, first by heading south to the ridge

And then taking the grassy gully down.  There’s an obvious willow bush in the path.  Turn right and head to the ridge BEFORE you make it to this lonely bush.

Then following the cairns back up to the ridge (circled in red)

Here’s the overall route down the ridge, back to the access gully that led up the ridge

And some step-by-step pictures

Then back down the gully, into the basin, avoiding the cliffs and waterfall

Then back up to the pass

From the top the view can get a little confusing, because there are a lot of rocks.  Here’s the route:

You’re aiming for this gully, which will have cairns that will lead you back down to Rock Lake

There is a trail here that will lead you back to the lake

Notice there are a lot of campsites in this valley area as well

I made it back to Rock Lake at 11:45am, making this a 7.04 mile hike with 2793’ of elevation gain in 5 hours, 45 minutes.

McHenrys Peak – 13,330

RT Length:  17.46 miles

Elevation Gain:  4442’

I started from the Glacier Gorge trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park at 3:30am.  There were already several parties in the parking lot (probably 10 vehicles), but didn’t see another person on my route all day.   This is also a bus stop for access to Glacier Gorge (and lots of other hikes).  All this means is that it was overly crowded the last 2 miles of the hike on my way down.  Passing people became impossible, and more of a stroll as I hiked out with hundreds of other hikers. 

I followed the class 1 trail, staying on the Mills Lake trail.  There were wonderful signs that made getting lost difficult. 

I passed Alberta Falls at 1.15 miles, and continued following the trail to Mills Lake

After hiking for 3.35 miles I passed Mills Lake, and at 3.85 miles I passed Jewel Lake.  Side note:  there’s great fishing here.  Lots of hungry trout, eager to feast on any worm you drop in.  The larger trout are in the stream above Jewel Lake, and in Mills Lake.

I continued following the class 1 trail all the way to Black Lake (6 miles in).  This part of the trail had a lot of wood foot bridges, and rock slabs to cross.  All class 1, but the rock slabs were tricky to navigate in the dark.

I made it to Black Lake, and continued on the class 1 trail, up a waterfall, and across more rock slabs.

Here the trail kind of fizzled out, but I continued following cairns as I crossed a small creek, and headed southwest towards McHenrys Peak. There are a ton of cairns in this area (circled in red). 

Here’s the overall route to Frozen Lake (not pictured) and up Stone Man Pass.  There are plenty of cairns to guide you, but for the rest of the hike be careful:  there are a lot of granite slabs that are quite steep to navigate (all class 2), and slippery where wet.

Here are some close up pictures to Frozen Lake

I easily rock hopped and crossed the lake on its north side, and continued heading west towards Stone Man Pass

There are still tons of cairns in this area, but choose your route based on the best conditions.  The rocks are very slippery where they are wet.  I was aiming for the gully below Stone Man Pass.

I didn’t think the gully was that bad.  I stayed right on my way up, but took the other side down.  I’d recommend climbing up the left side of the gully, as it was more stable, but both were fine.  Here are some pictures of the gully

Once at the top of the gully, I turned right and headed northwest towards McHenrys Peak.  Everything you can see here is class 2, and there are cairns to guide your way.

I rounded the mountain, and was now on the west side of the peak.  Here is got a bit trickier.  There were still cairns to follow.  I headed up a rock slab, and rock filled gully.  This was easy class 3

Here’s the overall route of the rest of the climb.  I felt this was difficult class 3, with some exposure. 

There was a chimney to head up, and then a short but intense scramble to the summit

I summited McHenrys Peak at 9:50am

McHenrys Peak:

The summit looked like it could have several actual summits, so despite the large cairn and summit register, I made sure to walk all around the summit to make sure I’d actually summited.

Now to head back down. The trickiest part was descending the initial section, and finding my way back around the side of the mountain.  Once I was there, it was easy to find my way to Stone Man Pass, and then back down to Frozen Lake.

And then I followed the cairns northeast, back towards the trail that would lead me to Black Lake

Then followed the trail all the way back to the trailhead. 

I made it back to my truck at 2:30pm, making this a 17.46 mile hike with 4442’ of elevation gain, as per CalTopo.  Strava told me it was a 15.02 mile hike with 6573’ of elevation gain.  I tend to go with CalTopo when I write, for consistency purposes, especially since Strava tends to grossly exaggerate elevation gain. 

Also, there were a few elk along the trail who didn’t seem bothered by my presence… they wouldn’t even look up from whatever they were eating to acknowledge me.

On to the next trailhead!

Precarious Peak – 13,380

RT Length: 13.79 miles

Elevation Gain: 3714’

The Rustler Gulch Trailhead was full.  I tried to drive up the road several times, but kept getting greeted by vehicles coming down.  The drivers didn’t understand up had the right of way, and all of them seemed to be in vehicles too big for them to maneuver.  After backing up over half a mile for the third time, I decided to just park below.  I’d find out the next day it’s peak wildflower season in Rustler Gulch, and the tourists were flooding in to see them. Parking down below added about 2 miles to my trip and 500’ of elevation gain, which was negligible. Bonus:  There was a creek behind me to enjoy as well.

I was on the 4WD road that led to the trailhead at 3:30 am.

I followed it a mile to the actual trailhead, which was overflowing in the afternoon

I passed around the gate, and followed Rustler Gulch trail #599 north into the gulch.

There were several stream crossings to cross, all of which had rocks or logs so my feet didn’t get wet.

When I got to this creek crossing, I went right, and found a footbridge

I continued following the trail, and crossing creeks, through the gulch on a well-marked trail

Here’s my route into the upper basin.  This is all done on a class 1 trail

Here are some more pictures

After hiking for 5.3 miles, I crossed a creek, and left the trail.  I could see my route before me to Precarious’ access gully.

This is the route I took

And some step-by-step pictures to get there

At the base of the gully I put on my microspikes and started climbing.  This is choose your own adventure of 850’ of elevation gain.  This felt class 2+.  I’ve definitely been in worse gullies, but still be sure of every step.  I didn’t have any rocks fall down the gully, but I did make a few slide a few feet. It had rained the night before, so the scree was mushy and easy to grip.

There are two ways to top out of the gully.  I took the first one up, the last one down.  If I were to do this again, I’d take the one closest to the top up and down, as it felt more secure.  Here’s the one I took up, which still had snow in mid-July:

And the one I took down (snow free)

They both led to the same place:  Class 3 scrambling. 

I aimed south, towards what looked like the ridge, but went too far up, where the route cliffed out.  Instead, head east.  At around 13190 there’s a path to go around the mountain. I had to descend about 50’

When I got there this is what I saw:  A snow filled gully!!!  I was so upset, thinking my climb was over…

Until I realized I just needed to cross the gully, and then head towards the summit on the other side (all class 3 scrambling). 

I crossed the gully just at the base of the snow

And then scrambled to the top

To find I wasn’t yet at the top…  This was all class 3 scrambling as well

I summited Precarious Peak at 8:30am

Precarious Peak: (Yes, I called it the wrong name.  I knew it was wrong at the time, but didn’t care to take the video again)

There were two summit registers, and when I went to open them I found out why:  The older one was sealed shut.

I backtracked the way I’d summited back to the snow filled gully

Crossed the gully

And made my way back to the ridge

Then back down to the gully that would take me to the access gully

OK, time to put back on my microspikes to descend the 850’ that is the access gully

I stopped on my way down to get a video

Precarious Gully:

Then continued to its base

At the base of the access gully I took off my microspikes, and then headed for the obvious trail below.

I crossed the creek, and spent some time looking at some old mining equipment.

Then I followed the trail back down the gulch

There were so many people, and so many wildflowers!  I can see now why this trail was so popular.

Here are a few pictures of the way back to the trailhead

And from the trailhead to my parking spot

Here you can see even more of the overflow/2WD parking below

I made it back to my truck at noon, making this a 13.79 mile hike with 3714’ of elevation gain in 8.5 hours.

On to the next trailhead!

Pear Peak – 13,462, PT 13220, PT 13517

RT Length: 11.89 miles

Elevation Gain: 3995’

I’m not a fan of the Rockdale Trailhead. It’s an adventure in itself, starting with a drive through Clear Creek

And then the road to get to the trailhead is littered with dips and rocks. I feel I’m a pretty good driver on 4WD roads, but I have a hard time avoiding some of the obstacles on this one.  If you drive to the upper trailhead be sure of your driving skills/vehicle.

I made it to the trailhead and was on the trail at 5:30am. The trail is class 1, and starts out by heading south along trail 1461.

After hiking for less than half a mile I came to the avalanche area. Last time I was here was recently after the avalanche, and it was difficult to navigate.  They did a lot of work in this area, and now you can drive a car through it (if vehicles were allowed, that is).  I passed around the gate, and continued along the trail.

Just before making it to Clohsey Lake there’s a junction in the road and it becomes a trail.  You can take this, or continue taking the road to the lake and pick up the trail on the other side. I chose to take the trail up and over the small mountain

I followed this trail south for 3 miles from where I parked, through pine trees, willows, across streams, and eventually to treeline.

After about 3 miles the trail kind of disappeared/fizzled out.  Last time I was here I found cairns to take me to the ridge, but this time I didn’t see any.  No worries though, I just kept rounding the hillside, heading northeast towards the ridge. You’ll want to just head towards the ridge, but easier terrain is to your left (northeast).

It was 3.75 miles to the ridge.  Once on the ridge I turned right and followed the ridge south.  I could mainly stay on the top of the ridge, dipping to the left a few times when necessary.  I was headed towards the black arrow.

To continue to follow the ridge I had to make it around this point. I aimed for just below the large boulder, then went left, following dirt and scree and hugging the mountainside.

This part was easy, but as I rounded the corner, I came upon gullies full of choss. This area felt class 4.  To navigate these, I hugged the gullies, dipping down to cross the first big one, and then remaining level before eventually finding what looked like a game trail to the ridge.

Here’s the view and my route from the first big gully. I stayed level to get across the chossy gullies. It’s harder/steeper than it looks.

Safely across the first gully, here’s looking back at the route I took down

Now I continued at level elevation heading south, until I found an obvious route to the ridge.  Until this time the ridge had been rock slabs, spires, and choss, but once it became rocks and tundra I headed up, then turned left to follow the ridge.

From this point on, the ridge ‘goes’.  It’s mostly on large, solid rock, but remember, these rocks can move. It’s about three quarters of a mile from here to the summit of Pear Peak.  The ridge felt consistent class 2-3. I didn’t feel there were any class 4 moves on this ridge.

If I ever felt the need to dip off the ridge, I went left.  Pear Peak is actually to the left, past the false summit (which isn’t really a false summit because you can see the true summit most of the time)

Here are some more ridge pictures

I summited Pear Peak at 8:45am

Pear Peak:

Now the easy part, as I turned northwest and descended the ridge to the Pear Peak/PT 13220 saddle.  This was class 2, once again sticking to the ridge and dipping to the left when necessary.

Here’s an overview of the rest of my route, mostly following the ridge, except for a short area on the way to 13220 where I stayed left (more on this later).  You also have a good view of the decent route from here. Now’s a good time to study it.

Ok, down the ridge to the Pear Peak/PT 13220 saddle.  It’s all class 2, and you’re aiming for a scree filled gully, circled in red

Once you make it to the gully, the choss and adventure begins.

I dipped down into the gully, crossed it, and then stayed level in elevation as I rounded the south side of the peak, aiming for two protruding rocks.

Once I started heading north, I followed game trails up gullies and back to the ridge.  This area seemed to go on forever.  

Once on the ridge it was class 3 to the summit

I summited PT 13220 at 10am

PT 13220: 

Here’s looking back at the route from Pear to PT 13220.  It was 1.5 miles from Pear to 13220.

Next up, PT 13517 (more ridge work!)

I followed the ridge the entire time.  The ridge to the saddle was class 2.  The difficult part is the ridge circled in red, which I felt was consistent class 3, with a bunch of class 4 moves thrown in.

The trek to the saddle was mostly on rocks, with a short ridge at the end (yes, you can stick to this ridge too)

I entered the final ridge by going around to the east, then ascending the ridge by heading northeast.

As I said before, this is a class 3 and 4 ridge.  There are too many specific moves to illustrate here, as the climbing is consistent, so I’ll just show a few of the fun ones. While the rock looks solid, and mostly is, please be careful of the ones that look solid but roll. If you can’t go straight up the rocks, look for game trails to the left.  Nothing should feel over class 4.  To put it in perspective, I consider difficult class 4 anytime I need to remove my DSLR camera from around my neck, or put my trekking pole away to climb.  I didn’t have to do either of those things on this ridge, but it was the most difficult climbing of the day.

The last little dip before the final push to the summit was class 2

I summited PT 13517 at 11:15am

PT 13517: 

PT 13517 was a little over a mile away from PT 13220. Here’s looking back at PT 13220 and Pear Peak

I turned and retraced my steps back to the saddle. 

Here’s the other side of that initial class 4 move

Back at the saddle, I headed east, and took the gully to the left down

The gully had scree, tundra, and bounders.  I was easily able to find a way down this gully, but it looked challenging to find a good way to go up. I was glad I chose to do Pear first.

Here’s my overall route down the gully, across the small basin (I stayed high here) and back down to the trail.  I followed a waterfall northeast, keeping the waterfall to my left to exit so I wouldn’t need to cross the water. This brought me to willows and the trail I’d used to hike in.

The hike out was uneventful, except it rained.  I know it looks like it was a beautiful day, but in reality, just before PT 13220 it was snowing, and it rained/hailed/graupeled a bit on my way down. There were also people fishing at Clohsey Lake who had a few dogs. I was about 100 yards from them, but their dog wouldn’t stop barking at me.  I’m sure that made for wonderful fishing.

I made it back to my truck at 1:45pm, making this a 11.89 mile hike/scramble with 3995’ of elevation gain in 8 hours, 15 minutes.  And now, for the fun drive out!

Here’s a view of Clohsey Lake and the basin from Pear Peak

PT 13336 and PT 13020

RT Length:  16.3 miles

Elevation Gain:  5815’

I decided to hike these peaks from the Maroon Bells area because I had a pass and was already there.  I knew today was going to be a straightforward but long day, and it was supposed to storm in the morning, so I was up extra early and on the trail at 2am.  I started at the Maroon Lake trailhead, and passed a few deer grazing in the dark.   I skirted Maroon Lake to the right, and continued on the trail towards Crater Lake.

At the first junction I continued straight, and followed Maroon Snowmass Trail 1975 up into Minnehaha Gulch. 

I continued on this trail all the way to Willow Pass.

This is a class 1 trail that crosses a creek, then heads north through the basin.

Stay right at this sign

And follow the trail to Willow Pass.

CalTopo tells me I hiked 5 miles from the parking area to Willow Pass.  From Willow Pass you can see today’s peaks

From Willow Pass I descended 560’ into the basin

I came to the Junction for East Snowmass Trail/Willow Lake, and turned left, following the East Snowmass Trail.  

I was now following the trail towards the saddle of PT 13336 and PT 13020

The upper basin was really neat, as I could see two different types of rocks, one coming from each mountain.  The color contrast was interesting.  The trail was still class 1 to the saddle, staying on the tundra/red dirt.

Once at the saddle it’s a good idea to put your helmet on.  I decided to tackle PT 13336 first.  This is class 3, and takes place on loose rock.  You may want to put on your microspikes for added traction.  The red dirt was mushy because it had recently rained, but it was still loose.  Here’s the route I took, as seen from higher up on PT 13020 later in the morning:

And here are some step by step pictures of the route:

Easily walk around the first two obstacles to keep this part class 2

Next, you can either skirt the next obstacle to the left to keep this class 2, or go straight up and over if you like class 3

Now, keeping the ridge in front of you, the route becomes class 3.  Head between these two boulders and ease a little left

Look for a break in the rock formation and scramble up

You can now clearly see the ridge.  Keep the ridge to your right, and skirt the north side of the ridge.  There is no need to go up and over the ridge at this point.

The rock here is loose, and only gets looser. Follow the loose rock up a sort of side gully.

At the top of this rubble the rock changes.  It’s no longer the loose Maroon rock:  it now becomes the loose Snowmass rock.  This rock is very slippery when wet, and even when not, so take care.  These rocks are not stable.  Just assume they all move.  Cross this gully high.  There is still no need to gain the ridge, you can stay just a bit below

I have a feeling the terrain here shifts often, so pick your way carefully.  I traversed the ledge by staying about 50 feet below the ridge, and then gaining the ridge through a gully

At the top of the ridge you can see the true summit of PT 13336.  The terrain stays just as loose as before.

I summited PT 13336 at 6:10am

PT 13336: 

Here are some pictures of the way back to the saddle

Across the gully

And down the maroon scree

From here you can see the summit of PT 13020 and Buckskin Benchmark

It was a simple ridge hike, with just a few fun moves to the summit of PT 13020.  Here’s the overall route

And some step by step pictures. To gain the upper ridge, I skirted the rock formations to the left, but still stayed as close to the ridge as possible.

Once on the upper ridge I followed it to the summit of PT 13020, only dipping down to the left once through a gap in the rocks to keep this class 2

I summited PT 13020 at 7:20am. 

PT 13020:  

It was starting to rain, so I headed back down the ridge to the saddle.

Once at the saddle, I followed the class 1 trail back to Willow Pass

There was a large family of marmots at the Willow Lake/East Snowmass/Willow Pass Junction.  As I approached, several jumped underneath the grass, not wanting to be photographed.  I turned and headed southwest towards Willow Pass

And from Willow Pass I followed the trail back to the Maroon Lake Trailhead

I made it back to the trailhead at 10:45am, making this a 16.3 mile hike with 5815’ of elevation gain in 9 hours, 45 minutes

And, just because I have room for one more picture, can we all take a minute to appreciate jut how beautiful this area is?

Little Horn Peak – 13,143 and Fluted Peak – 13,554

RT Length:  12.35 miles

Elevation Gain: 5504’

I parked at the Horn Creek Trailhead, the only vehicle in the lot.  I’m always surprised at how few people take advantage of the free dispersed camping sites we have in Colorado, especially ones like this with a bathroom.  Eager to summit and get back to treeline before the incoming storm, I gathered my gear and was on the trail at 4:30am.  The trail starts by following the Rainbow Trail southwest for just over half a mile

Then I turned right onto Horn Creek Trail

I followed Horn Creek Trail for a short distance, about a tenth of a mile, before turning left at the junction towards Horn Creek Lakes.  Here there’s a register, that looks to be kept up.

I stayed on this trail for half a mile, before leaving the trail at 9590’ and heading north and then west up the ridge.  There is no trail here.  I left a small cairn to indicate where I left the trail, but I don’t expect it to be there long, as it was small.

Route finding here can be a bit tricky, but the goal is to gain the ridge.  I did this by heading west, through the pine and aspen trees.  Every once in a while, I’d come across a game trail.  They all fizzled out however.  This area is easy to navigate, as there aren’t too many downed trees.  I was able to avoid most of them.

Once I was on the ridge, I followed it southwest to treeline.  This is a long ridge, and it seemed to take forever to make it to treeline.  Here’s my first glimpse of Little Horn Peak

Like I said, this is a long ridge

The class 3 fun starts at the top of the ridge, which is a false summit.  From here you can see Little Horn Peak’s true summit

My trekking pole isn’t collapsible, so I left it at the start of the class 3 section, put on my helmet, and started heading straight over the ridge.  The class 3 section is consistent for another half mile to the summit. 

Start out by going straight over the ridge.  There is some exposure here. 

Then you’ll dip down to the right.  Look for a notch, go through it, and now you’re on the left side of the ridge. 

Go up the gully and cross back over to the right side of the ridge

There’s a section of rock to upclimb.  This was difficult class 3 / easy class 4 (and much more difficult and committing on the way back down later in the day).  

From the top of this section I could see the summit.  I stayed on the left side of the ridge from this point on, staying on class 2 terrain.

I summited Little Horn Peak at 7:45am

Little Horn Peak: 

That was it for the class 3 section of the hike.  The ridge over to Fluted Peak is class 2 (with the option to go up a class 3 chimney, but it’s avoidable).  Here’s Fluted Peak to the west.

This was a simple ridge hike to the saddle.  You can’t see them very well in this photo, but there was a mama bighorn sheep with her baby walking up the ridge.  The baby couldn’t have been more than a month old.

From the saddle, here’s how you keep this a class 2 hike (dotted lines show the class 3 route)

Here’s the first obstacle (class 2 solid, class 3 dotted):

And the second (class 2 solid, class 3 chimney dotted):

Here’s that chimney up close

After the chimney, it’s straightforward class 2 to the top of the ridge to the first false summit. 

Fluted Peak is actually here

There are two quick false summits to go up and over

And then the final summit

I summited Fluted Peak at 9am

Fluted Peak: 

The clouds were coming in fast, so I decided to re-trace my steps and head back to Little Horn Peak (I’ve already summited Horn Peak, so there was no need to make this a loop today).  I headed back to the ridge

Here’s a picture of Little Horn Peak from the Fluted Peak Ridge

It all stayed class 2 until I made it to the summit of Little Horn Peak

From there It was class 3 again until I made it to the ridge.

Here’s a closer look at that notch

And the last bit of scrambling to the ridge

I made it to the ridge and looked around for my trekking pole.  It wasn’t where I’d left it.  Instead, it was about 15 feet away, at the entrance to a marmot burrow. I picked it up and found some marmot had turned it into a snack.  Just adding more photographic evidence to prove the case “Marmots can’t be trusted with trekking poles”.

I sighed, took off my helmet, and headed back down the ridge (yes, I brought the trekking pole down). 

Once back at treeline I turned back for a last view as it started raining. 

The rain quickly turned to hail and I had to put my camera away. Here are some pictures of below treeline, in-between bouts of rain/hail. I just kept descending northeast, and when the ridge ended I continued east towards Horn Creek Trail.  Once again, I’d pick up game trails and then lose them.   A little advice:  you should be able to hear Horn Creek flowing below you to your right if you’re going in the correct direction.

Back on the trail I followed it to the trailhead.

I made it back to the trailhead at 1pm, making this a 12.35 mile hike with 5504’ of elevation gain in 8.5 hours.  That had been a fun day of scrambling!

I dried off and headed to the next trailhead.  When I got there it was still raining, so I decided to make dinner inside the topper of my truck.  I finished, cleaned up, and was sitting down to write notes in my journal when I heard a loud “BANG!” 

I looked up, and the back window to my topper crumpled and broke into thousands of pieces.  I honestly thought I’d been shot at, and turned around but didn’t see a bullet hole anywhere.  Next, I gingerly opened the window, crawled out of the truck and took a look around:  no one in sight (but it was still raining). 

I assessed the damage, and realized I needed to take care of this asap, so I put on gloves and cleaned up all the broken glass I could, still getting some small slivers of glass embedded in my fingers.  Next, I drove to where I could get cell reception, and found the nearest place that would be open the next day to fix the broken glass was 5 minutes from my home, and 6 hours from where I was right now.  I sighed:  It looked like I had a long night ahead of me. 

It turned out the auto glass store couldn’t help me, and told me to go to where I’d originally bought the topper.  They couldn’t help me for another 4-6 weeks (and $600), but referred me to another glass shop that didn’t open until Monday.  So, a quick trip to Walmart to pick up some duct tape and a tarp and I was able to create a makeshift door that does nothing to keep animals/intruders out, but has done a decent job keeping out the rain.  I’m still not sure why the window broke:  I was told sometimes there’s just a flaw in the glass.  That sounds bogus, but I’m getting a new one soon anyway, and I’ve learned not to get windows in my next topper (I don’t use them anyway).  I’m actually more upset I lost out on two days of hiking. 

“T0” – Telluride Zero Peak – 13,735 & Campbell Peak (UR) – 13,213

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Just after this split is a nice camping spot, no more than a few yards from the parking area

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I followed the class 1 Eider Creek Trail, staying right at the first junction

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And left at the second to stay on the Eider Creek Trail.

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This trail was very easy to follow and well marked with signs.

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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).

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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.

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Luckily this area was short, only lasting about 100 yards, before I came to a clearing.

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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.

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Once on the ridge I turned left and followed the ridge northwest

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From the ridge you can see both Campbell Peak (behind the obstacle) and Telluride Zero Peak

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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:

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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

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The chimney has a lot of hand/foot holds, but beware: most of them are loose.

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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

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From Campbell Peak it’s an easy ridge hike to Telluride Zero, losing 200’ of elevation and gaining 750’ in just under a mile

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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.

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I summited Tellurize Zero Peak at 8:15am

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

 

Mt Emma – 13,581

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RT Length: 4.48 miles

Elevation Gain: 1861’

 

After summiting Cirque and Gilpin it was still early in the day and the weather seemed to be holding so I decided to try and get one more bicentennial in. I drove down from Yankee Boy Basin to the junction with Governor Basin Road and took that 4WD road all the way up to Governor Basin. This is a narrow road and 4WD but luckily I only had to pass OHVs.

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Originally, I parked at the top of the hill and started walking down into the basin, but when I saw other vehicles parked below I got back in my truck and drove all the way to the bottom.

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Here’s an overview of the entire route:

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From the parking area I crossed a small creek and followed the 4WD road.

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When the 4WD road intersected with a small waterfall/drainage I turned right and headed northwest up the side of the mountain

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This led me to a faint game trail that brought me around the mountain

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There was a neat cave here that looks like it used to be a mine but now belongs to an animal (hence the game trail)

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I rounded the corner of the mountain and Mt Emma came into view

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I walked across the basin, crossing a small area of firm snow, and then continued hiking up the scree filled gully

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This gully was very loose and for every two steps I took forwards I took a step back sliding down scree. I tried to stick towards the larger rocks when possible because they afforded me more traction hiking up.

Towards the top of the gully the scree changed to rocks and I did a little scrambling to gain the ridge.

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Once on the ridge I turned right and headed northwest towards the summit towers, putting on my helmet as I went.

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There seem to be endless ways to summit Mt Emma from this area, all class 3 and above.  I summited by going right first, up a small gully and then back down another before ascending a third to summit. I took a different, more direct route on my way back. These gullies ranged from bare, solid rock walls to being filled with soft sand. Microspikes helped here. I wore them until I made it back down to tundra later in the day.

Route on the way in:

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Back down another gully

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And back up a third gully

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As soon as I went up this last gully I could see the summit

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That had been easier than I’d expected. I snapped a picture, took two giant steps towards the summit, and felt it: Zzzzzzp! Zzzzzzp! Two quick buzzes just under my helmet accompanied by a tingling sensation. Even though I’d never felt this before I instantly knew what it was: indication of an imminent strike of lightning. I was just feet from the summit but I immediately turned and bolted for the gully I’d just ascended.

Well, that was unexpected! Sure, there were clouds and mist all around me, but none of the clouds looked threatening. As I sat there in the gully, looking at the summit just a few yards away, it started graupeling. Then raining. Then graupeling again. I sat and considered my options.

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I could hike back down the mountain, but as soon as I left these gullies I’d be exposed for the rest of the hike. I did not want to be the tallest thing above treeline. I licked my finger and held it in the air to test the wind and watched the clouds: the storm was moving away from me. I looked all around and no, the clouds didn’t look menacing (even though it was raining all over). I decided to sit and wait the storm out. After about 30 minutes of sitting on the summit, not seeing any lightning or hearing any thunder, I tried again.

I quickly left my spot and scrambled the last few yards to the summit

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I summited at 2:15pm. I was still very scared of lightning and instead of taking the time to set up my camera I took a selfie with my cell phone and a very quick summit video. That’s a nervous smile by the way: I still didn’t completely trust the weather and wanted to get out of there.

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Mt Emma:

Despite my earlier plan of taking the time to check out the conditions of the peak for tomorrows hike I didn’t spend more than 30 seconds on that summit. I quickly turned around to head back. Circled in red is where I’d spent the past 30 minutes waiting out the weather. This is also the access point to the gully I descended on my way back.

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From the summit I could see a more direct route back through a different gully and decided to take that route down. It’s still class 3, but you can see your objective the entire time. I went back down the last gully I’d ascended

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And east towards the small saddle

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Here’s looking back for those of you who want to ascend this way (I’d recommend doing so, it’s entrance is to the left of center of the summit area)

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Back on the saddle the weather looked to be improving. I found the access point and headed back down the gully.

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While descending I stuck to the areas of dirt and scree. My microspikes helped tremendously. At times the scree would give way and there would be sections of 10 feet or so where all of the rocks would loosen and slide together for a few yards. At one point my leg became buried in scree past my shin. My shoes had so much scree in them I had to take them off and shake them out twice before making it to the bottom. Tons of fun!

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I retraced my steps out of the basin back down to my truck

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The small waterfall/creek/runoff is a great visual for how to make it back to the 4WD road

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I made it back to my truck at 3:10pm, making this a 4.48 mile hike with 1861’ of elevation gain in 3 hours (including the half hour spent waiting out the weather). It was raining as I made it back to my truck. Here’s a topo map of my route

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On to the next trailhead!

Mt Blaurock – 13,616 & Ervin Peak – 13,531

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RT Length: 6 miles

Elevation Gain: 3821’

There’s currently a curfew in place in Colorado Springs, so the beginning of the drive felt a bit ominous: I didn’t see any other vehicles on the road until I made it to the freeway, and even then there were very few vehicles compared to normal, even for 1am, and even when compared to being quarantined. I’d stopped for gas the day before so I didn’t need to stop at all this morning. With less people out I felt like I saw more wildlife: 4 foxes and a dozen or so elk. I made it to Winfield around 4am and decided to take the easy 4WD dirt road a little further, past the cemetery to some dispersed camping spots .85 of a mile from Winfield. You can park at Winfield and it won’t add more than 2 miles to this hike.

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Looking at a topo map, I wanted to follow Grey Copper Creek to begin. After finding a dispersed parking spot I headed northwest in the dark, following game trails, zig-zagging in what felt like I was in a horror movie until I hit the creek. The creek was easy to find because there’s been a recent avalanche in the area.   This also made the creek easy to follow (after initially climbing over some downed trees).

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I crossed the creek and stayed on the west side, startling a porcupine as I went. There are new game trails starting here that parallel the creek.

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There are a few ways to summit Mt Blaurock: You can follow the creek until it ends and continue climbing until you make it to the Blaurock/Ervin saddle, or gain the south ridge and follow that route. There was still some snow in the gully so I decided to take the south ridge route.

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There is no special point to gain the south ridge. I turned and headed west after a little over a mile of hiking, aiming for the ridge

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From treeline it was easy to see the route, following the ridge northeast

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The first part of the ridge is an easy stroll on tundra

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Once the tundra ended the loose rock began and didn’t quit until the hike was almost over and I was back at the avy area. I’d call it rotten rubble, or choss most of the way. I rounded the first bump in the ridge to the left, climbed straight over the second, and then took a gully up to the top. There is some loose rock here.

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Here’s a look back down to this point

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Turning left (northwest) I dipped down to the left a few times to avoid snow and unnecessary ridge crossings

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Of course, the summit is the furthest ‘hump’ on the ridge

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I followed a small, rock filled gully to the summit

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I summited Mt Blaurock at 7:30am

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Mt Blaurock Summit:

There are some great views of surrounding peaks, a few of which I visited last week;

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I headed back over the ridge on the same path I took in:

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Here’s looking down at the traverse between Blaurock and Ervin Peak. The hike down to the saddle from Blaurock is easy

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I met a nice ptarmigan along the way

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Here’s a look from the saddle of the ridge to Blaurock and Ervin

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This is where it gets tricky. Here’s the route I took to avoid the snow:

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It looks like there might be a class 2 path here along the right (south) side, but with the snow in key areas I wasn’t able to take that route. There was snow in this section, turning the rest of the hike into class 3 on loose rock. I had one rock the size of a microwave fall while I was testing it. Luckily, I was just testing and didn’t have any weight on the rock. It scared me though. A helmet would be a good idea. Note which areas actually “go”: The dirt gullies here make it look like there are trails where there are not. Here are pictures of how I navigated the ridge. This took quite a bit of careful route finding.

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This is actually easier than it looks. Class 3, and I placed a cairn here so I’d remember how to get back (there are a lot of drastic drops in this area).

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The last hurdle was unavoidable snow just before the summit. I tested the snow and honestly considered turning back. The snow was slippery and a fall would have took me a long way. In the end I strapped on my crampons and got out my ice axe, glad I’d brought both. I traversed these two areas (about 40 feet each) gingerly.

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The last bit up to the summit was full of loose rock but was straightforward

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I summited Mt Ervin at 9:30am (that’s Mt Hope in the background)

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Ervin Peak Summit:

I didn’t stay long on the summit. The day was warm and the snow was melting fast: I wanted to cross the snowy areas as quickly as possible to avoid slipping. I turned around and headed back the way I’d come.

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I was making this a loop, so when I hit the westernmost part of the ridge I turned and headed southwest down. This ridge was easy to navigate but full of loose, rolling rocks. It was slow going because I had to be careful with foot placement. This ridge kind of turns right as it goes. Here’s a hint: If it’s daylight, just keep heading towards the switchbacks that you can see in the middle of the picture below.

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From about halfway down the ridge here’s looking back at Mt Blaurock and Ervin Peak. The blue arrow points to where you could hike from the landslide area straight to the saddle instead of taking the ridges up and down

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Here you can see you want to meet back up with the landslide area, and that to do so you’ll be bushwhacking through dense aspen. I could still see the switchbacks, but only just barely and only because the aspens aren’t completely full of leaves yet.

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There were enough game trails here to follow not to make this too difficult. It would have been easier if I were 2 feet tall though, because those trails go under logs and through brush.

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I made it back to the landslide area, took a picture of it in the daylight, and turned and headed south towards my parking space.

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I made it back to my truck at 12pm, making this a 6 mile hike/climb with 3821’ of elevation gain in 8 hours, most of it spent route finding and watching for rolling rocks.

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Here’s a picture of the saddle, should you choose to ascend that way

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When I got home and started jotting down notes I realized today I’d hiked my 145th unique 13er, as well as my 145th unique bicentennial. Pretty cool!

Also, it’s time to retire my hiking boots, as they are no longer waterproof. They almost made it a year….

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AdAmAn Peak

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RT Length: 15 miles

Elevation Gain: 4027’

Partner: Steffen

Steffen was interested in visiting Barr Camp, it felt like it’d been forever since I’d been,  I hadn’t been aware of and the weather was perfect, so today seemed like a great day to hike the Barr Trail.

I wasn’t able to find a lot of information on this peak, but looking at the Pikes Peak Atlas it seemed to be just behind Barr Camp. I figured we’d figure it out.

We arrived at the Barr Trail parking lot around 5:30am and were surprised the parking situation has (again) changed. As of today it’s $10 to park in the upper lot.  Last time I was here it was $40, but it’s been $5, $10, and $20 in the past.  The parking app is gone, and the fee machine is back.  This is all good news.

We gathered our gear and were ready to go at 5:45am. The guy who parked next to us unfortunately left the dome light on in his truck, but fortunately (maybe?) he also left his truck unlocked so we were able to shut it off for him.  He was planning on summiting Pikes Peak and most likely had a 12 hour day; we didn’t want him to come back to a dead battery.  Also, he was getting a late start if he truly intended to summit today. We ended up passing him within 20 minutes and let him know about the situation.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time describing the trail to Barr Camp because it’s an easy class 1 hike the entire way. There are very accurate mile markers every half mile, great signage, and as long as you stay on the trail it’s difficult to get lost, even in winter.  As we ascended the first 3 miles we had great views behind us of the city lights.  Too bad it’s difficult to get pictures at night.

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We passed the cutoff for the incline as the sun started to rise

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And as soon as we crossed the creek (which is usually dry in summer) the trail conditions changed.

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They went from a bit of ice every once in a while to a frozen river of water that would be perfect for ice skating

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This lasted until just after the junction with the experimental forest (turn left/southwest here)

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This is where the trenched snow started, and also where I scattered wildflower seeds two years ago in memory of my Granny (yes, the seeds were local to the area)

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If it were summer you could walk three people wide without tripping on each other along this trail, but today we walked single file.

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Around mile 4 we heard a noise and looked up, confused to see a rather young looking squirrel jumping around in the trees. Shouldn’t he be hibernating?  The views of Pikes Peak were (as always) amazing today

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I stopped for a second because I saw something curious on the ground: it looked like some sort of pollen (which made no sense:  it’s February) but upon closer inspection discovered they were little bugs on top of the snow!  I could see them jumping and wondered how in the world they got there?

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We made it to the aspen grove just before Barr Camp and I took a picture: I have a picture of this grove in every season except winter, and was excited to add this one to my collection.

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From the aspen grove it’s a quick jaunt to Barr Camp

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We decided to use the restrooms there and then went inside to inquire about PT 10245’

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The caretaker didn’t know what PT 10245’ was, but when we looked at the Pikes Peak Atlas he said they called it “AdAmAn Peak”. (Note, this ended up being a different peak altogether).  In the summer there’s a nice trail that will get you within a few dozen yards of the peak, but since it was winter the trail was covered in snow.  He said to go up, then down, then up again, and then back down, heading northwest.  Then there would be quartz rocks on the ground in an arrow showing us where to go (but those would be covered in snow as well).  We couldn’t miss it.

Um, ok. Good thing we’re good with a map and compass!  We exited the lodge, put on our microspikes, and were on our way.  We took the Barr Trail again a little bit southwest (just to the end of the fence) and turned right (north) towards Elk Park on trail 652.

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The caretaker had been correct: the trail was covered in snow, but some of the time we could make out where the trail was.  We hadn’t brought our snowshoes, so we were having a time getting snow in our shoes (and pants, etc.).  Next time remind me to bring gaiters.

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We hiked on this trail for almost exactly half a mile, and we did indeed have a great view of the summit from the trail. I started to worry we wouldn’t be able to summit today:  I hadn’t brought any rope and that summit looked like it needed rope!

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The trick to this summit is to summit from the west. After half a mile we came to a small saddle and decided to turn right and head for the summit (this is how the caretaker should have described the route to us:  follow the trail until you come to the saddle, turn right, and then scramble to the summit).  Coincidentally, there were blue dots spray painted on the trees here, a good indication that’s where you should turn

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There was no visible trail here, so we just aimed for the summit block (east)

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Here’s how we summited:

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It was a class 3 scramble and tons of fun! My advice is to initially go left up the rocks, but you summit more near the middle of the rocks.  The summit was flatter and larger than I’d anticipated

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There were some great views!

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I’ve never seen Pikes Peak from this angle before…

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There wasn’t a summit register (we looked longer than we should for one)

Time to head down. It’s not as scary as it looks…

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We followed our tracks back to Barr Camp, and noticed our tracks were filled with thousands of those little bugs already! Yuck!  I went home and researched them and apparently they live under the snow until it’s a nice day out, and then they hang out on top of the snow.  They were very, very small.  So small I’m thinking we were probably breathing them in and not noticing it.  Yes, those little black dots are the bugs.

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We made it back to Barr Camp and decided to buy a protein bar and leave a donation (hey, we used their bathrooms). I noticed the stream where I usually filter water was just a trickle

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The hike back down was uneventful except for the flight for life helicopter we saw making a beeline for Pikes Peak (it never landed). Actually, the hike was beautiful!  I’ve hiked this trail dozens of times and I never get tired of it!  We kept our microspikes on the entire way, even though they weren’t necessary most of the time.  The trail cleared and opened up around the incline junction

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We made it back to my truck a little before 12:45pm, making this a 15 mile hike with 4027’ of elevation gain in 7 hours.

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This was a really nice trail with decent elevation gain you don’t notice much because it’s so gradual.