Booby Prize – 13,312 and PT 13090

RT Length: 11.08 miles

Elevation Gain: 3174’

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

I was up and on the trail at 3:30am, hoping to avoid some of the cold, wet, rainy weather that was supposed to arrive today.  No such luck: It was raining when I left my truck, so I put on rain pants and a waterproof jacket and started following the road south.

After hiking for .8 miles I made it to the trailhead.  Just before reaching the trailhead the road was covered in old avalanche debris. 

The trail starts to the left of the gate

As I mentioned earlier, it was raining.  I followed a very wet, willow-filled trail all the way into the upper basin.  This trail is class 1, but a bit overgrown since it’s early in the hiking season.  It was also teeming with water, and bear tracks (although I did not see any bear scat).

When I made it to the upper basin, I knew I wanted to gain the ridge.  I also knew, from yesterday’s experience, that I wanted to gain it from the left, and not the right. 

Note:  There is a game trail here that goes to the ridge, but most of it was covered in snow. I was only able to see it in bits and pieces on my way up and down. This is the route I took to the saddle

The basin was mush.  Not only was it raining, it was warm enough for the snow to thaw, so I was walking on 6 inches of water most of the time.  Here’s my route to the ridge

As I was gaining the ridge, the sun was rising.  It was a beautiful, misty morning

I gained the ridge, and headed over to Prize Benchmark, my first intended peak of the day.  As you can see, conditions weren’t ideal:

In fact, that was one of my better photos of the day.  The clouds kept coming in and out, obscuring my route. 

Eventually, I was in class 4-5 territory, and decided to call it and come back another day when I could see what I was doing.  I knew I was headed in the right direction, but the terrain didn’t feel safe.  I wanted to take the gully, and it was still full of unstable ice. 

I downclimbed, and headed back to PT 13090.  Even though it’s not ranked, I summited it, just because I was there

This was an easy ‘summit’

PT 13090:

I turned right, and headed southeast towards Booby Prize

Here’s the overall route I took, avoiding the rock slabs and snow.  This was all class 2, with some loose scree/rocks to navigate

The clouds picked up again, obscuring my view, but luckily, this was all class 2

Here are some step by step pictures

I summited Booby Prize at 8:10am

Booby Prize:

Nasty weather was predicted for the day, so I decided to re-trace my steps and head back to the PT 13090/Booby Prize saddle

Back on the saddle, I could see the game trail that led down, but it also went right through a large patch of ice, so I went a little further up the saddle to find a snow-free route.

Here’s my route back to the trail

The route down was obvious

And the trail was easy to follow, if wet, back to my truck

I made it back to my truck at 10:30am, making this a 11.08 mile hike with 3174’ of elevation gain in 7 hours.

On to the next trailhead!

Mt Herard – 13,350 and Medano Peak 13,153

RT Length:  17.43 miles

Elevation Gain:  5584’

I drove in the night before to heavy clouds of smoke from the Arizona and New Mexico fires, but the weatherman predicted a cold front would push the smoke away by the next morning.

The drive in was on an easy 4WD dirt road, and probably doable in a 2WD vehicle to where I parked in the camping area before the pass. 

There were private ranches on either side of the road, with bison and what looked like hunting property.  There were tons of signs telling you the property was private, with information on how to report poachers.   I knew Medano Pass was closed from the Sand Dunes side, but was surprised to find it was closed from the HWY 69 side as well.  I parked in the camping area at 9200’, just over 2 miles from the pass. Mine was the only vehicle there, which made sense because the pass was closed.  Also, it was a Monday.  And extremely windy. There was quite a bit of glass on the ground from past campers who’d broken bottles and left them. 

There were signs indicating bear activity in the area, which I confirmed the next morning.  If you camp here, please secure your smellables/food/etc.

I made it to my campsite late (but it was worth it because my youngest daughter, who’s in college, called to chat with me a bit on my way in, and I had to stop where I had cell reception), so I made it an early night for what would be an early morning. I was up and on the trail at 3:30am.

I started by following 559 west to Medano Pass.  There were a few campsites along this road, but very few turnaround points.  This is now a 4WD road.

Once at Medano Pass I found the gate closed to vehicles.  I hopped over the gate, and continued towards the Medano Lakes Trailhead. 

Along the way there was a sign warning of bear activity

After hiking for 2.9 miles, I made it to the Medano Lakes Trailhead.  Note if you’re driving, there are still several downed trees on the road, so you won’t be able to make it all the way to the trailhead.  There are several campsites along the way with bear boxes.

I signed the trail register and was on my way

A couple of things to note:  This is a class 1 trail, and mine were the first footprints in the mud/snow.  There was a lot of evidence of bear activity, I crossed numerous streams (easily, no need for creek crossing shoes) and there was a lot of downfall.  I mean, an excessive amount. Several times I was walking UNDER avalanche debris.  These were also spring conditions, so a lot of times, the trail was under water/snow.

After hiking for 6.75 miles, I made it to treeline, the upper basin, and Medano Lakes

At 11540’, I left the trail and followed a faintly cairned route to the saddle of Herard and Medino.  This is where I was aiming

There’s a faint trail that’ll get you to the upper basin

Just before the upper basin there are two cairns you’ll pass through.  Take note of them for the route down

Now in the upper basin, the trail is gone for a bit, but there are cairns that will lead you to the saddle, and even a trail. This is the easiest way to make it to the saddle

The cairn you’re aiming for is circled in red

I decided to do Herard first, so after making it to the saddle, I followed the ridge south.  There was a false summit, but this (and in fact the entire hike) was all class 2.

Here are some pictures of the terrain

And the false summit. 

There was a bit of snow to navigate (nothing too serious) and then I followed the tundra (and a faint trail) to the summit.

The summit was flat.  I summited Mt Herard at 8am

Mt Herard:

I turned and headed back to the saddle.  My next objective was Medano Peak

This was also a class 2 ridge walk.  Here are some step by step pictures

Also, you might be able to see them in this picture… I came across 5 elk, who weren’t too concerned I was there, until I started hiking up from the saddle.  At this point, they headed higher up, towards 13,000’.  I was curious, until I noticed they were gathering their 5 babies, who were hidden amongst the rocks.  They couldn’t have been more than a month old.  Then the mothers trotted them off along the ridge.

I summited Medano Peak at 9:05am

Medano Peak:

Here’s a look at Mt Herard from Medano

I retraced my steps back down to the saddle, and into the lower basin and Medano lakes

It was a super windy day (predicted winds of 45mph). As I was hiking I was able to notice a bighorn sheep ram below me.  Since it was so windy, he didn’t notice me until I was right up on him. 


He trotted away as well, and I hooked up with the Medano Lakes trail, which took me back to the trailhead

And then I followed road 559 back to my truck

I made it back to my truck at 12:30pm, making this a 17.43 mile hike with 5584’ of elevation gain in 9 hours.

On to the next trailhead!


RT Length: 8.88 miles

Elevation Gain: 3538’

I was I this area two days ago, but had a commitment back in Colorado Springs, so I went back home for a day.  The event ended at 8pm, and I drove back up to the Lily Lake trailhead that evening.  It was a Thursday night, but I was surprised to see a lot of the dispersed campsites already taken.  I ended up taking the last space, at 10350’, just before the downed trees started along the road.  I’d wanted to camp lower, but this would be a good place to set off for my next hike in a few days.  I was on the trail at 5am.

I followed the 4WD dirt road north for XXXX miles, to the Raspberry Trail (1307).  This had been where I’d wanted to stop for the night, but there were vehicles already camped there.

I followed the Raspberry Trail to a register, signed my name, and navigated around the downed tree blocking the path

I followed the trail down to the Huerfano River, and crossed it on downed logs

From here, I followed the class 1 trail as it switchbacked up the hillside.  There were several large downed trees obscuring the trail, but the trail was always easy to find.

The trail leveled off, and I came across some fire rings.  Here I left the trail and headed south until I hit treeline.  There was no path, and there were a lot of downed trees, but navigation wasn’t very difficult.

Once at treeline, the ground changed to tundra.  I continued following the tundra south.

Quickly, 13577 came into view

Here’s my route to the summit

This was a simple, but long, tundra walk, with some rocks thrown in. The ridge was 1.5 miles from treeline to summit.  Here are a few pictures of the route

I summited 13577 ay 7:45am


Check out the views of Lindsey

I turned and retraced my steps back to the trail

Here’s the overall route I took back to the trail

One in the trees it was difficult to navigate because I didn’t have any visuals.  I continued heading north until I crossed the Raspberry Trail.  There will be a lot of deadfall in this area.

Once back on Raspberry Trail, I followed it back to the 4WD road

I then followed the road back to my truck

This gave me a great view of PT 13577 from below

I made it back to my truck at 10am, making this an 8.88 mile hike with 3538’ of elevation gain in 5 hours.  I’ll be staying at this trailhead…

PT 13656

RT Length: 16 miles

Elevation Gain: 4031’

Please note, my stats are off.  This summit took some route finding, and additional miles/elevation gain.  Your numbers should be lower.

I’ve been going crazy for about a month. It was May 21, while we were getting 2 feet of snow during a spring storm, when I went online to check some summits for an upcoming trip.  It was then I noticed I no longer had 200 bicentennials, but 199.  I panicked!  And of course, did some research. It was then I noticed we now had a new bicentennial, PT 13656.  I’d summited what I’d thought were all the Bicentennials last September, and spent the next 7 months writing a book about my journey, which was published May 8th.  I knew my completion date still stood because I’d completed the Bicentennials as listed at the time, but it didn’t feel right marketing my book so soon after the change without completing this peak as well.  So I didn’t.  Instead, I planned. 

I couldn’t find much information about this peak, so I pulled up my previous trip reports from other peaks in the area, and came up with 3 possibilities of summit options from the Upper Huerfano/Lily Lake trailhead, and upper Lily Lake:

1: Take a line in south to the ridge, which looked like it ‘went’ (It didn’t)

2: Take the gully

3: Summit 13577 and take the ridge to 13656 (I’m glad I didn’t end up needing to do this, as the ridge looked rotten).

I was in Minnesota, hiking its highest point, Eagle Mountain.  (Side note: If you’ve ever wanted to experience mosquito swarms of biblical plague proportions, along with questionable foot bridges through swamps teeming with water snakes, this hike is for you!)  I was only there because of Charles Mound, the highest point in Illinois.  For those of you who know about state high pointing, you know the highest point of Illinois is located on private property, and only open a few days a year.  Long story short, I decided to hit this high point instead of PT 13656 because of accessibility issues, but, when I was in Minnesota I checked the weather and did the math, and realized if I drove with a purpose, I’d be able to make it to the Upper Huerfano/Lily Lake trailhead the next day, and could attempt a summit.

I made it to the trailhead at 4:15am, parking a little lower than necessary because I’d heard there were blowdowns across the road.  There were, so this was a great idea.  I parked at about 10,200’.

I was on the trail at 4:30am, and followed the 4WD road to the Lily Lake Trailhead.  Crews have done a great job clearing downed trees, but there were very few places to pass other vehicles, and honestly, there are still a lot of trees to be cleared.

It was about 2.3 miles from where I parked to the trailhead.  The parking area as littered with branches, but once the downed trees along the way are cleared, it should be good to go.  I signed the trail register, which is in need of more paper, and was on my way.

Did I mention the blowdowns?  There were quite a few alone the trail as well.  They weren’t difficult to navigate around, just a bit annoying.  You can see a few here at the beginning

And here are a few more…

I followed the class 1 (minus the downed trees) trail to the Lily Lake cutoff, and turned right (the path to the left, that goes towards Lindsey, was blocked by a downed tree).  This junction was 1.25 miles from the upper trailhead.

I then followed the trail to another junction, .2 miles away, which is where I made my first mistake of the day.  The sign showed the Lily Lake trail as going straight, so that’s what I did, I continued hiking straight. But I should have turned off the trail and headed north at this point.  You’d think, because I’ve been on this trail, I would have remembered this, but… I didn’t.  I ended up hiking along a path that paralleled the Huerfano river for way too long before noticing my mistake.  Here’s some advice:  If you see yellow surveyors tape and are heading through avalanche debris but you’re on a trail… you’re on the wrong trail. The good news is they parallel each other, so if you head west, you’ll eventually connect with the correct trail. Here’s the junction and the way you should go:

This trail is easy to follow, and will lead you to Lily Lake

Here’s the final push.  There is a trail here, it’s just overgrown.

After 4.1 miles of hiking from the upper trailhead I was at Lily Lake, where the trail ended.

Here’s the info you need.  This is the route you want to take.  Trust me. 

Here are some pictures on the way to the upper lake.  The rocks aren’t stable, and a lot of them roll, so make sure you watch your step while rock hopping.

Here’s where I made another mistake.  I tried to take a route to the left first, by following a dry couloir and what looked like a line filled with tundra/dirt. This was a bad idea.  It started out as class 3, then sustained class 4 (for about 300’).  I quickly felt out of my depth as it increased to class 5.  I had a helmet, but seriously felt I needed a rope.  I got to a place where it was decision time, and decided to descend those 300’ and try a different route. I knew I was close to the ridge, but could not justify the exposure and class difficulty.  I reminded myself I had 3 potential routes for this peak, and an event I was speaking at tomorrow talking about managing risk and being a positive mentor to Girl Scouts.  I did not feel I could continue on and still remain truthful tomorrow, so I backtracked.  Climbing down was much more difficult than climbing up: I had to face the mountain and take it one step at a time.  This entire side was sketchy.  Please don’t use this route, especially since the gully can be kept at 2+.   Here are some pictures of the route you SHOULD NOT TAKE

Instead, here’s what you want to do:

Take the gully!  It’s slippery due to the scree, but with microspikes, manageable

I aimed for the 13654/13656 saddle.  Once again, slippery scree, but manageable

Here’s a view of that line I was trying to take earlier in the day.  The red circle is where I retreated.  Once again, don’t take this line!!!

I kept working my way towards the saddle

Here’s a view of PT 13656

Once at the saddle I turned and followed the ridge southeast.  This was all class 3 scrambling.  I was able to stick to the ridge the entire time.  Here are some pictures of the ridge

I summited PT 13656 at 10:15am. 

I spent a lot of time on that summit, making sure the true summit wasn’t further to the southeast.  I pulled up Peakbagger (not yet updated), CalTopo, my Compass (which read 13660) and several other sites. In the end, I determined this was the true peak, and left a summit register.

PT 13656:

The route back was now very straightforward.  I worked my back down the ridge towards the saddle

Oh, and the route up to 13654 looks sketchy…

And then scree surfed back to Lily Lake. Once again, this is very loose scree, and I wore microspikes.  I consistently had 6 inches of scree sliding beneath me, and as long as I kept up with it, I kept a good pace.

Here’s my route back to the lake

This is where I picked back up with the trail

Following the route back was easy, except for all those blowdowns. 

I made it back to my truck at 2:30pm, making this a 16 mile hike with 4031’ of elevation gain and a ton of route finding in 10 hours.  I hope this trip report was helpful, and I’m sure you can do this route faster!  It felt so good to check this one off the list!!! 

On to the next trailhead!

Sundog – 13,437

RT Length: 8.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 3219’

Normally you’d start this hike from the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch trailhead, the same one as used for Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks, but it’s Memorial Day weekend, and I knew that trailhead would be crowded.  Also, I’ve had porcupines visit me there in the middle of the night, interested in the wires underneath my truck.  Instead, I parked a little over half a mile further up the road, near Cooper Creek.  Not only did I have the site to myself, but I got to hear the creek rushing by as I slept. 

After an early night, I was still hesitant to get out of bed at 4:15am.  It took willpower, but I was on the trail by 4:30am.  As I passed the Silver Creek trailhead there were dozens of headlamps indicating busy activity.  I cruised by, and started up the trail.

At the top of the hill was a trail register I need of repair: The top isn’t fastened to the base.  As per usual, I didn’t see the register on the way in, as it was off to the side and didn’t have anything reflective indicating it was there. 

So, I didn’t sign the register, and instead followed the trail as it paralleled Silver Creek. The trail was very well maintained, with just a few downed trees here and there.

At around 11300’ of elevation, I left the trail to head down towards the creek.  I left the trail where an obvious, and massive, avalanche had occurred a few years earlier.  There was a faint trail closer to the creek.

My goal was to cross the creek and head up Sundog’s north ridge.  I crossed the creek near some willows, on a few logs that seemed to have been placed for just that purpose.  On my way in, and on my way out, these logs were coated in ice, which made the crossing interesting.

Safely across the creek, it was time to follow the ridge by heading south.  The ridge was easy to follow, but there was some initial avalanche debris to navigate. 

I noticed all the trees seemed to be leaning up, not down, which I thought was odd, until I looked behind me.  It was obvious a large avalanche had occurred on the opposite mountain, which crossed the creek, and knocked over trees several hundred feet up the ridge I was now on. 

I continued following the ridge to treeline.

Just before treeline I came to an outcropping, which I maneuvered by going to the right, staying at its base. 

Now at treeline, I continued to follow the ridge

As soon as the talus and scree started, it didn’t quit.  There were a lot of game trails all the way to the summit, none of which were consistent. 

Now is a good time to note the false summit

I followed the ridge to the summit. The ridge was straightforward, the only surprise coming at the end.

Just before the summit, I climbed up a class 2+ gully.  The rocks were loose, and microspikes helped.  I left behind my trekking pole and started climbing up.

At the top of the gully was more ridge (this is a false summit)

That led to the real summit

I summited Sundog at 7:15am


And now to head back.  It was a nice day, but windy, so I didn’t stay too long on the summit.  I turned and headed back the way I’d came:

It was a long ridge!

The scree filled gully was easier to navigate on the way down

Then I followed the ridge to treeline

Once at treeline, I continued to follow the ridge, aiming for the avalanche runout, and Silver Creek below

I went left this time around the rock formation

And navigated the avalanche debris to the creek

I crossed the creek on the same logs, interested to find they were still covered in a layer of ice. 

I easily picked up the trail on the other side, and followed it back to the trailhead.

I then walked up the road to my truck, parked about half a mile away.  I made it back to my truck at 9:30am, making this a 8.1 mile hike with 3219’ of elevation gain in 5 hours.

Oh, and I found a stash of 8 track tapes near an old, abandoned mine. I wonder if they’re still good?

On to the next trailhead!

Kendall Mountain – 13,353

RT Length:  6.19 miles

Elevation Gain: 2742’

Let me begin by saying Kendall Mountain was not my first intended peak of the day, so my stats and topo map are a little off.  I made it to the Kendall Gulch parking area the night before, and slept at 11460’. 

The next morning I rose late, and was on the trail after the sun had risen, at 6am.  The road was easy to follow, and clear of snow the first half of the way.

I was originally headed toward Kendall Peak; specifically, the gully

Here are some pictures of the way to the gully… I just followed the road to a mine

Once at the base, the route looked simple enough:  I just needed to get up the gully to the ridge, and take the ridge to the summit

I’m really embarrassed to say this, but I wasn’t able to get up the gully.  I made it about half way, and it became too steep.  This was worse than kitty litter over rocks.  It was talus that gave way to rockslides, and tiny pebbles over rock.  Even with microspikes on, I couldn’t get traction, and kept slipping and falling down.  It’s a lot steeper than it looks. I tried several different routes, but was unable to gain traction on any of them.  After my fourth or fifth attempt, I started thinking to myself – who wasn’t wearing a helmet – “This isn’t the way I want to die.”  While I might have been able to make it up (doubtful) going down was going to be worse.   I made the decision to come back in the winter and try this as a snow climb, which should provide more traction.  This was a difficult decision to make, but I knew it was the correct one.

So, I backtracked, and tackled Kendall Mountain.  I hiked back to a junction in the road, at 12.265’. 

From the junction, I headed up to PT 12660

From PT 12660 I turned right and followed the ridge northeast towards Kendall Mountain.

Here’s the route I took to the summit (solid line) and back down (dotted line).  You could go up the way I descended, but it would be steep. 

Here are some close-ups of the route to Kendall Mountain

The tundra gave way to small rocks toward the top

I summited Kendall Mountain at 9:20am

Kendall Mountain:

From the summit, when I looked southwest I could see my truck (circled)

I aimed for it, and the road below.  It’s important to head southwest, because the terrain cliffs out if you head directly south or southeast.  This was steep, but it was easy to gain traction.

I made it back to the road, and followed it to my truck.

Here’s a topo map of the haphazard route I took. 

Wild Wanderer: Soloing Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks

I know I’ve been silent for a few months, and I want to thank those of you who reached out to me asking how I was doing.  Yes, I was still summiting peaks, but I was summiting repeat peaks, so I wouldn’t need to write up trip reports.  Instead, I was spending my writing time… writing a book!  I’m proud to say I’m officially a published author!!!  I’m not going to promote the book for a couple of weeks, as I’d like some friends to read it and post reviews first.  It takes 10 positive reviews to counter each negative one, so if you enjoy my book, please post a positive review on Amazon.  If you notice a spelling error (etc.) please let me know:  I can still fix it before the big launch.  Please go easy on me: I’m more of a blogger than a writer.  Thank you all for your continued support!  Don’t buy the hard cover. 

You can purchase the book here on Amazon.

Hunts Peak – 13,071

RT Length:  6.79 miles

Elevation Gain: 3528’

I’d attempted this peak last week (along with 2 others), but the gate had been closed just off the highway, just as the gates for the other two peaks had been.  I was super bummed, and since all 3 of my potential peaks for the day had been shut down, I went home.  (I leave my plan a, b, and c on the counter and if they all fail I go home because I solo and want to make sure someone knows where I’m at when I’m adventuring). 

The gate to Hunts Peak said it was subject to seasonal closures, but didn’t have a reopen date.  All the other gates said they were closed due to Sage Grouse mating/nesting/hatching season, and opening on May 15th, so I crossed my fingers the gate would be open today (May 16th). 

I didn’t have a plan b today (mainly because I had a short window:  my youngest has prom tonight), so I was thrilled to find the gate open. 

From 285 it’s a 3.65 mile drive east on 980 to the good campsite. There are a few potential turn offs, but stay on 980.

At the junction of 980 and 982 you can either camp, or drive the .6 miles southeast and park just before the trailhead.  Here’s the sign where the camping area is, and a view of the camping area (on the right).

Notes about this section if you choose to drive further:  it’s narrow, there isn’t a spot to turn around/let someone pass, it can be muddy, and only 2 vehicles will fit at the parking area at the hill above the trailhead, so choose wisely depending on the day of the week you’re there and the time of day you’re entering.  I have a 4WD vehicle, but didn’t need to put it into 4WD (good thing too, because my 4WD is currently out and I have a new truck on order that unfortunately won’t be here until the middle of summer:  this seriously messes with my mountaineering plans!). Here are some pictures of the road

I parked my truck just before the second stream crossing at the top of a small hill.  I’d advise doing this, especially if you don’t have 4WD (when I arrived it was dark and I didn’t want to chance it in my truck’s current condition).  I parked and was on the trail around 4:40am.  This was by far the warmest start to a hike I’ve had so far this year:  45 degrees at the trailhead!  I opted not to put on my snow pants and was on my way (something I’d regret later).  It was a short distance to the trailhead, and the creek was easy to cross.

I walked around the closed gate and followed the old road.

The road was easy to follow northeast

It was obvious this road hasn’t been used by vehicles since the fire, because there were downed trees all over the road.  There was a little bit of snow as well, but totally manageable without traction.

Eventually the ‘road’ fizzled out.  I followed the contour of South Rock Creek and then the mountainside as it headed east.   In the daylight the route to the ridge is easy to see

I followed the drainage as far as I could, then headed east to gain the ridge.  This was steep, but the bushwhacking was minimal due to the fire

I gained the ridge, and followed it southeast over this hump

I had a good view of Hunts Peak at this point

The rest of the route was straightforward:  I went southeast over the hump, and then followed the ridge east to the summit

It was easy to avoid most of the snow, and what was unavoidable was consolidated

There was a short trek southeast to the actual summit

I summited Hunts Peak at 7:10am

Hunts Peak:

It was very cold and very windy.  I regretted not wearing my snow pants now.  Pulsing my fingers, I descended the way I’d hiked in.  Advice here:  the ridges look similar, especially if you’re summiting in the early morning/dark.  Be sure of your route down!  Here’s the route back

Back over the bump

Here was where I encountered the most snow of the day.  It was mostly consolidated, with the odd postholing up to my thigh

Now it was back down the ridge and down the gully, back to the old 4WD road.

Once back on the 4WD road it was easy to follow it back to the gate, keeping South Rock Creek to my right

At the gate I turned right and followed the road back to my truck.

I made it back to my truck at 9am, making this a 6.79 mile hike with 3582’ of elevation gain in 4 hours, 20 minutes.

Here’s the easy part of the dirt road on the way out.  I didn’t see another person/vehicle/grouse all day.  I did see a few antelope though.  

Unnamed 13,162 – Unnamed 13, 510

RT Length:  17 miles

Elevation Gain: 4750’

On my way to the Spring Creek Pass Trailhead I was the only one driving on the road.  Probably because it was 1am.  I did have to slow down for a moose who wanted to jaunt back and forth across the center line, and a herd of elk I surprised as I drove by (they’d been lying down by the side of the road).  I made it to the trailhead before 1:30am and decided to get some sleep before starting out.  My truck was the only vehicle in the lot.  I love my heater.

I was on the trail at 4:30am.  There are several ways to get to the snow mesa.  Last time I was here I took the snowmobile route

This time I decided to take the Colorado Trail/Continental Divide Trail/813 trail.  This is the one I’d recommend without snow on the trail.  If there’s a groomed snowmobile track, take that instead. The trailhead is directly across from where I parked my truck.

From the trailhead it’s a nice uphill hike for about 2 miles to the mesa, heading east and southeast.  Here’s an overview of where you’re headed

And what the trail looks like

You’ll know you’re getting close to the mesa when you parallel a gully to your right.

Be careful here in winter conditions:  the cornices fall.  Luckily for me, today there was a lot less snow than last year.  I didn’t need traction to ascend into the mesa.  From below, you can see a Colorado Trail marker.  Aim for the marker.  This is also where my flashlight ran out of batteries.  I was glad it was starting to get light out.

Once on the mesa I followed the Colorado Trail / Continental Divide Trail markers for 3.3 miles.  These markers are great most of the time. In the summer the trail is well defined and not needed.  When I was here last they were covered in snow and useless.  Today they were nice benchmarks, keeping me on track since there were no tracks.  In the morning, the snow was firm (not so by noon).  The trail initially  looks flat, but you’re really losing and gaining elevation all the time.  This was especially frustrating on the way back.

After a total of 5.1 miles since the trailhead I came upon a junction and continued heading north on 813.  Note:  The trail looked doable when I started.   If doing this in winter conditions, I’d recommend taking the lower route (the one I took back, via 787). However, I wanted to stay high to avoid losing and re-gaining elevation, and I had all the necessary gear (snowshoes, crampons, ice axe, etc.) so I decided to go for it.  Also, from the junction vantage point, all looked good. Here’s the route I took

Unbeknownst to me, there was a slide area directly on the trail.  This area is prone to cornice falls/slides.  I felt comfortable crossing the area so early in the morning, but wouldn’t advise taking this route later in the day.  I knew immediately I wanted to take a different route back.

Here’s a look back on the slide area

After the slide area there was another solid area of snow.  I decided to descend a bit to make this more manageable.  I brought out my ice axe and traction here.

I was still ‘following’ the trail (under snow), and as soon as I started heading north it was time to head up the east side of PT 13162.  Here’s what that looks like (as seen later in the day from point 13020).  Solid line is path up, dotted line is the route I took down and across to the 13162/13510 saddle.  I was just doing my best to avoid the snow.

When not covered in snow this area is covered in tundra.  It’s steep, but an easy ascent.

I just kept heading west, until I was at the ‘ridge’, where I started heading northwest to the summit


I summited Unnamed 13162 at 7:45am

Summit of 13162: 

From here I could see the summit of 13,510 to the northeast.  It looks like it should be a simple ridge hike to get there, but unfortunately, there’s a steep section in the way, so I re-traced my steps back to scenic trail 813.

There was one section I was worried about after the 13162/13510 saddle.  I was hoping I could just go straight over the area, and not around. (Note, when I first wrote this report, I thought what I labeled below was PT 13020, but it’s actually further east… in the same general direction, but it’s actually the small peak just above the saddle in this picture).

Ok, back to trail 813 and to the saddle of 13162/13510

Here’s the rest of the route to 13510

I made it to the saddle and the rocky area looked climbable.  It didn’t get any harder than difficult class 2.  The gullies in this area were either snow free, or the snow was avoidable. I stuck to the ridge, dipping to the left (west) when necessary.

The rock here was loose, but once again, difficult class 2

I gained the ridge and looked back at 13162.  I’ve circled the area I was trying to avoid on my way down, and detailed my route down.

The rest of the route to 13510 was an easy ridge hike.  The snow was either consolidated or avoidable.

I summited PT 13510 at 9:40am

Summit of 13510: 

Interestingly, there had been a summit register on 13162, but there wasn’t one on 13510, so I left one.  There were also a lot of crow droppings.  I even saw a few flying around.

From the summit of 13510 I had a clear view of PT 13020 (unranked).  I decided to go for it before heading back down.  Here’s the route

Here’s looking back on the route I took from 13510

Time to head back.  I didn’t want to take the way I’d hiked in back out because of deteriorating snow conditions and possible slide activity. Instead, I hiked directly down into the basin, heading southwest.  Here’s a view of the route I took down from 13020, as seen from my way to 13162.  I just did my best to avoid the areas of snow when possible (and the willows at the bottom).

From the summit of 13020, here’s the route back to Trail 787

Here I’ve outlined the route I took in (dotted line) and the route I took out (solid line).  Trail 787 was dry on the ridge/elevation gain back to the snow mesa.  I could see it from the summit, and aimed there, doing my best to avoid snow on the way down. I’ve circled the small slide area.

The snow wasn’t totally avoidable however, and I did posthole through the section of willows.  From down in the basin, here’s a look back at my route down.

I hopped a small creek, then took trail 787 southwest to the snow mesa and the Colorado/Continental Divide/813 trail.

Here’s another look at the slide area.  It’s small, but the trail goes right through it.  Also note the cornices above.

Once on the mesa I followed the trail posts across the snow. The snow had softened up considerably, so I had to put on my snowshoes.  Even with them I was postholing up to my knees.  It was a very long 3.3 miles back.

Here’s a look at the decent route off the snow mesa.

And the trail back to the trailhead.  At this point the snow was mostly avoidable, so I took off my snowshoes.

I made it back to the trailhead at 2pm, making this a 17 mile hike with 4750’ of elevation gain in 9.5 hours

When I got back to my truck I was a little disappointed, as Strava hadn’t engaged.  Luckily, most of this route was done on established trails, so it was easy to hand draw this topo route (just note it is hand drawn, and I don’t have a GPX file to share for this one).

On to the next trailhead!

“Notch Mountain” – 9665’

RT Length:  .64 miles

Elevation Gain: 359’

Second up for the day was Notch Mountain.  This was a very quick hike, and I’d recommend linking all three up together (or more).  Just for reference, I hiked Tuesday Peak, Notch Mountain, and Ormes Peak today.  From where I was parked for Tuesday Peak I drove 1.15 miles further north on Rampart Range Road.  If you’re starting from Rampart Range Road in Garden of the Gods it will be 13.15 miles total to the parking area for Notch Mountain.  As I was driving, I could see “Notch Mountain” ahead of me.

I parked at the base of the ridge and started hiking.  This is a quick and easy ridge hike, starting in the burn area

The most difficult part of this hike was navigating all of the deadfall.  I just kept heading northeast along the ridge.

This brought me to a rocky area

And then, I was suddenly at the summit. The summit is relatively large and flat.

I took a photo to prove I’d summited, and left a summit register (no marker on this peak)

The views aren’t that good here, because the trees on the summit obscure them.  The good part is there are actually trees at the summit that made it through the fires

Here’s a view of Tuesday Peak from the summit of “Notch Mountain”

I turned and headed back down the ridge.

And my truck

The entire hike probably took 20 minutes.

Here’s a picture of the route from Tuesday Peak

Now, on to the next trailhead!