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
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.