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.
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!