PT 10940 & PT 10770

RT Length:  8.32 miles

Elevation Gain:  2186’

Since the weather hasn’t changed since I was in the area a few days ago, I decided to get in a quick hike before work.  Well, in the middle of work.  I got up super early, worked for a bit, and then drove to the trailhead.  The road in was still icy, and as I drove in the temperature gauge kept fluctuating between 0 degrees and 1 degree.  It was cold!

I was on the trail at 6:45am. The trail starts behind this locked gate.

I travelled on this road (383) for 1.15 miles to the Crags Trailhead. 

This trailhead will take you all the way to Pikes Peak.  Instead, I followed the trail for half a mile, and then left the trail and continued up the ridge.

I was met with about 4 inches of snow, which was awesome!  This meant I’d have an easy time re-tracing my steps back down.  I followed the ridge as it wound northeast

Until I came to a rocky area.  This rocky area kind of surprised me, and got more intense as I went on.  It was all class 3, but with the snow it became a challenge at times to navigate.

Here I went down the chimney, and then skirted the rock formation to the left.  This was the crux of the route.

That was the hardest move.  From here it was a simple (but still rocky) trek to the summit.

There was a little bit of rock scrambling necessary to reach the summit. 

I scrambled on over to the highest rock and sat quietly, looking down at the exposure.

And back on the way I’d hiked in

The sun had not yet risen over Pikes Peak, so it was still cold

I didn’t sit there long.  Instead, I scrambled back down, placed a summit register in the opening between the rocks below the summit, and noticed this place got a lot of bird activity

Time to head back

Here’s that chimney I climbed down.  Here’s how to climb back up

And then I followed the ridge back to the Crags Trail

Back at the Crags trailhead, I continued following the road south, past the Crags Campground (closed for the season)

I followed the road for just over half a mile until I came to a fork in the road and a locked gate to private property.

At the locked gate I turned right and headed west, across a meadow and then up the ridge

This entire hike is below treeline, so it’s difficult to gauge where you’re going.  I just followed the rib/ridge west.

I passed some wiki-ups

And came to a large rock formation, which I skirted to the north to avoid

Once past the rock formation I kept heading west towards the highest point I could see

There wasn’t much of a view

I walked all around, looking for the highest rock, and placed a summit register there

And then followed my tracks back down to the dirt road.

Once on the road it was an easy 1.75 mile walk back to my truck and the trailhead

Along the way I saw a couple snowshoeing with their two dogs, who seemed to be quite enjoying the cold.  It was now 16 degrees outside, which was a vast improvement on the 0 degrees from earlier this morning. I made it back to my truck at 11am, making this an 8.32 mile hike with 2186’ of elevation gain in 4 hours, 15 minutes. 

Since I hadn’t made my 10 mile/4000’ goal for the day I went back home and hopped on the treadmill for a bit before resuming my day.

Raspberry Mountain – 10,605

RT Length:  6.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1579’

I arrived at the trailhead to find the roads icy but plowed all the way to the winter closure.  I was actually kind of surprised to find the gate closed, and this altered my plans just a little bit:  I’d planned to drive down the road to other peaks after this one.  With the road closed I didn’t have enough time.  I parked my truck and gathered my gear, noticing there was a light on in the vehicle next to me.  No one was inside the vehicle, and the doors were locked, so I couldn’t turn the lights off for them.  I’m guessing they were hiking Pikes Peak today, and would most likely run down their battery.  Luckily this is a popular trailhead, so they should be able to find help nearby.

It was a cold morning (once again, below 12 degrees) so I put on all my gear and set out just as it was beginning to get light.  I love hiking without a flashlight!  I walked past the gate and followed the road for .7 miles

After .7 miles I came to the Raspberry Mountain Trailhead

From here on it was a very simple hike: I just followed the bootpack.  In summer months this would be an easy to follow trail.  I had on microspikes, and didn’t need traction.  From the trailhead it was 2.5 miles of hiking north to the summit, following the Ring the Peak Trail

I passed through a small meadow

And then gained and lost some elevation as I rounded the west side of the mountain.  At the top of this small saddle there’s a trailhead of sorts.  Turn left here

As I followed the trail I could see Raspberry Mountain in the distance.  You actually summit from behind

I curved around the north side of the mountain and came to a rocky outcropping

This was class 3, but without any exposure and easy to navigate.  I just heel-toed it up this ramp

And I’d made it to the summit.  The summit had large rocks, but no exposure

There was also a nice view of the west side of Pikes Peak. This side doesn’t get much attention, I’m afraid.

There wasn’t a commit register, so I left one in an obvious place.  This is a Teller County Highpoint, so I found it odd there wasn’t a register.

My camera stopped working about now.  It froze, and I was told to replace the battery (this is what happens when it gets cold), and then when I tried to clean the lens the water instantly turned to ice.  So I started using my cell phone. Did I mention it was quite windy and cold?  Time to head back, first down the rocky area

Then re-tracing my steps back to the upper ‘trailhead’

And back to the lower trailhead

Following the dirt ‘road’ back to the gate closure

I made it back to my truck at 9:15am, with much of the day still ahead of me.  There were quite a few vehicles parked at the trailhead at this time. Today had been much easier than I’d anticipated, so I drove home and hopped on the treadmill for an hour.  Here’s a topo map of my route

Rhyolite Mountain – 10,780’

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RT Length: .75 miles
Elevation Gain: 473’

I’ll apologize in advance for the fuzzy and cloudy pictures: I’ve had my mirrorless camera since October, and it still confuses me. I’m not sure why these photos aren’t clear, but I think they’re good enough to get the point across. Also, don’t buy a mirrorless camera.

After our failed attempt on Bull Mountain this afternoon and not even being able to attempt to summit Cow Mountain and friends this morning, we were keen on a summit. But it seemed luck was against us! The roads that were present on CalTopo were not where they were supposed to be, and the road we found had private property signs. (Notice the road on the topo map below that goes on the west side of Rhyolite looks doable, but that road doesn’t exist, or at least, the connecting roads don’t line up). We stopped at the sign that said “Keep Out” and parked on the side of the road and looked at our map. We were less than a mile from the summit and decided to skirt the private property as best we could and head up. We noticed there was a “for sale” sign and decided to head up through the property that was for sale instead of hiking through the private property signs.

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This hike is quick, and only required us to keep heading west, first through some grass and juniper

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And then we came across the road we’d been on previously (but stopped due to the no trespassing signs). We crossed the road, careful not to take it through another set of no trespassing signs.

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We kept heading west, this time through trees, being careful to straddle markers indicating boarder lines

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After .35 miles we came to a rocky area and climbed straight up

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The boulders/rocks here were loose and we were careful not to upset any of them. At the top of this rocky area there was a new microwave tower. So new we could still see the shavings from when they placed it there.

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This wasn’t the summit however. We continued west over a boulder filled ridge towards the highpoint.

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We found a benchmark along the way

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And some printing on rocks we couldn’t read

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We left a summit register at the summit

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We had great views of Bull Hill (the mountain we’d just attempted) and tried to visually see a way to hike it without traversing on mining property. I think I figured a way out, but will need to do more research. We had a cool view of the back side of Pikes Peak

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We headed back down the way we’d came, being careful not to trespass on private property

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Here’s a topo map of our route

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Since the road had been narrow and I didn’t want to drive through private property I backed my truck all the way down the road and turned around at the bottom. On our drive in we noticed the trails we’d intended to take tomorrow were blocked off by private property/ no trespassing signs and locked gates, so we were going to need another alternate plan. It’s clear Teller County highpoints are going to be frustrating!!! Everything’s on private land!

We drove to where we could find cell service (Victor) to look up alternate routes, and also to see if there was any way we could find routes for the peaks we’d attempted today but couldn’t summit due to blocked gates. We were unable to find alternate routes at this time, and in the end decided to head back to the campsite we’d occupied last night, hoping it would still be available, and instead hike closer to home.
We saw a Teller County Sheriff patrolling the road as we drove through. We headed back through the tunnel

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And all the way back to our campsite. Check it out: No one was there! We reclaimed our site and started a fire. Steffen was upset to see the large rock he’d dug out last night was gone (he’d wanted it to put in his garden). I relaxed while we made dinner and set up for tomorrow. I planned on setting out all necessary items tonight and adding another sleeping bag to the bed (I had another one in my truck). I noticed my truck topper was loose (the road had been rough) so we re-tightened it.

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I also put together some trip notes from the day: it had been a log day full of disappointments and summits and highs and lows.

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We ate Ramen and Elk Sausage and cheese and bacon and went to bed early. Before going to bed we lit the heater for about 5 minutes, until it burned one of the lights and I was worried the fiberglass would start to melt. That made it warm enough to last the whole night however.

We were woken up twice during the night: once at 10:30pm to a couple of kids shining lights into our windows. Of course they couldn’t see inside because I had blackout curtains, but I thought it was dumb of them to try. Both of use were prepared to scare them off if they tried to open any doors/throw any rocks. Stupid kids: we camp with guns. Luckily self defense wasn’t necessary.

The second time was around 2am when someone drove in blaring their music. I guess this is a popular spot? Well, two cars on a Friday night actually isn’t all that bad… and the view is incredible, so I totally understand!

Bull Hill – 10,808’ (Attempt)

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RT Length: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 558’

Turns out this one’s illegal. We knew once we arrived at the trailhead and saw what was before us our chances of summiting were slim, but we decided to try it anyway.

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The gate was unlocked so we passed through and started our way up the road. It was supposed to be a quick, 1 mile hike on a road and then a short distance to the summit. We walked about a third of a mile and turned right

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And headed up a wide, rocky road

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We had a great view of Big Bull, the mountain we’d just climbed a few minutes ago

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As we were walking along the road we heard a loud rumbling and saw a dump truck the size of a house drive past us, full of rocks. We were on an active mine, and immediately began to worry we were going to get in trouble for being here. We saw a water truck drive by, and then after hiking along the road for eight tenths of a mile we saw a white pickup truck with lights coming towards us. We asked the man in the truck for directions to the summit, to which he very politely told us we weren’t allowed to hike here and asked us to turn around. He said we could try to summit another way, on the other side of the fence (but we knew that wasn’t possible because the fence went all around). He actually offered to drive us back to the gate, but we declined. He sat in his truck and watched us hike the entire way back. I’d wanted to take more pictures, but figured he wouldn’t appreciate my doing so.

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We had a gpx file for this route, and that person either a) made the file on CalTopo and never actually hiked it, b) hiked it illegally, or c) somehow got permission. There are no trip reports on this hike with more information. I’m thinking b is the most likely option, but I’m not going to name names.

We made it back to my truck and pondered how we were ever going to hike this ranked summit? Legally that is. I’m sure this mine is operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There was a phone number listed on the gate. I’m going to try to call that number and get special permission to hike. I don’t have high hopes that will work, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.

Here’s a copy of our topo.  We were so close!

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Oh well, on to the next peak!

Big Bull Mountain – 10,832’

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RT Length: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 828’
The start of this hike was a little fuzzy. I parked my truck at the dead end of Independence Avenue, near an old, boarded up house.

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We started out by going through an unlocked gate and just heading up the mountain, hiking southeast. In fact, the entire hike to the summit you just need to continue heading southeast and you’ll make it there at about a mile’s distance.

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There’s actually a drainage here that makes the path easy to follow

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We headed up the mountainside through grass and into some aspens. Here we found a mule deer antler!

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As we entered the pine trees the snow became thick and we needed to put on our snowshoes. I was glad we’d brought them, as from the truck the hike looked clear of snow.

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The pine trees ended up becoming very thick with young growth. So thick it became difficult to find a hiking route.

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Eventually the pine trees gave way to a flat ridge less dense with vegetation

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We wanted to remember our exit point, so I brought out some of the surveying tape I’d pre-cut for just this purpose and we marked a tree

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We followed the ridge east now until we came to a wide cairn.

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It was difficult on this flat mesa to figure out where the true summit was, but we figured the cairn was a likely indication. There was no summit register, and we’d forgotten to bring one, so we just took a picture

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And headed back the way we came

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It was surprisingly easy to find our yellow marking tape, and from there we just followed our tracks in the snow back down (we removed the tape, as we didn’t think it would be useful to anyone else and were practicing leave no trace)

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We made it out of the trees and back into the grass. From here we could see my truck, so it was an easy exit

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I kept looking for another deer antler, but unfortunately didn’t come across one. This is the first deer antler I’ve ever found on a hike, and I do a lot of hikes!
This was a quick, 2 mile hike through some soft snow and densely wooded areas. Our third summit of the day, now we were off to attempt our fourth! Here’s a topo of the route:

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*If you plan to do this hike, please get the appropriate permissions before potentially roaming onto private property.

Covid Peak – 11749 and Corona Peak – 11510

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RT Length: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1654’

I know these peaks are NOT named Covid and Corona, but they don’t actually have names, and these seemed appropriate. Also, I don’t expect these to become permanent names, as I know naming a peak is a process.

The story of these peaks actually begins a few months ago, when I ordered a topper for my truck. I ordered this topper weeks before the stay at home orders, but due to the Coronavirus scare it was slow to arrive. Very slow. Finally, this week it came in and I was able to have it put on. I spent the next few days sprucing it up, adding a mattress, blankets, pillows, and storage containers with necessities (food, cooking gear, toiletries, etc.). I added the curtains and lights. I was pleased with the setup.

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We made it to the spot we planned to spend the night early, and had elk sausage and baked potatoes for dinner, heated over a fire.

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We found a grub in some firewood. I wanted to eat it, but it slipped into the fire…

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We cleaned up and waited for the sun to set. And waited. And waited. Steffen dug out some rhyolite rocks with my ice axe and I just relaxed and waited for the sun to set.

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But it just didn’t seem to want to set! I wanted to see the city lights before going to bed. It took me way too long to realize we’d be getting up in the dark anyways, and I’d see them soon enough. I decided to err on the side of sleep and see them in the morning.
Lessons learned during the night:
• 4 blankets/sleeping bags aren’t enough for 25* weather
• Wear a hat and jacket and gloves to bed
• The metal on the side of the truck is cold
• Set out everything you need for the morning before you go to bed (clothes, food, toothbrush, etc)

OK, so it wasn’t as warm as I’d anticipated, but that’s why we were doing this the first time close to home, to figure this kind of stuff out.

My alarm went off at 4:30am and I didn’t want to get up. It had snowed a bit overnight. I wasn’t warm, but I didn’t want to give up the covers either. Eventually the need to pee won and I got up. We decided to drive to the trailhead with the heater running in the truck and warm up, then have breakfast/coffee in the truck before heading out for our hike. Oh, and the lights were indeed beautiful!

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We made it to the Mason Reservoir trailhead, parked, and made breakfast. We were on the trail by 6:30am. To be fair, the drive took us over an hour (Old Stage Road is in need of repair!!!)

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We did not head towards the reservoir but instead went west

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Crossing a creek and heading up the mountainside to the ridge

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In the beginning it looked like there might actually be a trail, but we soon lost it in the snow

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At the ridge we turned right (north) and followed the ridge to the end

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The snow ranged from non existent to several feet deep. We were able to get away without using snowshoes all the way to the peak

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We just kept aiming north, towards the peak

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The summit of the peak wasn’t obvious. There was no summit register or cairn or anything indicating we were at a summit. I figured that was because this peak was so obscure. So we decided to leave a summit register and name Peak 11,749 Covid Peak.

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We left the summit register where someone would find it and were on our way

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We followed the ridge northwest down, immediately needing snowshoes

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The snow was very deep and we were both glad we’d decided to take this hike in a clockwise direction: this would not have been fun to hike up! At one point we saw a well defined (but old) trench that was pretty large and looked like a human trench but weaved through the trees without breaking any branches. We realized it must be a trench from a large animal (thinking mountain lion, not bear). This area was very steep

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At the bottom of the ridge we came to a marshy area and headed east towards our next peak

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The marshy area had what looked like water gates

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We crossed a dirt road, and then just headed northwest up the ridge

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Snowshoes were needed here. We came across some recent orange flags and figured they would lead us up the peak. They led us about ¾ of the way, and then disappeared

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The actual summit of this mountain was difficult to surmise. We weren’t sure if it was on the north end or the south end of the mountain, as both points looked equal. We hiked all the way to the south end and found this rock.

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It felt like the highest point, so we climbed on top and I took a reading with my altimeter. It’s a serious class 5 climb, and we used the tree as leverage to get to the top.

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Then we hiked back to the north side (about 1/10th of a mile away) and I took another reading with my altimeter. This point was anticlimactic and measured 10 feet higher. I was kind of disappointed the summit didn’t require a class 5 move, but it made the summit more attainable for everyone. There wasn’t a summit marker/register/cairn, etc. so we made one, naming 11,510 Corona Peak.

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We left the summit register in the middle of a pile of snow at what was the highpoint

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Making this a loop we set out again towards the south side of the mountain, passing the large boulder and heading down the south ridge towards the reservoir.

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We made it back to the road and followed it around the reservoir

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We found a frozen drain and Steffen had fun trying to break the ice with my ice axe

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The road was easy to follow

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There was a major cornice forming off the reservoir

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We made it back to my truck without incident and headed back down the mountain.

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Here’s the topo:

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Oh, and that truck that was off the side of the road last week? It’s still there…

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We were now on our way to Cow Mountain. This took us further down Old Stage Road, and through a tunnel.

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Unfortunately, we met up with some unanticipated locked gates and private property, so we had to change our plans. Scott’s Ranch blocked our drive with a locked gate. On the positive side, we saw a flock of turkeys

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Mt Rosa – 11,499 and Rain Benchmark – 11,310

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RT Length: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2520’
Thinking this would be an easy hike I got up at 2am and worked out on the treadmill for a while before heading over to Steffens house at 4am. His truck is lifted and we wanted to see how it handled as compared to mine on the 4WD dirt road (pretty similar actually). We started from Frosty Park, the same place we began last week. Rain was predicted by 1pm so we wanted to be on the trail early. We started at 6am when it was just light enough not to need flashlights, crossing a fence and hiking east along a faint trail.

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I was immediately a bit upset, as one of my microspikes had broken. I could still wear the spike, but the chain was loose and it made an irritating clanking sound every time my foot hit the ground. Mental note: get new spikes before my next hike.
We turned right onto trail 672 and began retrenching an old trench, following the mountainside and losing elevation as we went.

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After 1.5 miles of hiking we turned right (south) onto 673 and encountered a lot of snow.

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In some places an old trench was visible so we tried to follow that whenever possible, but at other times we just made a new trench. Snowshoes weren’t needed this early in the morning.

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There was a windswept area

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And then more snow.

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Last time I summited Mt Rosa I summited from the south side (same trail at this point) but this time the trail wasn’t visible, so we just went straight up the north side of the mountain

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The summit was windswept and clear.

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We took a summit shot and stayed for a few minutes, since it was such a nice day

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There was no summit register so we left one, and built up the summit cairn while we were at it.

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Mt Rosa:

Heading back down was a breeze, as we just followed our previous tracks

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Ok, time for the next peak. It takes so long to drive out here and the summits are so short it’s worth it to try to get multiple peaks in in a day. We drove back down 379, noticing there weren’t nearly as many people out as there had been last week. We only passed 1 vehicle, and last time we’d passed dozens.

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Turned right onto Old Stage Road, we then followed the road for a few miles to 376, turned right again, and drove for 1.9 miles before parking on the side of the road.

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We started out by bushwhacking east, following a gully up the mountainside.

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This gully had more snow than we’d anticipated, so we stayed to the left of it. There was a little bit of snow here, and a lot of fallen trees.

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We made it to about 10250’ and decided to cut across the mountain and head southeast towards the saddle. Once again, no trail, and lots of downed trees. We came across another gully that led towards the saddle and decided to mark our exit so we’d know how to make our way back. We found this cool root that looked like a bighorn sheep skull and used that to mark our place.

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We continued east up the gully on what kind of looked like a trail

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Things changed when we hit the saddle: snowshoes became necessary

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We donned our snowshoes (thank you Steffen for fixing mine!) and started up the ridge that led to the summit.

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The snow just seemed to get thicker and thicker the further we went, and several times I thought we’d need to turn back, but we just zig-zagged our tracks and kept pressing forward.

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To the right of the snow is a rocky area. The summit is at the southwest point

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And check this out: there was a summit marker AND two summit registers!

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Unfortunately, the views of Pikes and Almagre were interrupted by trees

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The clouds were forming quickly so we didn’t stay too long on the summit. The snow was helpful on our way back, as we just followed our tracks back to the saddle

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And then we followed our makeshift bighorn sheep cairn across the mountainside and back down the gully. There was less snow here, and we were surprised every so often to find our tracks!

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Following the first gully back down was easy: we just stayed to the right of the snow

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This led us back to the road and Steffen’s truck.

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Here are the topo maps for the hikes
Rosa:

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Rain Benchmark:

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I’m not quite sure on the time for this hike, and to be honest, I wasn’t really paying attention because about halfway back to Old Stage Road we were stopped due to a tow truck blocking the road.

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We parked the truck and got out to see what was going on. Apparently someone was driving too fast on the dirt road last night; his truck launched and hit trees before going over the edge and landing in the creek. Check out how high those tree marks are!!! The driver was alone and miraculously unhurt. He spent the night in his vehicle and climbed for help this morning. We hadn’t come across him because we’d decided to hike Rosa first.

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We sat and watched them try to remove the truck for about half an hour.

Eventually they decided their tow truck wasn’t large enough and they’d need to come back with a bigger vehicle. Stay safe out there driving my friends!

Almagre Mountain – 12,367 and South Almagre Mountain – 12,349

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RT Length: 14.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2936’

Oh, Old Stage Road, where the speed limit is 20mph but you can’t go above 5mph because the road is so full of potholes. Old Stage Road is a 2WD dirt road connecting Colorado Springs with Cripple Creek, and as of late is becoming increasingly difficult to drive. OK, not difficult if you drive slow, but then it takes forever! We made it to Old Stage Road at 5am and didn’t make it to the trailhead (Frosty Park) for over another hour. The last part (after turning onto 379) was very much 4WD, and fun to drive! There was snow and ice on the trail, and a few deep puddles to navigate.

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Eventually I came to a place where there was a layer of snow/ice on the road that I didn’t want to navigate with my truck, so I parked a third of a mile before the trailhead and decided to walk the rest of the way. This was an easy walk along the 379 dirt road, and in fact, we stayed on 379 for 3.5 more miles

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The road conditions varied greatly, but after the first mile snow was present along the entire route. The road followed the Ring the Peak Trail to Deer Park

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At Deer Park we left the Ring the Peak trail and turned right onto 379A

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We continued to follow the road, steadily gaining in elevation

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Snowshoes would have been a good idea, but we were too stubborn to put them on.

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After 5.25 miles we came to a locked gate and skirted around it

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This brought us to the defunct Stratton Reservoir.

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It’s hard to imagine this reservoir ever held much water. Almagre is to the north of the reservoir. Here’s the path we took

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Stopping to get a shadowselfie on the reservoir

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Following the road up to the saddle

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And then heading northwest to the summit

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There was a lot of wind here, and firm snow we were able to easily navigate with just microspikes

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We summited at 9:40am to quite a bit of wind

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There was no summit register, so we decided to leave one we’d brought, crouching down behind the solar panels to get out of the wind

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The wind was a bitter cold so we didn’t stay long on the summit. We made our way back to the saddle

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And got a good view of South Almagre Mountain (the microwave towers)

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We headed back the way we came

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And only stopped for a bit to re-apply sunscreen. Then we were starting the ascent of South Almagre. While we simply followed the road, the road was covered in snow/ice and was a bit tricky in places. I went first to kick in steps

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The road didn’t look passable after the first set of switchbacks, so we decided to just head up this wall of snow and straight towards the microwave towers

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As we neared the towers we heard talking, which was confusing since we’d made our own tracks and hadn’t seen anyone all day. Turns out there were some workers up in the towers adding connectivity and network bandwith due to increased demand during the Coronavirus.

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They’d tried to take the road we hiked in but their vehicle wouldn’t make it, so they instead turned around and hiked in from Elk Park. This is the initial way I’d summited Almagre a few years ago.

Being at the top of South Almagre we weren’t sure if we were indeed at the highpoint. Looking directly east seemed to be just as high (or higher) than the point we were at now, so we decided to traverse over to this pile of rocks

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While it was fun scrambling, our altimeter showed this area was actually 10 feet lower than the towers had been.

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Satisfied, we decided to head back, following the route we’d come in

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The snow section below the towers was a little steep, but we’d done a good job kicking in steps

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We followed the road back to the gate

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And with the increased temperatures were a little worried about avalanche danger here

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We gingerly crossed this area, and as soon as we were confident we were out of avalanche danger we put on our snowshoes for the long slog back down through snow, ice, and mud.

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The snow on the roads was now mush, and once we got further down we started seeing tire tracks

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And more and more and more vehicles. I started to get worried we wouldn’t be able to drive out on this road because so many people were driving in.

We made it back to the truck at 2:30pm, making this a 14.5 mile hike with 2936’ of elevation gain in 8 hours. I have to say, the hike felt shorter with more elevation gain, but that may be because I was tired from my hike the day before.

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I decided to follow a few vehicles back to Old Stage Road, and this ended up being a fabulous idea: There were dozens of vehicles in the half mile back to the road all trying to go the opposite way. I applaud them for social distancing and still getting outdoors!

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Colored Peaks

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RT Length: 15.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 4692’

Partner: Steffen

I’m calling this post “Colored Peaks” because really, there were 6 peaks and it would have taken too long to title: Gold Flake – 10165, Red Flake – 10650, Blue Mountain – 9856, Yellow Mountain – 9982, Black Mountain (UR) – 10132, & Green Mountain – 10140

The forecast for wind today was between 70-90mph up high, so instead of hiking above treeline today we chose to hike some 10K and 9K peaks. It was still pretty windy, but at least we weren’t being blown away.  We got a bit of a late start because Old Stage Road takes forever to drive.  It’s nicely plowed but still icy in the morning.  I decided to park at the furthest peak first and work our way back.  The first two peaks were each less than a mile in length, and more like warm-ups for the rest of the day.   I’m really glad we decided to do them first because if we’d left them for the end I’m not sure we would have summited them.

Gold Flake – 10165 (so named because of the gold tin and golden morning)

I parked my truck on the side of the road and we headed east through the trees

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And then south to the (rocky) summit.

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There were no views on this summit, so we took a quick picture

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Signed and replaced the summit register

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And made our way back to the truck.

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This was a very simple and straightforward trek up and down the mountain (without a trail or views).

Red Flake – 10650’ (so named because of the red tin)

We hopped in the truck, leaving on all our gear, and headed to the next trailhead. There wasn’t a place to park so I parked on top of a dirt berm near a shooting area littered with shell casings and we headed southwest up the side of the mountain.

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There was more snow here, but luckily we soon came upon a trench! It looked over a week old, but made route finding much easier.  We found a microspike on the trail.  I attached it to Steffen’s pack and we took it out with us.

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The trench led us to another rocky summit without any views

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We signed and replaced the summit register and were quickly on our way back down.

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Two easy peaks down, we now drove Old Stage Road to 371 and took that 4WD dirt road south to Emerald Valley Ranch, where I parked next to a locked gate.

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Blue Mountain – 9856’

Emerald Valley Ranch is now owned by the Broadmoor, but was originally purchased as a Girl Scout Camp, and then sold to Spencer Penrose.

We started out hiking southwest along the road

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There was a locked gate, but no ‘no trespassing’ sign and tons of footprints, so we just went through the gate

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I found some pieces to a hornets’ nest in the snow. At first I thought it was the entire nest buried, but it ended up just being a few pieces.

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The road was supposed to lead us near Emerald Valley Boys Camp, but we didn’t see any evidence of that. Instead we came to what was left of an old cabin.  We looked around for a bit and then headed south.

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The trench stopped at the cabin and there was no trail here, so we bushwhacked our way south up the mountainside, following deer/animal tracks when available.

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We came upon a small lashed structure that looked to have been lashed recently. Maybe this was part of the Boys’ camp? It would make a good tent if you brought along a tarp.

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Onward and upward! Check it out: I found some pieces to another hornets’ nest!  Kind of cool, considering it was over a mile away from the last one

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We were still straddling the ravine until we made it to the ridge

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This was our aim

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Once we made it to the ridge it started snowing, which was weird because snow wasn’t in the forecast for today. The wind also picked up, but since we were below treeline it was tolerable.  Notice all the deer/elk chews on the trees?  We saw them all day, and tons of scat as well (from Deer, Elk, and Bighorn Sheep)

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The ridge seemed to last forever! Every time we thought we were at the summit the route would dip down and then back up again

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There were so many downed trees! Branches and limbs were scattered everywhere.  We had to go around large piles of dead trees and circle back again several times to stay on the ridge.

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There were several places that looked like the true summit. We walked around them all but agreed the highest point was the one furthest to the southeast.  None of the high areas had a summit register, so we left one and since it was cold turned around and headed back down the ridge, being careful to stay on the ridge this time and not heading back down the gully

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Yellow Peak – 9982’

The skies suddenly cleared and we were treated to a great view of the peaks we hiked last weekend: Knights, McKinley, and San Luis

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The ridge had some open areas that looked great for grazing and lots of aspens with bite marks

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Here’s the last bit of the trek to the summit

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We followed the ridge all the way to 9982, which we named “Yellow Peak” because it fit and because there was yellow duct tape on the summit register.

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Here’s looking back on Blue Mountain

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Black Mountain (UR) – 10,132’

At this point we had a decision to make: we either turned back now and headed back to the ruins/Emerald Valley Boys Camp area, or we made this a loop and continued on.  I was a bit worried because I hadn’t brought a flashlight and if we continued I knew we’d be hiking out in the dark.  Luckily Steffen had one in his backpack and we were feeling great so we decided to keep going and hit a few more peaks today.  We continued west down the mountain to a small saddle on a game trail, and once at the saddle picked up an actual trail.

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That led to a 4wd road! This was great!

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We followed the road west for quite a ways, past a run-down cabin and a couple of homes sporting tons of elk antlers

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We could have followed the road up to the saddle, but at the time we didn’t know this, instead we cut across a field and headed south up the mountain (through a lot of snow)

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There wasn’t a lot of elevation gain on this one since it’s an unranked peak, and it didn’t take us long to make it to the summit.

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There wasn’t a summit register on this peak. We would have left one but we didn’t have one to leave.

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Turning to the northwest we could see our last summit of the day:

Green Mountain – 10,140’

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This really was a simple hike northwest past the road and up to the summit of Green Mountain.

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When we arrived we had a great view of Black Mountain

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There was what looked to be a mine at the summit?

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We walked all along the top of the summit just to make sure we hit the actual ‘high point’. We were unable to find a summit register for this one either, and were a bit disappointed until Steffen got an idea:  he decided to look inside this stump and guess what?  There it was!  It hadn’t been signed since 2010 so I’m sure no one else had thought to look inside the stump since then.

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We signed the register and put a cairn on top of the tree so others would know it’s there

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Time to make this a loop! We traveled west down the ridge, avoiding this outcropping by navigating it to the left

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This quickly brought us to the road

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We followed it and were surprised to come across a gate. The only thing to do was climb over it. When we made it to the other side we realized we were now on the ‘right side’ of the gate.  Curious though, since we hadn’t seen any other gates/no trespassing signs on our way in?

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A little ways after the gate, and just before the road curved west, we saw a cairn to our left (well, a rock on a log) and followed a faint trail down the mountainside.

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Eventually the snow stopped and we descended a steep pipeline/scree slope to another 4WD road.

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I was excited to finally make it to this road! We still had quite a ways to hike, but now all we had to do was follow this road out.  Well, I was excited until the road became covered in snow.

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The snow was about 2 feet deep and snowshoes would have helped greatly, but we didn’t have any. Instead we took turns trenching and walking in each others’ footsteps.  I could tell this was especially taxing for Steffen.  I’m used to going for long hikes without eating/drinking anything.  My body is just used to it, but his isn’t.  Although he’d had plenty of snacks today and was currently out of water because he’d drank it all, he was tired, hungry, and thirsty.  He’d already taken a few Advil and I was worried about him hiking in the dark.  And then it started to snow.

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He stopped to take another Advil and we heard a large cat scream twice to our left. We decided to double the pace towards the ruined cabin.  At times there were animal tracks to follow, but most of the time we were trenching through several feet of snow.

I was excited again when we finally made it to the ruins: we now had less than a mile to go!

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This was the easiest part because the trenching stopped and we followed our footsteps in. We made it back to my truck around 6:30pm, making this a 15.5 mile trek with 4692’ of elevation gain in 10 hours, 45 minutes.

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I was proud of Steffen! This was the longest hike he’s ever done.  He was exhausted, and offered to cook me steak to celebrate when I dropped him off at home.

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Knights Peak – 10490, McKinley Peak (UR) – 10450, San Luis Peak – 10460, PT 10100 & PT 9410

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RT Length: 10 miles

Elevation Gain: 4094’ (debatable?)

Time: 7 hours

Partner: Steffen

Another day of local highpointing! Today I’d wanted to hit 5 highpoints off Old Stage Road and Steffen volunteered to go with me to practice some routefinding below treeline.  It was snowing (lightly) when we made it to the first parking spot.  Actually, the drive took what seemed like forever because I was careful driving on the icy road.  I had to turn around a few times before finding a big enough space to park my truck while avoiding drifts and ended up parking a little ways further than I’d wanted to.

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We donned our microspikes, left the snowshoes in the truck, and headed west along Old Stage Road. There isn’t a trail on this one (or if there is it was covered in snow) so we just walked up this slope and continued southeast up the ridge

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Knight’s Peak, McKinley Peak, and San Luis Peak

There was snow here, and a lot of downed trees. I let Steffen route-find since he’s learning.  In places where I would have zig-zagged to avoid branches he just knocked down the ones in the way.  My bandana kept getting caught on branches (and eventually ripped in half).

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About half way up the ridge we ran into an old set of tracks and decided to follow them up

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The tracks led to a rock formation

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This rock formation had a class 3/4 chimney we used a strategically placed log to climb. This part was unexpected and fun!

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Looking down the chimney

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From here we continued southeast towards the summit

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The summit block had a rather fancy trail register

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We didn’t sign the register, but we did climb up on the rock to make sure we tagged the high point.   From here we had a great view of our next objective:  Unranked McKinley Peak.  Here’s an overview of the route we took

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Heading down from Knights Peak was fun! We passed some stashed firewood, which made no sense to us since this place was littered with fallen trees

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We headed towards the saddle and then up the ridge. There were some neat rock formations here too.

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Check out the view of Knights Peak! When you descend this peak be sure to stay to the north.

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There’s a bit of a false summit to McKinley, but the actual summit isn’t that far away.

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We went up these rocks

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Skirted this rock formation to the right (south)

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Carefully maneuvered our way up this ramp

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And noticed the summit of San Luis Peak was to the right (east)

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So we downclimbed the rock we were on to the left (west), skirted the large rock and re-climbed with a little scrambling back to the east

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And headed towards the summit

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This part was definitely class 3-4 climbing! It reminded me of the summit block on Sunlight in the Chicago Basin, but a bit longer

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This part was challenging for me because it required taking off my gloves. The rocks were cold and covered in a thin layer of snow, so my fingers weren’t very useful.  I did summit however, and took some photos for fun.

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Here’s looking back on the other two peaks we’d already summited this morning

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Steffen headed down the summit block first. He wanted to climb the other tower, which we both agreed seemed to be about 10 feet lower than the summit of San Luis Peak

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I slowly made my way down, being careful not to slip because there was no way to catch myself. Ropes would be a good idea on this part.  Helmets too.

We fixed the cairns (they were pointing towards the lower of the two spires)

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And headed back down the rocks. Here’s the route we took, using the tree for added support.

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Once again, there was no path down this mountain. We just zig-zagged our way down through the trees toward the road.  It was very steep, and I was glad we’d decided to take this way down instead of up.

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We came across a cool cave that would make a great den. We didn’t see any tracks near here in the snow, so we assumed it was vacant

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Steffen stopped to make a snow angel

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And we exited the trees and followed the road back to my truck

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Here we could have taken a short cut between the mountains back to my truck, but the snow was too deep. If we’d had snowshoes it wouldn’t have been a problem though

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Our next peak was a little ways away, so after getting back to my truck we drove on Old Stage Road back the way we’d come and found a parking spot at the base of 10100.

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10100

There was less snow here but we kept on our microspikes, not sure of what we’d encounter. The first part of this climb was steep and ascended through lots of brush and trees, both alive and dead

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We angled slightly left up the mountain until we came to a rocky area. We rock hopped up the rocks

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And came to rocks that were not climbable, so we skirted the formation to the left

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And went up a small gully

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We turned left at the top of the gully and followed the ridge to what we thought was the highpoint, but was really a false summit. From here we could see the true summit of 10100, more to the north of us.  We could also see increasing clouds.

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It was a short hike over to the true summit. Here we found a summit register and Steffen signed it (I don’t usually sign them, but added my WW for good measure).

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The wind picked up and snow flurries began, so we decided to head back to my truck. It was amazing how different the trail looked on the way back with no visual cues to help with route finding.  On the way in I’d kept looking back at the mountains to remember how to exit, yet now the snow was so enveloping it covered our earlier tracks and I was unable to see any mountains.

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In the snow we had a little trouble finding the correct gully to descend, but eventually found it and made our way back to the road.

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9410

With all this unexpected snow we debated our final peak of the day, but once we made it to the trailhead we decided to go for it. Peak 9410 is an easy hike on an established trail for 80% of the time, and a good introduction to easy route finding and peakbagging. We parked at the top of a hill at the trailhead for Gray Back Peak and headed southeast on a scree and snow filled trail.

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This trail quickly became snow packed, but there was a nice trench to follow

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We hiked it up past point 9153 and descended a bit, losing about 150 feet in elevation before regaining it and reaching the top of a hill. The trail continues south here towards Gray Back Peak, but we found this marker on a tree and left the trail, heading east.

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Every so often we’d see a cairn or surveyors tape, letting us know we were on the right track. We headed east and once we reached the ridge northwest towards the summit

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Once again, the summit views weren’t all that great due to the snow/clouds, but the short trek had totally been worth it.

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We found a summit register but didn’t bother to sign it

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And instead headed back down the mountain

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And back to the truck

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We made it back to my truck at 2:30pm, making this a 10 mile hike with 4094’ of elevation gain in 7 hours, with a couple of trailhead drives in the middle.

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But those numbers are debatable. Steffen’s numbers were drastically different than mine.  We both used Strava to track our progress, and hiked the entire time together, yet his elevation gain read in the 5000’ range, while mine was in the low 4000’.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Our mileage was off too, making me wonder what’s up with the disparities.  Have my numbers been artificially low, or are his high?