French/Frasco/Casco Combo


Difficulty:  Difficult Class 2 
Upper Elevation: 13,940 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 10,240 feet
Elevation Gain:4,600 feet
Round-trip Length: 11.75 miles
Trailhead: Halfmoon Creek
Author: BillMiddlebrook
Route Added: 10/03/2012
Last Updated: 10/21/2012
   

Trailhead:  

From U.S. 24 just south of Leadville, turn onto Colorado 300 and cross the railroad tracks. Drive 0.7 mile and turn left onto County Road 11 toward the Halfmoon Creek. After another 1.2 miles, turn right on the dirt road to Halfmoon Creek. Drive on the good dirt road (except for the usual washboard and potholes) for 5.3 miles to the Mt. Massive parking area on the right. Drive another 2 miles on the now 4WD road to a small junction. Turn left on Forest Road 110J and down into the unmarked TH, before the creek crossing. If you have high-clearance 4WD, you can cross the creek and drive up to 1 mile farther.

Details:

If you have a high-clearance, short-wheelbase, 4WD vehicle, you can cross Halfmoon Creek (Photo #1) and park on the other side or drive (Photo #2) up to a mile farther before reaching a South Halfmoon Creek crossing which is very difficult for most vehicles – Photo #3. If you can’t drive past the lower trailhead, ford Halfmoon Creek and walk up the road. Advance nearly 3.5 miles up the road (Photo #4 and Photo #5) to exit the trees and continue toward the Iron Mike Mine and French Mountain - Photo #6.

From cabin ruins at 12,500’ (Photo #7), leave the road and hike north toward the steep slope between Frasco Benchmark and French Mountain - Photo #8 and Photo #9. Ascend the grassy slope (Photo #10) to reach the 13,600-foot saddle between these two peaks and turn right to see French - Photo #11. Follow the short, Class 2 ridge (Photo #12) to reach the summit of French - Photo #13 and Photo #14.

Return to the saddle. If you don’t want to continue to Frasco and Casco, this is the time to descend back to the Iron Mike mine. From the saddle (Photo #15), Frasco’s summit is 0.4 mile away and the ridge is a bit longer and more difficult than the ridge to French. Stay on or just left of the ridge (Photo #16 and Photo #17) to reach Frasco’s summit - Photo #18 and Photo #19.

If you don’t want to continue to Casco, your best option is to return to the Frasco-French saddle before descending because the ridge to Casco (Difficult Class 2) is longer and more tedious than previous terrain. Drop south from Frasco’s summit (Photo #20) and continue down the defined ridge toward Casco - Photo #21 and Photo #22. Near 13,550’, reach a flat, dirt area prior to an obvious point which is shown on the map as Point 13,470’ - Photo #23. Before reaching that point, the ridge becomes more interesting and you must negotiate some rocky points - Photo #24 and Photo #25. At Point 13,470’ (Photo #26), climb it directly (Photo #27) to continue along the ridge - Photo #28. Carefully pass over a final rock section (Photo #29 and Photo #30) to reach the 13,260-foot, Frasco-Casco saddle - Photo #31.

If you don’t want to continue to Casco, turn left (east) and descend from the saddle to the Iron Mike mine. Stay on or just left of the ridge crest and begin your ascent to Casco - Photo #32 and Photo #33. Near 13,650’, the remaining route is obvious - Photo #34. Reach the crux, summit pitch (Photo #35) and climb the final rocks (Photo #36 and Photo #37) to reach the summit - Photo #38. For the descent, hike down Casco’s southeast ridge (Photo #39, Photo #40 and Photo #41) and near 13,400’, drop left (east) toward the South Halfmoon Creek basin - Photo #42. Below 12,600’, follow easy terrain (Photo #43) to intersect the road near 12,300’.

Notes:   

None

 

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