Peak(s):  London Mountain  -  13,194 feet
Kuss Peak  -  13,548 feet
Mosquito Peak  -  13,781 feet
Treasurevault Mountain  -  13,701 feet
Date Posted:  07/08/2015
Date Climbed:   06/28/2015
Author:  Greenhouseguy
 London-to-Treasurevault Ridge Run   

London Mountain
13,194 Feet (493rd Highest in Colorado)
Kuss Peak
13,548 Feet (Unranked)
Mosquito Peak
13,781 Feet (115th Highest in Colorado)
Treasurevault Mountain
13,701 Feet (Unranked)
Loop: London > Kuss > Mosquito > Treasurevault
Trailhead Elevation 11,429 Feet
8.47 Miles Roundtrip
Approximately 3,280 Feet Elevation Gained
Class 2
June 28th, 2015
Solo


London-to-Treasurevault Ridge Run



London Mountain lies in the heart of a historic mining district that dates back to the 1870's. The first London Mine was started in 1874; by the time that the mine closed during World War II, more than 90 miles of mine shafts riddled the mountain. One of the state's first aerial tramways moved the ore from the mine down to the mill in Mosquito Gulch. The mine, mill, administrative offices, and bunkhouses all survive in some degree of preservation.

The Mosquito Gulch mining district produced enormous amounts of gold in the 1870's and 1880's. When rich silver deposits were developed in Leadville in the 1870's, miners sought a short route between Fairplay and Leadville. The Mosquito Pass Road was extended past the London Mine in 1879, and at 13,185 feet, it is the highest pass in Colorado that is accessible from both sides. Father Dyer the itinerant snowshoe minister used this route to carry the U.S. Mail and his brand of religion from Fairplay to Leadville several times per week in the mid-to-late 1800's. My loop hike today began on this "highway of frozen death."

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Left: The London Mill viewed from Mosquito Pass Road. Right: Monument to Father Dyer at the summit of Mosquito Pass

I used at the Mosquito Gulch 2WD trailhead just past the junction of Mosquito Pass Road and CO783. For my purposes, it would have been better to have parked at the Cooney Lake Trailhead about half a mile farther up the pass; Cooney Lake is in the basin below Treasurevault Mountain, which would be my last peak of the day. I could have just followed the basin directly back to my parking spot. The extra mile and 500 feet of elevation gain on my roundtrip didn't make or break my day.

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Looking up Mosquito Pass Road from the 2WD trailhead

There was a moderate amount of snowmelt running down the road; just two weeks earlier, this entire area had been snow-covered. Having good waterproof boots made my life much easier. The presence of wetlands indicator plants such as Marsh Marigold and Parry's Primrose showed that this area probably has an ample water supply throughout the short summer season.

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Parry's Primrose (Primula parryi) growing beside the Mosquito Pass Road

The route follows the road up to a saddle between London Mountain and Kuss Peak. It's no joy to drive this stretch of road, but it's relatively easy to hike.

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Left: Looking back down Mosquito Gulch with Sky Pilot (Polemonium viscosum) in the foreground. Right: Looking at London Mountain from the Mosquito Pass Road

I was able to avoid the snow until I reached the ruins of the North London Mine. Vehicles were not able to make it past this point. I decided to put my snowshoes on, but it was probably unnecessary; I only kept them on for about a quarter of a mile.

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The end of the road (for the time being). The North London Mine is in the center of the image, and Kuss Peak's east ridge is visible to the far right

The stretch of road beyond the mine wasn't exactly smooth sailing; there was too much exposed rock to make snowshoes useful, and too much soft snow to make booting it pleasant. Fortunately, this was only a short section of the hike.

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Left: Looking back at the North London Mine over dozens of acres of soft, suncupped snow. Right: Approaching the saddle between Kuss Peak's east ridge and London Mountain's west ridge

When I reached the saddle, I turned east to start up the clearly-visible trail on London Mountain's west ridge. The route appeared to be free from snow, and numerous alpine wildflowers dotted the tundra beside the trail. I took a minute to learn a new plant, American Smelowsky. Its odd name comes from Russian botanist Timotheus Smelowsky; the plant was first described from a specimen collected in Siberia in the early 1800's.

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Hiking into the sun on London Mountain's west ridge

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American Smelowsy (Smelowskia calycina var. americana) beside the trail

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The familiar blue of Alpine Forget-Me-Not (Eretrichium nanum), also known as Eretrichium aretioides

The first tower appeared to be a formidable obstacle, but there was an easy route that passed to the right of the block at the top of the tower.

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Easy route around the top of the first tower

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Regaining the ridge after the first tower

The second rock tower was no more difficult than the first; as with the first tower, the easy-to-follow route passes to the right of the summit.

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Picking my way through the rocks on the second tower

After the second tower, the broad ridge opened up and had no more obstacles.

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Passing through the last rock obstacles

The route on the ridge crest is easy to follow and nearly level.

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Following the trail on the right side of the ridge crest

For some unknown reason, somebody found it necessary to construct a summit cairn well below the summit. Rolling boulders at 13,000 feet may be amusing to some, but I can think of more entertaining ways to induce hypoxia.

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Looking past the lower summit cairn towards the true summit

The view from the summit is not stellar, but it's not too shabby. Mt. Sherman, Dyer Mountain, Gemini Peak, and Mt. Evans B are visible to the south. Kuss Peak, Mosquito Peak, Treasurevault Mountain, Mount Arkansas, Mount Tweeto, and Mount Buckskin are the closest mountains to the north.

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View of Pennsylvania Mountain from London Mountain's summit

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Bunkhouses and mine offices below the south side of the summit

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Alpine Avens (Geum rossii var. turbinatum) near the summit

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The North London Mine below the north side of the summit

While I was on the summit, I took a minute to survey the rest of my route. There was unavoidable snow on Kuss Peak's steep slopes. The saddle between Kuss and Mosquito Peak was heavily corniced with large chunks of the cornice sliding down the slope. Hopefully the top of the saddle would be clear. The snow on Mosquito and Treasurevault looked manageable.

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Looking north towards Kuss Peak, Mosquito Peak, and Treasurevault Mountain

I descended to the London/Kuss saddle and attempted to come up with a plan. There was no obvious trail, but it was clear that I needed to stick to the ridge. There were large talus blocks down low and snow up high, so this was not going to be as easy as London Mountain.

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Heading up Kuss Peak's east ridge

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Talus blocks at the base of Kuss Peak

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Looking back at London Mountain's west ridge

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Mushy snowfield below Kuss Peak's summit

Kuss Peak's summit is probably the least attractive of any of the thirteeners that I've hiked. A stone building on the top houses radio repeater equipment and a large dish. Even the summit cairn is unattractive; it's held together by globs of spray foam insulation. It's an unranked summit, so I don't have to acknowledge its existence.

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Kuss Peak's summit cairn

I had hoped that Mosquito Peak's ridge would be snow-free, but Mother Nature obviously had different plans for me. Hopefully I wouldn't end up postholing in ankle-wrenching talus.

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Mosquito Peak viewed from the summit of Kuss Peak

The lower part of Mosquito Peak's south ridge was reasonably steep, but it had the rudiments of a trail. The upper part of the slope leveled off, but the trail was largely hidden by shallow snow. None of it was particularly difficult, and I was on the summit in a matter of minutes.

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Mosquito Peak's upper slopes

Like many of the Mosquito Range's summits, Mosquito Peak is simply a rounded mound of small talus. The journey was a blast, but the destination was uninspiring. I enjoyed the views of the basin to the east and the Sawatch Range to the west.

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Mosquito Peak's summit cairn

I followed something that vaguely resembled a trail through the loose scree from Mosquito Peak's summit down to its saddle with Treasurevault Mountain. Several pieces of abandoned equipment show that there was mining activity on the saddle sometime in the middle of the 20th century. Down below the mining road on Treasurevault's western slope, a disabled Jeep Cherokee awaited its inevitable fate.

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The route from Mosquito Peak to Treasurevault Mountain

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Air compressor on the Mosquito/Treasurevault saddle

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Treasurevault Mountain's south ridge viewed from its saddle with Mosquito Peak

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Fairy Primrose (Primula angustifolia) growing amidst the mining ruins on the saddle. Even in this fragile alpine environment, nature finds a way to survive.

Treasurevault's summit only rises about 250 feet above its saddle with Mosquito Peak, so it just took a few minutes to reach my last summit of the day.

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Looking back at Mosquito Peak from Treasurevault Mountain's summit

According to Bill's route description, I could have descended Treasurevault's north slopes, traversed the ridge, summited the next unranked peak, and descended to the left to reach the basin that would lead me back to my Jeep. From the summit, I could see an easy way to descend into the beautiful Cooney Lake basin to return to Mosquito Pass road. I had scoped out the route from London Mountain's summit, and it looked like an easy and scenic way back to the trailhead. For the most part, I was right.

I descended the north ridge and took a hard right into the basin. I could have continued on the ridge and descended more gentle terrain on dry ground, but I chose a shorter and slightly steeper route with inconsequential amounts of snow.

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The descent route from Treasurevault Mountain

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Looking over the small snowfield towards Cooney Lake and Mount Buckskin

From the head of the basin, I saw Treasurevault and Mosquito in an entirely different light. The cornices on their ridges had shed refrigerator-sized chunks onto the snowfields below.

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Treasurevault Mountain seen from the tarn in the basin below

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Mosquito Peak viewed from the Cooney Lake basin

Hiking through the basin was enjoyable and didn't present any difficulties. I knew that there was a road below Cooney Lake, so I just followed the path of least resistance to the lake. The water exited the lake through what must have been 15-foot-deep snowdrifts. Rushing water and deep snow looked like good things to avoid.

Below Cooney Lake, the road and the creek became one and the same. There was too much water in the road to just muck through it, and there wasn't enough room on the sides to find a continuous path through this area. Dense willows lined either side of the road/creek. It took a bit of effort, but I managed to get through this area with dry feet.

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Surveying the situation on the road/creek

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American Globeflower (Trollius laxus) growing in the willowy nightmare beside the road

I finally came to an impasse with the soggy road; a knee-deep creek crossed the path, and it was too wide to jump across. As I stood there trying to come up with a plan, a fisherman coming down from Cooney Lake showed me a way through the willows and over the creek just a few yards east of the road. He certainly saved me some trouble, because I was just about ready to slog through the middle of the creek. The fisherman and his two totally wired huskies kept me amused all the way back to his truck at the Cooney Lake trailhead on Mosquito Pass Road. I stopped and talked to a couple of Jeepers on the half-mile trek from the Cooney Lake Trailhead to my Jeep at the Lower Mosquito Creek Trailhead. The 4WD vehicles on the rocky road were not making much better time than I was on foot.

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GPS track of the London/Kuss/Mosquito/Treasurevault loop hike

The London/Kuss/Mosquito/Treasurevault loop hike delivered some nice views, a taste of mining history, decent wildflowers, and the hike was short enough to get me back to the blighted Metro area in plenty of time for a well-deserved dinner. That's a win/win/win/win.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Jay521
User
Nice!
07/08/2015 08:49
Nice report, Brian. As always, I appreciate your notes on the history of the area and love the botany lesson.


Brian Thomas
User
LIKE
07/08/2015 13:22
What Jay said +1


MtnHub
User
Very nice!
07/08/2015 13:42
Looks like a very fun loop! Thanks for sharing!


JosephG
Very enjoyable route and report.
07/08/2015 20:42
I did this loop (+ Tweto) a few years back. Very laid back and enjoyable day. Nice report, and thanks for the extra history!



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