Peak(s):  Casco Pk  -  13,908 feet
Grizzly Pk A  -  13,988 feet
Garfield Pk A  -  13,780 feet
"Lackawanna"  -  13,823 feet
PT 13,660 B  -  13,660 feet
Date Posted:  07/28/2015
Modified:  07/29/2015
Date Climbed:   07/25/2015
Author:  rambis_21
 A July Sawatch Adventure - Griz/Garf/Lack/Casco   

I asked about a dozen people throughout the week if anyone could or would be interested in joining for a weekend hike. I was open to just about anything for one or both days as my plans generally come to finalization the night before mainly because my realm has expanded to 13ers of all heights in which 14ers Map tells me there are 584 ranked plus a couple hundred more unranked that I have to choose from. With Gary Roaches 13er book too the routes seem endless. This is one of the only times I've ventured up some CO peaks alone but I felt confident and trusting that my ability to be prepared was good. And my heart was restless to get up some new mountains since my May 31st ascent of Square Top Mnt.

Friday.. left Denver about noon after getting final work errands done and packing which seemed to drag on until I finally had to say to myself, "Can we go to the mountains yet?" Andiamo!! So I was off down 285 in my trusty Nitro towards the magnificent views of the sky piercing Sawatch peaks upon coming down 285 into Buena Vista. Awww.. have I missed such a sight. I remember the first time my eyes were blessed to see the collegiate peaks towering in all their might. It was early October 2010 on my way to summit my first 14er, Mt. Yale with Finn, John, Ian, Roz, Red Panda, and Lars, from CO School of Mines Morgan 1st (for those who may happen to know ;)).


..Hear almost 5 years later, the story continues, the views never disappoint, the ascents are always tough (to their own degree), the false summits always discouraging, the mountain goats ready to say hello, that loose rock just waiting for you to step on it or pull it, the blustery wind on the ridges, the bone chilling air of winter summits, the bright yet cold winter sun, the spring time snow reflection sunburns, the glorious glissading descents, the onerously frustrating treks back to the car on slushy spring snow, the summer monsoons that make for a soggy descent, the time your hair stood up straight from the static of a storm, for that guy who roped his dog up the class 4/5 east face of Kit Carson... for the mountain sides covered in wildflowers, the crystal clear snowmelt streams, the magnificent red glow of the Crestones in the morning light, the jaw dropping view of Capital peak's knife edge up front and personal, the surprisingly nice but epicly steep ascent of North Maroon Peak, the peacefulness of the fog dissipating just as summiting La Plata, for every time I have and ever will in this life get to stand at Chasm lake taking in the stoic view of the diamond rock face of Longs Peak...

...and most of all for the countless memories made along the way with all the people in my life who I have had the privilege to hike with. To say I hike for myself would make me a liar. To say I hike for that trophy summit would be foolish. Rather, I must present these memories as a question. Did you know I hiked Redcould/Sunshine with my friend Jarred or Mt. Powell with Philip or Shavano with Cory or Atlantic Peak with Ben and Jeremy or Longs Peak with Colby or El Diente/Mt. Wilson with David and Andrew or La Plata with Red Panda or Biestadt with the Newmont Interns or Castle/Conundrum with Nick and Colby or Sneffels with the Renfros and Phil or Bierstadt/Sawtooth/Evans with Adam or Pikes Peak with Sarah on her B-day or Huron with Emily or Mt. Massive with Canaan? To all of you and everyone I will meet on the way of my hiking adventures, I give thanks for making these memories with me. They have helped come ever closer to realizing the amazing joy of God's creation in the world and humanity.

Keep trekking Colorado.. always be thankful for the moments that mean most.. and for those who want you to return home

"Of all the activities in which men seek wholesome enjoyment, none may be said to be healthier, for the strength of the body and soul alike, than (a mountain) ascent, provided all recklessness be avoided. For while one's strength is renewed and increased through hard labor and the struggle to reach the purer and more rarified regions of the air, it also happens that the soul, by wrestling with every type of difficulty, becomes more persistent in its handling of the burdens and duties of life. And the mind, through the contemplation of the immense and beautiful view...from the summits, more easily rises toward God, the Author and Lord of nature"

~Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti (Pope Pius XI), 1922

A July Adventure to the Sawatch - 13ers

Why hike a 13er in Colorado... because of the beauty and serenity one can experience having the mountain to himself to ponder all that God has created before our eyes.. to take in and be grateful for each step, each breath, and every heartbeat.

July 24th
Scout out the Lackawanna trail from North Lake Creek Trailhead per Roaches description
5 pm (45 min delay waiting under a pine tree hoping the rain would subside to no avail)..
returned about 7:45.. made it almost to treeline on a thinning, but obvious trail before deciding it wasn't worth continuing in the rain with night coming soon.

I had a good conversation about 13ers and hiking in general with Tommy Dorr (long time 14ers memeber). It was great to meet you and hope you had a successful hike up Casco. I wonder which route you took because I came down the North Lake Creek TH route Roach describes to get up to FiascoL between Frasco Benchmark and Casco on Sunday. Would have been an unpleasant ascent both because of willows and the crappy loose, soggy scree from Fiascol to the boulder field below. I saw some foot holes if you might call them that either going up or down the scree to the saddle. Thought they may have been yours.

After ringing out my clothes, and eating some pita and humus (my recent Israel trip wearing on me), I drove back over through the La Plata trailhead to sleep near McNasser Gulch TH.

July 25th
Grizzly Peak A and Garfield Peak A
Start: 5:15 am
Finish: Around 1 pm

The morning came quick after sleeping in the back of my Nitro since it rained so much the evening before I definitely didn't think it was worth putting a tent up. Good choice. I wanted to follow Roaches route of ascending Grizzly to the east ridge saddle, summit, then ridge hop to Garfield, and descend just off the east of Garfields summit back into the basin. I decided to park at the 2wd trailhead for the night but realized it was actually the turn off before the 2wd trailhead another mile or more up the road. Good thing I didn't try to drive up in the morning because I wouldn't have made it 100 ft past this first Y in the road because during the night a honda civic or accord (with Texas license plates) managed to high center in the road. I laughed as I walked by hoping someone from camp above would drive down and honk at the two sleeping in the back early in the morning. Good start.

I made quick work of the road up to the gate which marks the 4wd trailhead. I think my Dodge Nitro could have handled with its meager clearance this drive to the gate except for one washed out section that had 2 big rocks in the road that would be hard to avoid some scraping. My legs needed the warm up walk anyway.

From the gate to above treeline to the end of the road at this cool mine shaft, the sun gradually began to rise and finally hit my back. Always a nice kickstart and it was such a beautiful morning.




My mind was off on its own still digesting my recent pilgrimage to Israel. Everyday this past week since I returned, I think back at the joys, friendships, God moments, and challenges that presented themselves during my meager 15 days in Jerusalem, Emmaus-Nicopolis, Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem. Definitely not a long enough vacation. I guess the joys of these mountains must compare to the joys I experienced in Israel because one reminds me of the other even though they seem a million miles a part. Yet, a more clear reason is that the HS has softened my heart to recognize what God has created around me in all it's beauty, magnificence, and with a child's wonder just like when I was standing and looking out from the top of Mt. Tabor the site of the Transfiguration after hiking to the top a mere 11 days earlier.

The east ridge ascent to Grizzly was very enjoyable. There exists a faint trail toward the start of ascending the gradual slope up to the ridge which I only found on the way down so don't worry about looking for it if you miss it. You kind of have to meander through some willows but it wasn't too bad. Once on the ridge, even the short 'Class 3' section of the south side of the 3rd genderarm Roach describes to stay above the snow really was not too bad. The worst part of this ridge ascent is the initial slog up the slope to the ridge crest. I had amazing views to the summit and over to Garfield which I will let the pictures do the talking.

Looking back at the east ridge

Hello steep cliff to the North down to Grizzly Lake

Looking at the Mountaineers route up North Couloir with fairly good snow still

Snowmass from the summit --- it's truly called Snowmass for a reason!

The next goal for the afternoon - Garfield

Some flowers

Looking back at Grizzly from the ridge to Garfield

My descent of choice was definitely to head off the summit of Garfield to the east saddle between the sort of 'East' summit of Garfield. Getting down to this saddle going straight over the ridge actually had one class 4 down climb move that I wasn't ready for. Luckily though, the drop was only 10-12 feet to a sort of good landing so if you think your knees could handle it you could drop down. I chose to through my poles ahead and downclimb facing the rock which required me to scooch toward the edge, get a good hand hold, and blindly lower my feet to a small but good foot hold. I managed to hang my whole body down drop the final 1-2 ft. Not so bad. My first thought to avoid this would be to descend 100-150 feet S/SW from the summit sort back the way you ascended and then traverse horizontally around south of the summit to the saddle. I don't think it would be worth trying to avoid this little drop from the summit to keep it Class 2.

Heading down to the saddle

I would have taken the ridge over to Unnamed 13,463 and then to Middle Mountain but the initial descent and ridge spine from Garfield was a horrible loose scree and sketchy looking. Even tamed my ambitious spirit to accept I didn't want to get into this precarious situation today. I know if one could comfortably pass this initial 0.25-4 mile section of the descent from Garfield, it would be a pleasant ridge walk over to these other 13ers. Not sure if there is a report existing of someone doing this.

The ridge I almost attempted heading south from Garfield

The descent from this gully north back into the basin went fast, scree skiing down the slope and across the grassy slope with Grizzly towering near by. I really do not recommend anyone ever trying to ascend the ridge between grizzly and garfield in summer as it looks treacherous and loose from both top and bottom viewpoints. Maybe a spring snow ascent.

The hike down was uneventful. I spent some time chilling and drinking up on water at the stream just below the last view snows patches. On the way down, I met Sam (please correct me if I misheard ;O). We chatted and walked the whole way out. He was probably about 20-30 min behind me hiking Grizzly then said he took an hour name on the summit. Interesting guy. Good hiking/4wd road/lake como road stories. Oh and I found out Sam was the one who unstuck those two Texas guys who high centered their Honda. He pushed them up with his lifted Xterra on his way up. Sam gave me a ride from the 4wd TH at the gate back to my car and on the way the Texas honda managed to turn around but was still on the side of the road just above where they got stuck because they had to change a flat tire. I just shook my head and wished them luck as we drove by. Please don't take your front wheel drive honda up this road. You will get stuck, get a flat tire, have a bad day, and get in the way of other 4wd vehicles trying to pass. Walking a few extra miles is not so bad to save the trouble. Made for an interesting story on here though.


Macro at its best

16 oz bag of kettle potato chips for a crushed snack


I napped in the afternoon, ate lots of food (humus, almonds, peanut butter, pita, cucumber, grapes). I decided to drive down to Buena Vista to go to St. Rose of Lima for Saturday evening Mass. This was a nice detour before heading back up to North Lake Creek TH to sleep before the big hike tomorrow.

July 26th
Pt 13,660 B to Lackawanna to Casco
TH: North Lake Creek TH
Start: 5:00 am
Summit of Lackawanna 7:45
Summit of Casco 10:00 am
Finish: 12:15
About 9 miles... 4350 ft elev. gain

I awoke to a calm morning in the low 40s high 30s. I forced myself to get up out of the warmth of my sleeping bag. Put on some layers. Ate my hearty hard boiled eggs, banana, and cliff bar. My bag was packed and ready to go, just had to get the boots/gators on and ready to role. My plan for the day was summit Lackawanna and then decide if Casco was in. This was a fun route to go round trip as it's a bit different than all other trip reports I've seen for these peaks. If only I had more stamina to hit Frasco BM and Frenchy. Maybe another day.

I wanted to get going early to possibly make a sunrise summit but its so hard to get up and moving before 5 am. But I was off to jump the creek at 5 am. Thankfully only one foot dunked in the water but my gators saved me from getting any water in my boot. Not bad for jumping it in the dark from a wet rock in the middle of the creek.

I must say, there is a nice trail that is cairned fairly well all the way up the switchbacks, past the cabins, that sort of wraps around the mountain. However, my ambitious self decided this path was going the slow way so I decided to just go up. This decision definitely burned me out but allowed me to get to treeline and up to the ridge fairly quickly. But, if I were to do it again, I would follow the trail. False summits are very discouraging. For some reason this initial steepness was very frustrating. This feeling didn't subside until I made it to the top of Pt 13,660. From hear it was a walk in the park to Lackawanna and then to Casco. I used Paint to draw some nice lines for my route which I will let do the talking.

Few notes:
1. I was grateful to find flowing water just below the summit (13,700 ??? wow) of Lackawanna because I knew I was burning through my water from the steep morning ascent. I drank up getting multiple cheek/brain freezes for the 10 min stop. Worth it. Uplifted my spirits knowing I wouldn't be dehydrated too bad today.
2. I basically stayed ridge proper until the final ascent to Casco. Many of the bumps in the ridge can be easily bypassed. The final ascent slope of Casco is easy class 2. Fun ridge.
3. Descent of Casco to the low point of the ridge between Frasco BM and Casco was surprisingly sketchy in a few spots upon the immediate descent. Given I was babying my knees and leaning on my poles as much as possible. I unfortunately bumped a rock with a pole that conveniently hit my leg.
4. The descent from the ridge down to the boulder field was sort of daunting but short (gladly short). The rains from Friday soaked this slope through and through making it very soft. It would normally be a down hill scree runner but with all the large rocks simply floating on dirt and small rocks, I chose my steps wisely with caution.
5. Per Roach's recommendation is to stay on the south side of the creek all the way out and cross before it gets too big before they intersect in the next basin is certainly the way to go. It worked out for me.
6. Wear pants so you have no mercy plowing through 8-10 ft willows if necessary. I managed follow small creeks like a maze through the willows but it was inevitable that I had to plow through some willows to get to the trees.
7. Once at the trees on the south side, it was not 5 minutes until I met the actual ascent trail. Made for quick return to car.

Morning Grizzly!

steep ascent above treeline.. actual trail goes left down there


from summit of Lackawanna


Ascent route to Lack

Ridge roue to Casco

From summit of Casco back to Lackawanna

Heading down Casco to saddle

Descent route of saddle

Rout down basin sort of dropped below higher snow fields and wrapped around

Willows to cross through directly in front

This is the important turn at the cabin to head up Lackawanna trail to summit

Hope you enjoyed my report. Have a splendid day!

In His grip,

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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