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Date: August 29
Trailhead: Tour D'Abys pullout on Mt Evans Road
Elevation Gain: 1,593'
I really need to stop breaking my leg. 2 years in a row, it's getting old, fast. While this time around was easier, since the pain ended in just a few days and I was walking (or weight bearing) from day 1, it was much harder mentally than last years break. I did whatever I could to keep the spirits up with nature therapy, friend therapy, home brew therapy... but nothing quite compares to being out in the mountains. A few weeks of being cleared to go mountain biking proved to me that it's much more dangerous to my health and well being than hiking. Fun and exciting, but at times terrifying. Or maybe that's because my first trek out was on the CT from Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass. Being passed by pro mountain bikers, left me out of my league. At least I got props from one of my friends out there that day for crushing it, despite being a noob biker. So I begged my ortho Doc to be cleared for class 1 & 2 hiking after getting a good X-ray result. I had to promise to be good, listen to my body and use a brace and trekking poles. Yay!
So thankfully I had been saving this trio for just such a rainy day. Easy, short and very little elevation gain. A good first outing after being so restricted. Too bad the day was so smokey, though it does lead to a few interesting photos. Amazingly, as I pulled out onto the small lot to start the hike, another hiker was just getting going. I had expected to see no one on these random and fairly unimpressive 13ers. Afterwards I felt no real soreness or pain, so I knew that this trek was well within my abilities. Will have to try harder next time! Doc said soreness was OK, just no pain.
Date: August 30
Trailhead: FS Brewery Creek Guard Station
Elevation Gain: 3,890'
On my drive down to the southern most Sawatch 13er, I get a text from Zach wanting to know what I was up to the next day, as he was looking for another peak to hike. So after meeting to have dinner and look over a map, Zach agreed to come along on the Antora expedition. From beta, the roads are a maze, and maps don't represent where the actual roads and trails actually are. So it was going to be an interesting day. Too bad we got down to the trailhead that Kevin Baker suggested a bit too late to scope out the 4WD road that almost goes to the summit of Antora. It's totally drivable for a 4WD with decent skills (very narrow and steep in spots)
So we camped out by the gate on the road, and made our way on a variety of trail types until we found an old over grown trail. It's very faint in places where cows haven't trod upon in a while. But we made do, and slowly made our way up to treeline amongst copious amounts of cow pies and cows. Mmmmmm Mooooooo!
After the long trek up in the woods, we were happy to follow the road up until it ended. There we found 2 other vehicles, a hunter and a pair of hikers visible up on the ridge to the summit above. The entire trek was quite easy, despite all the elevation gain on my new ankle, until the final summit push. There the dinner plate talus was quite steep and rather loose and unstable. So slowly but surely I made my way up. Met the 2 hikers as they were coming down and chatted briefly about ski mountaineering. Zach had told them of my injury and were impressed.
Very short stop on the summit since there were some clouds building. A brief 30 minutes later and we were back at the upper trailhead. Zach had joked that he wouldn't turn down a ride if it was offered, since he had the start of a nice blister. So when Steve (?) and Shane offered us a ride, it took me barely a few moments to say yes. Heck, I would have driven up here and counted it. So with no remorse we took the easy way down and got to chat with a couple of nice folks about skiing and the like. Much more enjoyable!
Antora from the drive out. Storms never happened today
Why there was a 30 minute delay over Kenosha Pass. Cleared up afterwards. Uggg!
Date: September 5
Trailhead: Gold Creek Campground
Elevation Gain: 3,832'
Partners: Bob and Pat (on the descent)
With plans in flux since I had my Mom in tow for the camping portion of the trip, we ended up driving out on Friday early and managed to avoid the worst of the 285 Labor Day Weekend debacle. I figured lonely Henry Mtn would be a good and remote objective. Arrived at the small campground and picked out a choice campsite next to a small stream. Since my Mom's version of camping involves comfort including a portable kitchen sink (no joke), I splurged and replaced my broken down chairs, my stove which was a pain to light and keep lit, and got a camp shelter tent thingy to make the inevitable rain more liveable. I didn't think my Mom would enjoy my version of low-tech camping all that much.
Comfort camping with Mom
I knew the weather for Saturday would be quite iffy, but I figured there would be a weather window of some form in the morning. At least I would make the trek up to the lake and decide then. When it was raining when I woke up - I hit snooze. Woke up again - repeat. x 10 So sometime a bit after sunrise, I finally started up the trail, saying hello to a fellow camper. Trail was wet from the recent rain, but I was able to see a few peeks of blue sky to keep me excited for the possibilities. At the lake, I decided to keep going. So up the super steep wet grassy slope I went. Slow going, but I knew most of the days elevation gain would be over once I was up there.
Fossil Mountain was in and out of the misty clouds as I reached the summit. Didn't stay long, but I did notice a nice trail off the summit of Square Top that looked promising. I wasn't looking forward to descending the way I came up. With the weather, I figured I could at least make it over to Square Top and then decide.
Along the way I was passed by a solo hiker. I certainly wasn't expecting to see anyone up there! But since I'm still recovering, I was in no shape to keep pace, so I let him go ahead with only a few words spoken.
The summit of Square Top looks more intimidating than it is. Loose talus on the way up and a bit of a blocky down climb on the other side, but no big deal. Quite a bit of fossils to be found along this ridge, which also kept me going a bit slower as I enjoyed the local geology.
The way over to Henry looked easy, despite the summit being in the clouds. I didn't like the weather, but it didn't seem threatening, so I continued. On the way over, I noticed another set of hikers coming up. Wow! Henry mountain is seeing quite a few visitors today! I get to the summit, and the previous guy leaves immediately and jokes that I now have the summit to myself. Later I would find out why he left so quickly...
What looks like fossil plants, but is actually a mineral: psilomelane that crystallizes like ferns
Summit Register Surprise! Or how they Tinder in Nebraska! (Thanks vonmackle )
Stayed on the summit as long as I could stay warm enough. Met Bob and Pat on the summit and we talked about the alternate descent that looked better. So I left first, since I knew it would take me longer to get down the steeper summit ridge than it would them. So on the trek across to Square Top we met up again, and shared the hike out. It was quite enjoyable to talk with them on the descent. Bob had quite a few stories to tell about Gasherbrum, Denali and other expeditions with the likes of Gerry Roach and Gary Neptune. So enjoyable, we chatted further at the campsite while enjoying some cold Belgian beer!
Feet were a little bit sore, but nothing too bad after a nice long day out!
Bob on the descent to Leviathon (?) Lake
Date: September 6
Elevation Gain: 3,525'
Despite the recent thread on where to go to avoid the crowds on LD weekend, there were barely a dozen cars around the Stewart Creek TH for the LaGarita Peaks. With all the close campsites filled, we found one on top of the ridge to Baldy Alto that was quite nice. While I would have to drive to hike Organ Mtn, I would be able to start +800' above the regular TH for the next day.
So I drove over to the CT trailhead at the gate to the private property and the effective end of the road. Started off just about civil twilight. I intended to go up the southern most ridge and come down a more northerly ridge on the return. The ascent was rather pleasant with all the abundant flowers. It must still be summer, with all the flowers right? While there was some dead fall on the ridge, it was a rather easy bushwack up, especially if you stayed south on the ridge. Treeline ended quickly, and then it was just a loooong gradual ridge up to the summit.
Enjoyed the view from the top for a bit, before making the long way down. I veered north onto the next ridge and found myself in manageable willows before treeline. Then from there it seemed to be more dead fall along this ridge and the one I took up in the morning. Not bad, but it seemed to be a bit worse.
The most difficult part of the day was just navigating in the trees without much visual references. My internal compass wanted to follow the cardinal directions of east and west, but yet the ridge bends and is quite broad and it can be difficult to tell where you are on it. My GPS was well utilized while I was out of view of my surrounding ridges.
Flowers means it is still summer right?
Back at camp I could tell my ankle and legs were sore, and made copious use of the posh camp to relax for the longest day yet in my return.
Baldy Alto, Column Ridge, Stewart Peak
Date: September 7
Trailhead: campsite on road to Stewart Creek TH
Elevation Gain: 4,290'
So once again I start off at civil twilight and start up the ridge. Within a 0.1mi there is a fence to your right, that mysteriously disappears without a corner a tenth further up. Have to remember for the return, as the end is very close to the ridge edge, so it can be easily missed.
While I may have started higher than the normal trailhead, I did have to descend a couple hundred feet along the ridge that I wouldn't have the other way. I was probably still ahead ~600'. Another loooong but pretty ridge was ahead. The only downside was that it was like a 2 mile hurdle course with all the downed trees. I knew this would be exhausting on the return.
Didn't stay too long on the summit of Baldy Alto, as I was still tempted by a possible hike out to Baldy Chato. With cell service on the summits, I could get updated forecasts. No storms till maybe 3/4pm. So I had time, but I knew I would be slow on the return. I decided to skirt the talus ridge for the tundra hike across to the saddle with Stewart. From the faint trail, it seems many others have chosen this way as well.
Once I got out to the false false summit, I looked over at Baldy Chato and immediately said NOPE! I don't mind unranked 13ers if they are not out of my way. That, was stupid far. I was already hiking silly unranked Column Ridge. It at least had a pretty decent view from it. From there I saw benner's group descending down Stewart, the only other group I saw up there that day.
A big 'ol NOPE to Baldy Chato
The summit of Stewart came quickly with the saddle being so high up. I spent as long as I could stay warm in the gusty winds. From there I descended the east ridge until I saw benner's group along a game trail through the willows on the flanks of the Baldy Alto ridge. That was my original plan when looking at a topo, but reality and willows always makes things different in execution. Glad to see them cross the nasty willows with out much audible howling. So I made my way over, miraculously finding a trail through the Stewart side of the willows and found a well utilized stream crossing to find the game trail on the other side. Then it was just a contour up the ridge to find my route on the way up.
Arriving back at camp, I was quite exhausted from a long weekend of hiking. Foot sore but feeling elated. These past 2 weeks may have not included very exciting peaks, but to me, they were well worth it. I was glad to have not used up my store of easy 13ers yet!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Not sure if you’re at all interested in geology, but what you pictured as fossil plants is actually a mineral called psilomelane. It’s fairly unique in that it makes dendritic (fernlike) crystals when it forms. Pretty cool stuff. Glad to see you’re cleared to hike again. Hopefully everything heals nicely for you.
as you were doing the Stewart loop. You must have been over on Column Ridge as we descended underneath the rocks towards Baldy Alto. Ah well....glad it was a great day out there for you. Did yo get wind blasted off of Stewart? We’re glad those willows went through as well. I was getting pretty nervous the lower we got, having nightmares of epic willow bashing. Thankfully we had minimal bushwhacking through the trees and made it out just fine!
Doug – Amazed I got a few good shots from my iPhone. I misplaced my Canon battery charger, so I haven’t been able to use my good camera for a while. Last I saw it was when I broke my leg...
rajz06 – Yup, still recovering I had been mountain biking for 3 weeks, so I wasn’t as bad as last year!
MTCowan – Thanks for the details on that one image. I have a geology BS (with geophysics being my main), but I focused on hydro and geomorph. So the only stratigraphy or paleo I had was going on a week long trip to Utah to see every trilobite locality.
Zambo – I wasn’t on the horizon line for long, so I’m not too surprised you didn’t see me. Stewart was very windy, and I hid behind my backpack for my 15 min up there.
Tom – Yeah... this time it was quite annoying. Roll my ankle, snap my fibula. Combo of heavy pack, rodded tibia and trail shoes hiking too fast. Boots from now on!
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