Fletcher Mountain - 13,951 feet
"Drift Peak" - 13,900 feet
Fletcher Mountain - 13,951 feet
"Drift Peak" - 13,900 feet
|Peace Amidst the Chaos|
My first trip report! Be gentle plz.
About once a week I get a jonesin' to get up in the mountains. It usually starts right around 8 am on Monday morning and lasts until the car is full of gear and on the road westbound Friday night. This week was no exception. Usually I hike with my wonderful hiking partner, Amanda. But this weekend she had a bridal shower because some knucklehead had to go and propose to her
I was on my own! Having never hiked solo, I had a healthy amount of apprehension for the upcoming adventure, but I had to satisfy my jonesin'. The only question was what to hike. As Amanda has been with me on the summit of all 19 fourteeners I've climbed thus far, I wanted to find either a new trail up a previously climbed mountain or a different option. Thankfully, Thursday was a slow day at work, which gave me plenty of time to click around the website and see what my options were. I discovered two new mountains (well I guess they aren't new per say; they're probably pretty old) in a very familiar area: Fletcher Mountain and Drift Peak. The route looked fun and the weather was promising, so I made up my mind to go for them.
Saturday morning at 3 AM, I loaded up the trusty Corolla and drove to one of my favorite places in Colorado: the Blue Lakes area just south of Quandary (also known as Camp G.O.A.T., for two reasons). I pounded two jalapeno cheddar bagels from Safeway and hit the trail, shared with Quandary's west ridge route, at 5 AM. As I left, I ran into a guy about 50 feet down the trail who was waiting for the sunrise to take pictures. That was the last person I'd see for five hours. Yay for solitude!
I used a headlamp for about 15 minutes before the trail was light enough to safely navigate. There were a lot of social trails by the lake, but believe it or not, if you follow the signs that say "Trail -->", you'll end up on the actual trail. After passing a couple of small, easily managed snowfields on the trail, I got my first view of the basin above.
The snow runoff made for occasionally sloshy hiking, but more than made up for it in scenery.
The basin used to access both Fletcher and Drift is a bi-level basin. Both sections of the basin had snow covering the ascents. For the first basin, I was able to stay on rocks by heading left of the main headwall, where there was a small but noticeable rock bridge across the snow which eliminated all but 5 or 10 steps on firm snow.
The second basin had a similar snowfield. This time, I was able to skirt all the snow by hopping on rocks around the snowfield to the right, then ascending the Class 2+/3 rocks/cliffs up to where Quandary's west ridge route starts the ascent. The rocks almost seem to cascade down from Quandary's west ridge, which makes for well-placed hand and foot holds.
Once on that path, I headed west a few hundred feet to reach the large tundra and talus field below Fletcher and Drift and got my first unobstructed view of my goals for the day.
First up: Fletcher. The route to Fletcher was straightforward. Hop on rocks to the obvious ridge, then climb up to the summit. There are enough rocks in the tundra area to avoid stepping on the fragile grasses. Watch out for spiders! They were all over the place. Fortunately, much of the south side of the mountain was snow-free, so once I hit the base I just started climbing the rock pile. The ascent went rather quickly, and before I knew it, I was on the summit ridge, where there were maybe 100 steps of unavoidable (but easy to walk on) snow.
This was the easy part of the hike. I knew that the real challenge lay in the traverse over to Drift. Fortunately, there's an excellent route description on 14ers that laid out quite clearly the route and the landmarks. Once at the saddle between the peaks, I started up the ridge proper, which contained a couple easy sections of class 3 climbing. There is not much of a trail. I was left to my own devices to find a suitable path over and around the obstacles on the ridge. After a few minutes of climbing, I hit the rust colored rock and angled down to the right, aiming for a distinctive block of square rocks about 50 vertical feet below. Right before those blocks (seen in the lower right of the photo), I found the miner's ring, still firmly attached to the rock.
I climbed down in between the ring and the square rocks, crossed the gully, and found myself at the base of the crux: a steep, very loose class 3 climb back to the ridge. I was lucky enough to go for my first hand hold and pull out a dinner plate size rockÔŽ.OH SO IT'S LIKE THAT HUH? I tested every hold the rest of the way up. I found easier climbing to the left toward the dark-colored rocks. The slope eases about 50 feet below the ridge and suddenly, I was on the summit ridge.
A quick walk west put me on the final pitch to the summit, and a couple of minutes later I was on top! The 13ers summit registry box was still there, so I signed my name, pulled out a cliff bar, and made an important skype call. Ten minutes on the summit and it was time to head back down.
The downclimb was rather uneventful. The rock is very loose on that section, so I'm glad no one else was on the mountain. I meandered back to the saddle, found a route down to the tundra below, and clamored down the 200 or so feet of large rocks.
While annoying on the way up, the snowfields were a lot of fun on the way down. The morning sun had softened up the snow to perfect glissading conditions. I got in four good slides. The last one got a little squirrely on me, and it would just so happen that right as I started the slide, the first people I saw since the trailhead wandered up to the base of the snowfield. I slipped and slid my way to the bottom and tried to pop out of my slide like I was stealing second base. Let's say it didn't go quite how I imagined it in my head, but the group gave me what I can only assume was a pity round of applause, surprised I didn't maim myself.
The rest of the route back to the car passed without incident. I even had some visitors waiting for me at the car! Camp G.O.A.T. living up to its name.
This was my first trip specifically to climb 13ers. It was an incredibly refreshing break from the throngs of people you find on 14ers, especially after hiking Grays and Torreys the weekend before. I highly recommend these peaks to anyone looking to get away from the bustle of the Denver-adjacent 14ers!
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