Peak(s):  Casco Pk  -  13,908 feet
Date Posted:  07/22/2020
Date Climbed:   07/22/2020
Author:  mjflynn74
 Casco's SE ridge from Echo Canyon   

I climbed French and Frasco from Halfmoon Creek last week, but had to forego Casco because weather was rolling in. I wanted to go back and get it, but rather than repeating the Halfmoon hike, I decided to try the Roaches' SE ridge route from Echo Canyon. I used dave alex's TR from 2011 and Mtnman200's TR from 2016 for beta, but it seems like there's been a few changes to the hike in the last couple of years, so I figured I'd post an update here.

The turnoff for the trailhead is still 12.5 miles west of US 24. Roach says there's a park service sign; old TRs say there's a lodge or a real estate sign. But currently the only marking is an address tacked to a tree.

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Around the corner to the left, a handwritten sign on another tree identifies "Echo Canyon TH parking"; there's only room for two cars. I stopped here, but an easy (though narrow) 4WD road goes north for a quarter-mile, and ends in more parking places.

Roach says the trail starts just west of a cement foundation at the end of the 4WD road, but that's not right. It's on the east (right) side of the road, and it's actually a couple of hundred feet before the cement. Both the old TRs on this site say the trail starts at a flooded creek crossing, and that they had to ford upstream. There's still an old post with no sign "marking" the start of the trail, but now there's a decent bridge that allows you to cross the creek right there.

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The trail winds up into the canyon pretty steeply, about 900' in the first mile. At .8 miles from the 2WD TH, a switchback heads off to the right, while a use trail goes straight. The switchback is the proper route; the use trail peters out after a couple of hundred yards. At around 1.5 miles from the TH, there's a junction with the trail for Bull Hill, which goes off to the right. In 2016 there was apparently a cairn with a log sticking out of it to mark the junction; it looks like the cairn's been kicked over since then, and the junction's easier to miss. Straight on from the junction, the trail continues up the valley, and you get great views of Casco ahead, and Rinker and La Plata behind.

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The Roaches' brief description of the route says to keep on the Echo Canyon trail, which stays close to the creek down the middle of the valley, for a couple of miles, until you're right below the Casco-Bull Hill saddle. The problem is that the canyon is filled to the brim with willows, and at about 2.5 miles, the trail just gets lost in them. I ended up bushwhacking right, up the northern side of the canyon, to get above some of the worst of it. Continuing up the valley, I quickly ran into the lower part of an easy talus field that continued to about 3.0 miles. From there I bushwhacked again until I got below the saddle, turned right, and went straight up the slope.

There is, however, a climber's trail that Roach doesn't mention, which starts at the end of the talus field, ascends to about 11,975' on the slope, traverses across it, then does some easy switchbacks up to the saddle. But it's faint, and I didn't see it from below; it's much more noticeable from above, on the ridge (I took it on my way back down). I'll attach my GPS track in case anyone wants to use my return trip to locate the start of the climber's trail, follow it up, and save themselves a lot of willow-bashing.

Once on the saddle, the route is clear -- the climber's trail goes straight up the class 2 ridge toward Casco, with no real difficulties. It's about 3/4 of a mile, 1000' of gain, and took maybe half an hour. The boulders at the very top were no big deal.

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It was overcast when I got to the top, but the summit still had great views.

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North -- Frasco and French, with Massive behind
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West -- Champion and 13,736
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East -- Elbert and the ridge back to Bull HIll
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South -- Rinker, La Plata, and a look back down Echo Canyon. So many willows . . .

If it had been a nicer day, I would have run the ridge over to Bull Hill. But given the clouds and the forecast, I decided to save it for another time. I hiked back to the saddle, took the climber's trail down, and headed out. A half-mile from the TH, I ran into another group coming up the canyon -- the only people I saw all day.



My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Sbenfield
User
Very nice !
07/22/2020 19:44
I made it to French the other day but skipped Casco. Thanks for the information, will be great for a future hike!



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