Peak(s):  Hayden Mtn North  -  13,139 feet
Date Posted:  09/20/2021
Date Climbed:   09/18/2021
Author:  13erRetriever
 The "Trail" Less Traveled   

Hayden Mountain North
Elevation: 13,139 ft.
Rank: 539
Date Completed: September 18, 2021
Mileage RT: ~6 miles
Gain: ~3500 ft
Trailhead: Hayden Trailhead at Ironton/Crystal Lake
Max Difficulty: Class 2

Hayden North has intrigued me for some time. It's not that I've done everything else around it (not even close, actually) it's just that I've stared at it every time I get on Google Earth to plan the surrounding mountains and told myself that there has to be another way up besides the nasty ridge that connects it to Hayden South, which is the way the two other reports on this site have it routed. On trips up Engineer and Corkscrew passes this summer I've tried to get a glimpse of Half Moon Basin to see if this might be a viable way to go but it's pretty elusive and you can tell just by looking up the slope from Ironton that to get there takes quite a bit effort.

I'll admit part of me has been waiting to see if someone else from this site would try to go this way and do a write up about it. It's a pretty lowly 13er though, with only 50 ascents listed on this site when I did it. I'd be waiting a while if I waited for someone else to hike this and decide to write about it. After getting five new difficult 14ers last week (the Chicago Basin peaks and Mount Wilson) I was feeling pretty good and off went the voice in my head - be the beta. Ugh. Okay, fine. The leaves are changing, the weather is great, and the trailhead is 25 minutes from home. Why not? Why not indeed...

The majority of this hike is on grass. Steep grass. Steep tall grass which at this dry time of year is particularly awful. Wear your high boots, gaiters, and pants for sure. I wore my trail runners, didn't have gaiters, and had to stop several times to empty out my shoes and was constantly pulling grass spurs off poor Harper. While I'd researched the route as best I could we were still going mostly blind. Surprisingly, there were several "trails" that we were able to link up to make this route slightly more tolerable. All of these were incredibly steep, and I couldn't tell if they were game trails or old miner trails. Probably some combination of the two. Most would appear out of nowhere and end 50 feet later or spur out into three different possible paths so it was a constant guessing game as to which one might last the longest or take you the highest. In short, getting up the first 1900 feet of this mountain this way isn't too fun. Getting down was even less so, and I don't say that very often. In my experience trails are easier to spot on the way down but as you can see from my GPX track the best I could do was stay close to my ascent. Once in Half Moon Basin the route improves greatly, but you'll do a lot of work to get there first and if you're anything like me you'll be questioning your life choices. At only about 100 feet up this slope I told myself I could turn around now and be on my couch in 25 minutes binging Top Chef the rest of the day. I'm glad I stuck with it but I'll give you one guess as to what I did with my Sunday (other than write this report).

Once in Half Moon Basin, you have a choice. I originally planned to go to the saddle north of Hayden North and walk the ridge, but as I got closer to the base of the mountain I could see a good grassy path up the southeast slope that looked better to me at that particular moment. I'm sure the north ridge probably goes, I just couldn't be all the beta on this mountain that day. I'll leave that one up to you. You could probably make a good loop of it. If I hadn't been solo and tired I probably would have tried it myself. The last couple of hundred feet using the southeast slope is a loose talus hop, but nothing I'd call terrible. The endless steep tall grass is by far the worst part of this route and I practically kissed the ground when I finally found myself on familiar loose rock. There's one very minor false summit on this approach but it's barely noticeable and you'll be in awe of the views anyways once you reach the crest so you won't mind it one bit.

Crystal Lake and the start of the trail. That grassy slope between the two aspen stands off to the right is the one you'll be taking up.
100 ft up and already taking a break. Should I just turn around now?
The first "trail" leads you to this tailings pile. Look close and you might spot a gold nugget the miners left behind when they abandoned the site. I took it with me.
There's no water at all on this approach once you leave Crystal Lake so make sure to bring plenty with you.
Up. Still going up. This was a very short flat-ish bench that we were able to take a break on for a bit.
I neglected Harper the past two weekends as I was off doing harder 14ers without her, so she was full of pent up energy and beating me up the mountain all day.
A "trail"! How long will it last? Who knows!
The best "trail" by far is the one that starts at the big southernmost switchback I made near the first treeline. If you can get on this trail, it'll lead you clear across the slope to the last stand of trees before Half Moon Basin. Find this trail. This is the end of it.
My 3.5 year old niece is going through a dinosaur stage and is obsessed with bones, so I carried down several elk vertebra for her to puzzle together. I had to carry a lot of them on the outside of my pack. I like to think this fierce sight is what kept the bears at bay.
In Half Moon Basin now, with a decision ahead. On the way up I went right of that little bump in the center. On the way down, I followed another "trail" to the left. I think I'd go right again.
My original plan was to go to the saddle north of Hayden North and head up the ridge up to the summit, however, as I got closer, I realized that the grassy slopes to the southeast of the summit looked better. This is looking at both options.
"I found a trail, Mum! It disappears right here though."
Looking down on a trail I missed on the way up.
We surprised this herd of elk on the grassy slopes. I heard them screaming for about 30 minutes before we got there but I couldn't tell where they were. They quickly scurried away never to be seen again.
Looking up the grassy slope to the false summit. That knob also proved to be a very pleasant napping stop on the way down.
Reaching the false summit crest. I don't know why the real summit looks so far away from here. It's really not.
Looking over at Hayden South and the locally known King and Three Queens that separates the two and gave me inspiration (read: necessity) for finding an alternate route.
Looking down the north ridge that was the original plan for coming up. Like I said, I'm pretty sure it goes.
Not a very popular peak. Thanks for the new register, Mike!
Looking over at Yankee Boy from the summit.
Looking east from just off the summit, Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre in view with some good 13ers scattered about. Cow Benchmark, I'm coming for you next!
I've never seen this plant before and this was the only one I saw in the talus coming off the summit.
Taking a nap on the way down, with the King and Three Queens behind.
Red Mountain at the end of the day, from Half Moon Basin.

I set out to find an alternate route up Hayden North - mission accomplished and summit achieved! Now time for some takeout Thai food in Ouray and movies on the couch with Harper Quinn. Quite a good day if I don't say so myself.

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Comments or Questions
steep and to the point
09/19/2021 21:16
Yup, that's a steep beginning for N Hayden...that's the same way I did it with a friend about this same time in 2014.
The next day I did Trico -> T10 -> Three Needles.
I think I did S Hayden from Richmond Pass/Richmond Basin.
There's so much one can do off the 550 corridor/Red Mtn Pass area!

Great Beta
09/20/2021 08:25
Good stuff, thanks for the beta!

   Not registered?

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.

© 2022®, 14ers Inc.