Flora, Mt (13,132 ft)

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NOAA point forecast.

Android Stats:
Total Time: 7 hrs 48 min
Total Distance: 9.8 miles
Minimum Elevation: 11,315 ft
Maximum Elevation: 13,132 ft
Elevation Gain: 3,634 ft
Difficulty: Class I trail up to Flora, and easy tundra hiking to Eva.

Date of Hike: August 22, 2009

High mountain passes make for great simple trailheads. During all of those cross country skiing bus trips in high school I stared intently out the window memorizing the hills and where they were in relation to the roads. But I didn’t realize they all had names and would be places that I would eventually end up.

I’m old enough that I can say that I remember the short lived resort at the top of the pass and the three chairlifts that haphazardly served it. And that the surrounding terrain was relatively mellow compared to the things I was snowboarding at the time. Naturally, when I started all of this mountain jazz I looked to what I knew.

But little did I know that the resort was gone, all metal scrapped and a swinging facility was built in place of the old lodge. Arriving late as usual, my carload geared up and we hit trail (road) up to the trail spur to the north of Colorado Mines Peak.

Continue reading Flora, Mt (13,132 ft)

Gray Wolf Mountain (13,608 ft)

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NOAA point forecast.

Android Stats:
Total Time: 4 hrs 22 min
Total Distance: 7.8 miles
Minimum Elevation: 11,364 ft
Maximum Elevation: 13,608 ft
Elevation Gain: 2,586 ft
Difficulty: Advanced willow bushwhacking experience is ideal. Forest opposite the road is strewn with wind fallen trees. Otherwise, simply up.

Date of Hike: August 11, 2013

Ever since my first trip up Guanella Pass, the moderate west side of Gray Wolf Mountain has been on my list of ‘figure-out’ hikes. Reading up on this mountain one finds endless information on the Chicago Lakes, Summit Lake and Scott Gomer Creek routes. Chicago looked a little long, Summit looked too short and simple and Scott was obviously going to be a willow wandering mess. Surely there must be a better way.

Following the string of Subarus that acted like they were going to go fast, I turned around at the top of the pass and started back down to get a better eye on where to park and hike. A wide spot just above the high switchback made for parking and then we hiked straight off the bend and into the bush. Either lots of people try to head off this way, or lots of big animals use it as a way around. Lots of eight foot tall bushes, but there is a distinct line all the way to the creek. Then it gets interesting.

Continue reading Gray Wolf Mountain (13,608 ft)

Elbert, Mt. (14,433 ft)

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NOAA point forecast.

Android Stats:
Total Time: 9 hrs 10 min
Total Distance: 11.3 miles
Minimum Elevation: 9,467 ft
Maximum Elevation: 14,433 ft
Elevation Gain: 4,941 ft
Difficulty: Moderate to hard mainly due to distance and gain. This will take most of a day, weather moves in and out fast from the Aspen direction hidden behind the hills.

Date of Hike: June 18, 2011

Recounting these trips years afterwards is a bit difficult. Most years I don’t start looking for big peaks until I’ve read a few reports around the Memorial Day weekend. That helps me shape the areas of deeper snowpack in my head. That year had a very warm spring and lots of trails were nearly melted out by June. Most of the hiking up to here was Front Range stuff and things up north. So a run at Elbert looked splendid based on folks’ reports from the NE slopes route.

Continue reading Elbert, Mt. (14,433 ft)

Independence Pass, North (13,497 ft)

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NOAA point forecast.

 photo IndependencePassEarth.jpg

Android Stats:
Total Time: 3 hrs 6 min
Total Distance: 3.13 miles
Minimum Elevation: 12,104 ft
Maximum Elevation: 13,497 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,477 ft
Difficulty: Significant initial gain on loose weathered trail. Easier routes up the tundra exist.

Date of Hike: July 13, 2013

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This trip started out as a family camping excursion. Leading up to the weekend many bailed and some joined in. In the end we had three vehicles, 10 people and eight dogs. (Plus over a dozen weapons with accompanying lead.) After we all fought our way up I-70 we cruised down HWY 24 past Leadville and up 82. The camping spot we had two years ago was available so setup was quick and easy.

As of July 12, 2013 the fire bans in Lake County and Pike/San Isabel National Forest were completely lifted. That timing was spot on for our trip. Nothing like camping under LED light and staring at each other through the darkness.

Independence Pass is a spectacular place. A paved road that reaches up over 12,000 ft surrounded by hulking massifs nearly all over 13k. With a parking lot and scenic overlook paved into the mountain, most of the tourist crowd heads south on path that turns into old road bed. That direction is much nicer on the legs and lungs from the looks of it. So, naturally, we headed north towards Twining Peak.

HWY 82 westbound


Continue reading Independence Pass, North (13,497 ft)