Crystal Peak (13,852 FT)

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NOAA point forecast.

Android Stats:
Total Time: 7 hrs 3 min
Total Distance: 9.82 miles
Minimum Elevation: 10,361 ft
Maximum Elevation: 13,852 ft
Elevation Gain: 3,630 ft
Difficulty: Clear class 1 trail to Upper Crystal Lake then class 2+ if you follow my track. Barely class 2 if you leave trail northwest to the Crystal/Peak 10 saddle.

Date of Hike: September 21, 2013

The Spruce Creek trailhead. Lots of mountain/trail access from this nifty little 2WD friendly spot. It’s a go to for me when the weather looks nice and driving a little further doesn’t sound like a tunnel blasting chore.

These late September hikes are hit and miss trying to cram in a last hike before conditions really fall off the winter side of the charts. This one was spot on because by the week after, the snow machines on HWY 6 were blasting in full force. ┬áThe forecast was clear of precipitation and only a “breezy” rating to contend with. Don’t forget that breezy on a forecast up here means BLOODY cold with a chance of F* this.

Crystal Creek is a welcome friend for most of this trip, meaning my dogs didn’t have to lug liters of water up a dry tundra trail. The 4×4 road also makes for a simple trek up to Lower Crystal Lake. Where during the dry months you’ll likely find much low gear traffic.

Continue reading Crystal Peak (13,852 FT)

Peak 10 (13,633 ft)

Google Maps to trailhead.
NOAA point forecast.

Android Stats:
Total Time: 8 hrs 48 min
Total Distance: 9.5 miles
Minimum Elevation: 10,308 ft
Maximum Elevation: 13,633 ft
Elevation Gain: 3,325 ft
Difficulty: Mostly road and class I trail hiking until Wheeler Trail splits towards the resort. Then light class II to the summit with a spit more road too.

Date of Hike: September 11, 2010

Some days the weather cooperates perfectly. On this day we had a companion that hadn’t been at altitudes like these for many years. After seeing the multitude of pictures set as the computer screensaver, Michelle was in for the next hike. This was the first time we had taken a not so active person along and I learned a lot. For instance, 9.5 miles is a long haul at 1 MPH. Another thing is new hiking partners need to be strongly encouraged, not suggested, on what appropriate layers are. Yeah it’s 27┬░F when we start, but that quickly goes away once you start gaining ground. All in all it just turned out to be a bit longer day than anticipated.

The spruce creek trailhead. Simple to get to, 2wd friendly and many hiking options to suit any mood. After walking the 4×4 roads many times, I wouldn’t hesitate to drive my minivan up the Spruce Creek Road to the wide pullout and right fork. It is rough in spots though.

On this day we took off up the first right fork that’s a rough and steep 4×4 road along Crystal Creek. About 800 vertical on the road itself.

Continue reading Peak 10 (13,633 ft)

Flora, Mt (13,132 ft)

Google Maps to trailhead.
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)

Google Maps to trailhead.
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)

Google Maps to trailhead.
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)

Hiking with Dogs: Colorado Peaks and Mountains