I sure get tired of writing reviews and such in the off season. Reviews seem fun in January but by May I really want to be writing trip reports…of hikes that I have successfully completed.
In the 2010 season I completed my goal of 40 14er summits by age 50 (the 40 X 50). Therefore, 2011 was the first season that I really could just sort of climb whatever the hell I wanted. 2011 was a was a little chaotic as I had no plan or goals and just sort of picked up a hike here and there. I completed Elbert and Antero, “just for fun” along with a few 13ers.
This year is really no different as I have sort of accepted that I don’t really have that goal driven drive to climb 14ers. My goal now is to summit peaks, have fun, and take pictures. It does not really matter which mountain that happens on. As long as its fun, and above 13,123 feet.
So as this season starts I have some vague peaks “goals.” I really want to climb Baldy near Boreas Pass (new), South Arapahoe Peak (new), and Handies (repeat). I’ll probably climb others if the opportunity knocks. And so, such an opportunity knocked for Tuesday June, 19.
Joe Leahy is a Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) Senior Master Instructor for the Wilderness Trekking School (WTS). (http://www.hikingdenver.net/) I don’t know Joe that well but he has consistently won extremely high praise from his students and instructors and he always seemed funny at instructor meetings. So in my constant search to meet and annoy new people I sought out the CMC trip schedule and found Joe leading a trip up Mt. Lincoln (14,286 feet). The route started at the Quartzville USLM site. I had climbed Lincoln before in 2003 from the standard Kite Lake route. The Quartzville hike looked straight forward and logistically easy so I signed up for the trip. I was not disappointed.
I hate waking up early. Its typically an unpleasant necessity when climbing high peaks in order to beat bad weather and such. So I decided to camp at the Quartzville Site and meet the other hikers when they drove in at morning. Then I could sleep in a little.
I left home around 5:30 pm on Monday evening and drove via 285 down to Rt. 9 and to the trailhead through a bewildering tangle of dirt roads for which my GPS guided me perfectly. The road to the trailhead gets rougher as you approach the large, flat parking area but it is really just the last 100 yards or so that are rough. I made it easily with a Ford Escape.
The wind was really howling when I arrived and would continue to do so right up through the next morning. It was blowing easily 15 to 30 mph all night long. So much for sleeping. I set up my tent and prepped my gear for the next morning. It was a little chilly but not cold. Just windy.
My New Nemo Tent on a Windy Plateau Just Shy of 11,800 Feet at the Quartzville USLM Site
Having some time after the tent was up I did a little site exploration. I found the actual USLM marker just about 20 feet from my camp site. The inscription, which can sort-of be seen below says, “Quartzville USLM.” I did not know what USLM stood for so I looked it up and apparently it means US Lime and Minerals.
The Official Quartzville USLM Marker
After exploring I finally tucked in around 9:30 pm. The wind was blowing so strong I woke up in the middle of the night (I actually woke up many many times all night long) and pulled my truck around to help block my tent from the wind.
I woke up around 6 am with the wind still blowing hard. I waited for Joe and the team who I expected to arrive around 7 – 8 am. It was so windy that I nearly bailed and headed for home. I assumed that if it was this windy at 11,800ish it would be howling on the ridge to Lincoln.
However, the wind subsided to a manageable speed as I waited for the rest of the crew. The remainder of the team arrived at about 8:30 am. A late start for me but the weather was forecast to be blue-bird all day long.
We had a very diverse group of 12 people plus the leader, Joe. There was a guy who had summited Denali and some folks in their 70s. Typically this would be a hard group to herd dealing with such diverse skill and fitness levels. But somehow, throughout the entire day, Joe managed to keep everyone working at their peak with no one becoming exhausted or complaining of the pace.
The Group Heads Up the Obvious Mining Road. Mount Lincoln is Visible in the Right Background
The herd started up the mining road at 8:45 am. This road winds up and around the eastern shoulder of Lincoln into the Cameron Amphitheater where around 13,000 feet it cuts sharply to the right (NE) and finally winds back on a NW heading directly toward the summit. Around 13,100 feet we came to a chained gate across the road that said NO TRESPASSING. I believe that this applied only to motorized vehicles as this is a relatively common hiking route. So we carefully crossed the gate and continued up.
The Gate Across the Mining Road Near 13,100 Feet
Pondering the Final Approach to Lincoln’s Summit
At around 13,500 feet the well defined trail turns into…well…many well defined trails. I am guessing, but have not proven, that all, or most of them, or some of them, eventually arrive at the summit. I mean, we could see the summit so it was not really critical how we got there as long as we were going up. We wound around and then ended up crossing below a small snow field just below the summit.
The Group Heads Up the Final Pitch to the Summit of Mt. Lincoln
Immediately below the summit Joe stopped the group for some last minute instructions as we had some first 14er summiteers. I volunteered to head up to the summit first if everybody wanted so I could get pictures of the first-timers ascending their first 14er.
Bill Robinson (1st), and Bill Peterson (4th) Step Onto the Summit Of Their 1st 14er, Mount Lincoln, 14,286 Feet
The entire group of 13 happily piled onto Mt. Lincoln’s summit around 11:40 am. The weather was absolutely perfect, even a little warm. I was down to a t-shirt on the summit. Well…pants and other stuff too. The entire group was happy, strong, and ready for more fun on Cameron and Bross. We all grabbed some eats and water and headed south west to Cameron.
My Forehead, Teeth, and the Rest of Me on the Summit of Mt. Lincoln
Let me state here that Mt. Cameron is not an “official” 14er because of a de facto rule. The rule states that to be an “official” Colorado 14er, a peak must be at least .5 miles from an adjoining 14er, and must have an elevation difference between the connecting saddle and its summit of at least 300 feet. If that is difficult to digest, then don’t fret. Its not all that important. But, this de facto rule is accepted by the Colorado Mt. Club and most other peak baggers.
However, geographically speaking, Cameron and any other peak that is physically 14,000 feet or higher are certainly 14ers as far as organizations like the USGS is concerned. The de facto rules have been accepted by most climbers and organizations, because…you know…we all needs some rules. But in the end, anything that depends on rules instead of physical geography is somewhat arbitrary.
So off we all troddled for the unofficial 14er named Cameron (14,238 ft). The sky was totally clear and the breezes welcome. A rare day in the high altitudes of Colorado.
The Group Heads Over a Sub-Peak Just Below Lincoln’s Summit Towards the Broad Rounded Peak of Cameron Left of Center
We were on top of Mt. Cameron at about 12:40 pm after a short easy walk across the very broad saddle connecting Lincoln to Cameron. I love this saddle. Its is a vast interesting feature that is all above 14,000 feet. (That’s why Cameron isn't an “official” 14er) Its easy and quick to transit across and the final pitch to Cameron is short and subtle.
Our Hikers On Top of Mt. Cameron. A Mining Pit is Visible in Front (and to the right) of the Group.
The exact summit of Cameron is somewhat difficult to pinpoint, when you are there. There are at least two spots that are good candidates, so we walked across both of them. Cameron has a large gently undulating summit with a couple of high points and mining pits scattered here and there. We stuck around on Cameron for a short while taking pictures until Joe rounded us up to head off towards Mt. Bross.
Our gaggle then headed back down the shoulder of Cameron with a turn to the south towards Mt. Bross (14,172 ft). The saddle connecting Lincoln to Bross is also gentle like that to Cameron although a little longer and having the requisite elevation change and distance to make Bross count…”officially” as a 14er.
It’s a pretty straight shot over to Bross over the gently rolling and pleasant saddle/ridge. We all made our way towards Bross talking and telling stories and jokes. Let me point out here that Mt. Bross is “official” (officially in a legal private property sense) off limits. If you climb beyond the signs that say, “Private Property” and other similar strong words then you are indeed breaking the law by entering the land claims of those who actually own the peak. Property boundaries are well marked. Cross these boundaries at your own risk.
The Long Easy Hike to Mt. Bross (14,172 ft) from Mt. Cameron
There are a bunch of mining roads/trails to the summit from the saddle and its pretty obvious how to get all the way to the top. The final pitch is quite gentle and the summit is even broader than that of Cameron. It’s huge!
Broad Summit on Mt. Bross?…You Betcha!
The Group on its 3rd Summit of the Day. The Cloud Seen in this Image May Be the Only One We Saw That Day
We all arrived at the summit of Bross at around 1:44 pm. The third summit of the day. We were all feeling really great albeit somewhat fatigued, hungry, and thirsty. We took our pictures, shook hands, ate, drank, and kicked back looking at the surrounding mountains and other scenery. Joe took us on a visual tour of the surrounding peaks pointing out all the 14ers and other significant peaks and features. The High Park fire was easily visible. The Waldo and Flagstaff fires had yet to ignite.
Three peaks in one day! That’s the most I have ever climbed. I felt great. It was my first climb of the season and I tagged three 14ers in one hike! That might be old hat for others. But for me its pretty damn cool. I have to think its pretty cool for anyone who loves the mountains.
After a short stay on Bross, Joe gathered up his charges and we headed north west down the saddle towards Lincoln. At the lowest point on the saddle we headed down the face of the saddle to the east and into Cameron Amphitheater to rejoin the jeep road that we had ascended earlier that morning. Well, a little earlier.
We travelled down the solid face of the the amphitheater being sure to spread out the group to minimize impact to the tundra. We descended from 13,750 on the saddle to 12,760 where we again picked up the mining road. It’s a quick and easy way down if you are going back to Quartzville.
Most people do this hike from Kite Lake. Kite Lake is beautiful and makes picking up all four 14ers, including Mt. Democrat, a little easier. You could get Democrat from Quartzville as well, but the hike would be a little longer.
We descended the mining road back to the Quartzville site and to our cars. The last mile or so of this hike went on, as it always seems to, forever. We arrived back at the cars at around 3:45 pm.
I had climbed all these peaks before so I was not looking on climbing anything new. Just having a great hike with some new folks. If you are looking for a logistically easy, pleasant hike of up to four peaks, then Quartzville is a great and underused alternative. Everyone does Kite Lake. Try Quartzville. Its worth it.
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