Sep 9, 2013 at 3:26 pm #1307486
@timdcyLocale: Gore Range
I departed a crowded parking area on a beautiful Colorado bluebird morning right outside of the Eagles Nest Wilderness boundary in Summit County. I left Rock Creek trailhead solo with ambitions of climbing high and walking through thick forest down low.
I continue to cover multi day backpacking trips in my two favorite local wilderness areas and this route I had made up last minute as I mulled over the possibilities late into the week.
I like to go where others typically don't, but first I had to walk on a popular day-hiking destination in Boulder Lake. At this point I had seen three trail runners, two backpackers and two day hikers on their way back to Rock Creek. Not too bad for a Saturday afternoon in early September. Clouds began to move in.
Some falls on Boulder Creek.
The trail that wanders the Boulder Creek from Boulder Lake to Upper Boulder Lake is listed as "primitive" or "unmaintained". The ground and every living thing is saturated with water in this valley that sees very little daytime sun. It makes all the scrambling over and around steep rock, dead fall and moving water challenging. More effort is put in here than simply walking a bland hiking trail, logging miles upon miles.
Reaching the Upper Boulder Lake as rain continues to fall from the sky. The first drops fell around 1:00 pm. From now until 7:00 pm, rain comes and goes until the grand finale around sundown.
Upper Boulder Creek and the ridgeline of Keller Mountain. I walk into a stand of trees to take cover from one of the passing downpours that evening.
Reaching my destination of this unnamed high alpine lake; I decided to setup camp for the night. There were no prior established camps with no sign of a fire ring in sight.
Now looking toward the opposite side of the lake.
I tried my hand at fishing, but to no avail. Several lethargic fish patrolled the shores, but none that I saw crested the water to eat.
After dinner the intense storm clouds began to roll through and the light show to my east was most impressive.
I tend to get nervous when continual lightning passes on by when camped up this high. I collect dimes for every rhyme.
Reflections from the Gore Range.
At this point in the trip I had planned to "valley hop" to the North Rock Creek drainage. To successfully do this I would have to climb steep talus and gain an exposed ridge and what I had previously called "South Keller Mountain Pass", or what I had read on an older USGS quad termed "Bergeschrund Pass". Gotta love the Gore and all of its complexities. The pass is part of a collective series of peaks called the "Grand Traverse" some complete. My nerves tell me this is a route I have no business doing.
Looking on towards what I believe is Mount Solitude while I continue to go higher and higher.
While I wouldn't call it a snowfield, I wouldn't go so far as to call it a glacier but that may depend on the geologist you talk to you. Either way I was so stoked to see my first permanent "ice sheet" up-close and personal in the Gore Range.
The final stretch to the top of the mountain. Now things were started to get real. My adrenaline was high as I completed Class 3 scrambling on crumbling small and large rock. I was extremely gratified when I made the last push to the top and gained the ridge.
A look at where I had come from (12,860 feet). From this shot you can see three consecutive lakes. Upper Boulder is on the far right.
New views aplenty now. From left to right is the North Traverse Peak. Below that is "Central Pass", where I would scramble down to drop into North Rock Creek. The Bighorn Valley lies below. In the distance I can see the East Vail shoots, Vail ski Resort and Mount of the Holy Cross.
Now looking down into the North Rock Creek drainage and the unnamed Lake which sits at the top of the valley.
Headwaters of Rock Creek.
I stopped at the Lake to eat lunch and cast a few lines in the water. The cutthroats were much hungrier here than the last lake I had tried fishing at.
Delving into the depths of North Rock Creek. While the woods were still spaced I scared a lone elk cow deeper down the drainage.
Much like my ascent up Boulder Creek, my descent down Rock Creek was slow and paced by my ability to navigate the natural obstacles. Rain began to sit in for the remainder of the afternoon.
Once below the old Boss Mine I was soaked from walking through thick brush during the pouring rain. It was around this point in time that I decided to cut my trip short one night early and hike out the small remainder of mileage back to the trailhead. For us in the central Colorado Rockies, we should we feel blessed that the monsoon season has been an extremely successful one, but I for one am ready for cooler temperatures and classic cloudless skies once again.
A look at the Alfred M. Bailey Bird Nesting Area near the edge of the Eagles Nest Wilderness area on my way out.Sep 9, 2013 at 8:08 pm #2023557
It is cool to see reports of areas that don't get much press. I guess it always pays off to explore the unknown!
BenSep 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm #2023578
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
Yea buddy, this is good stuff Tim,
Great series of images to accompany your recap.Sep 10, 2013 at 7:21 am #2023651
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
Nice contrast between the soggy wet drainages and the higher country. Very interesting challenges that must have presented.Sep 10, 2013 at 2:32 pm #2023750
@timdcyLocale: Gore Range
Thanks fellas. It was one of the more memorable trips of the summer!
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