Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mt. Edwards (13,850 ft.)

Argentine Pk. (13,738 ft.)

13 October, 2007: Hold the presses! Despite my tentative prediction in my last installment, climbing season for 2007 did NOT end with September!
Even though the mountains have already gotten their first dusting of snow, mild and sunny weather has melted off most of it, at least in some areas. I took advantage of that to squeeze in one more climb with Kevin Baker. This time, it was back to the Continental Divide, near Georgetown, for some more thirteeners.
Mt. Edwards is the next summit on the Divide south (which is east) of Grays Peak. It ranks 83rd in elevation in the state. From there, the Divide turns south again, dropping to Argentine Pass 13,207 ft.), which is the highest pass on the Divide in Colorado, and then rises again to Argentine Peak. At one time, rugged 4WD vehicles could actually drive over Argentine Pass, but now there is vehicular access only on the east side, and the road on the west side of the pass has been turned into a trail. Fast hikers sometimes include a side trip to Edwards with the climb of Grays and Torreys Peaks, but none of my three excursions on Grays had included it. Thus, I was well psyched for a tour of this section of the Divide.
I met Kevin in northern Colorado Springs at 4:15 am MDT, and he and I, together with his friend Chad, headed for Denver. There, we met up with John and Renata Collard, whose Chevy Trail Blazer was the vehicle chosen to make the drive to the trailhead.
Fairly high clearance is needed to get to the trailhead, which is at the end of about six miles of rough 4WD road off the Guanella Pass Road, south of Georgetown. That’s the road that, ultimately, leads to Argentine Pass, but we weren’t interested in motoring to the pass. We stopped at the site of the old Waldorf Mine, at about 11,600 ft, just above timberline. It was dark when we came through Georgetown, but cloud-filtered morning light obviated any need for headlamps (which we all had brought, just in case) by the time we reached the mine. There are plenty of places to park along the road, and we stopped at a major switchback near some mine ruins, and were hiking by 7:30.
We followed the road south for just a short distance, then turned right, uphill, where a stream crossed it. Staying generally to the right of the water, we followed this drainage--not very steep--up to the saddle between Edwards on the left and McClellan Mtn. (13,587 ft.) on the right. McClellan is an unranked peak, whose long, gently sloped ridge comprises much of the eastern rim of the Stevens Gulch drainage, rising above the trailhead for the standard route to Grays and Torreys. From the saddle, I got a very dramatic view of that trailhead, since the west/north side of the ridge drops off much more steeply than the south/east side which we had climbed. Unfortunately, this was where I discovered that keeping my camera hung around my neck, and inside my fleece jacket, was still not enough protection from the cold to allow the batteries to function properly. Thus, there is no picture of this dramatic view, as there would be none of a number of others throughout the day. I have concluded that, in the future, I am going to have to remove the batteries from the camera and stow them deep inside my clothing, taking them out only when I want to take a picture.
By this time, Chad had decided that he wanted to make a try for Grays and Torreys, and had split from the group at a good pace. The other three members of the party gradually pulled away from me as we ascended the drainage, and I lost sight of them before gaining the ridge. Shortly after I turned left toward McClellan, I met them returning from the summit. Despite John’s generous offer to wait for me while I summitted, I decided that the sensible thing to do was to bail on McClellan rather than slowing everyone else down, and the four of us set off in the other direction to the high point of the day, Mt. Edwards.
It didn’t take long to scale Edwards’ northeast ridge, a simple Class 2 hike, but, again, I fell behind, and found the others waiting for me at the top. The view of Grays and Torreys from this summit is dramatic, and a bit different from the more common view one gets on the trail up to these two fourteeners. But, again, my camera refused to function. Kevin got a group photo of all four of us on the summit, with Grays and Torreys in the background. He should be mailing this to me soon, so I can include it with the few pictures I was able to get that day.
We say a couple coming over from Grays, who were venturing over to Argentine, too. Shortly thereafter, we all set off down and southward toward Argentine Pass, along the Continental Divide.
The slope going down to the pass is gentle and easy to navigate, with just some gentle ridge points. It gets a little steeper, though, on the other side, heading up to Argentine Peak.
Here, too, the others pulled away from me; I began to wonder what was wrong with me!
The slope on the Argentine side is steeper, and one large ridge point (and a couple of smaller ones) must be negotiated. They provided some enjoyable scrambling, even if I was going slow. Finally, at almost noon, I hauled myself up to the summit of Argentine Peak. There’s a huge summit area, and the views are fantastic in all directions.
After only a brief conference, I decided to return to the trailhead. The others set off eastward for Mt. Wilcox (13,408 ft.) and, finally Otter Mountain (12,766 ft.). I had originally planned on these two peaks too, but I knew I just couldn’t keep up with there pace, and I didn’t want them to have to wait for me back at the trailhead, especially with the weather poised to close in on us.
Close in it did. Back down on the pass road, I started to notice occasional flakes of snow. By 2 pm, when I finished my descent, light but steady snow had begun to fall. It wasn’t brutal weather, by any means; there was virtually no wind with the snow. But things were deteriorating. About an hour later Kevin, John, and Renata arrived back from their circuit, and we prepared to head down the road. Still, I was happy to get in two more thirteeners this late in the season.
The few pictures I was able to get for the day are at:


Long life and many peaks!


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