Monday, November 19, 2007

Mt. Arthur

(10,807 ft.)

18 November, 2007: This unranked peak (a sub-peak of Mt. Garfield) had eluded me for some time, so I was determined to go back and, finally claim it. Rather, I should say re-claim it. That’s because I actually did climb it once before--in 1976, IIRC. But that was so long ago that I don’t even remember what route I took!
Last year, when I did my similar re-climb of Garfield, I had originally intended to include Arthur in the trip. However, when I got to the summit of Garfield, I discovered two things. 1) I couldn’t see Arthur because of the dense timber, meaning it would entail more blind navigating. 2) I was behind my projected schedule, and I didn’t want it to turn into an all-day trip, as I had only provisioned myself (mainly water) for a half-day. So I had put Arthur off for another day.
Topozone link:

I got myself up a bit after 6 am, after having spent part of the night on the roof attempting to take in some of the Leonid meteor shower. That venture was not a success, as, contrary to the forecast, clouds soon blanketed the sky. But that’s another story...I got minimal gear together, and was at the Gold Camp Road trailhead about 7:15, hitting the trail at 7:18.
Once again, I was planning on only a half-day climb, but I would have started earlier if I could have roused myself earlier. Suzanne had expressed a great deal of doubt about my estimated time of 5½ - 6 hours, especially after my long day a week earlier. All the same, I had confidence in my estimate, but I wanted to do everything possible to ensure that I got back home fairly early in the day.
The route for this one was, once again, north up the gully from the parking lot to the trail which runs west along the long east ridge of Kineo Mtn., then down into the Bear Creek drainage, and west up the creek for a short distance. There, I knew from previous experience, a faint trail leads north up into the shallow (and unnamed) drainage between Tenney Crags on the east and Mt. Arthur on the west. When Cameron and I climbed Tenney Crags in December of 2005, we had totally missed this trail on the way up, only discovering it only on our descent. Other trips during the intervening time had showed me, however, that the trail junction at Bear Creek is actually cairned! The problem is that it’s quite hard to see if you are coming west up the creek, because a turn of more than 90 degrees is required, the trail starts out going very steeply up, and the cairn is not right at the junction, but high above the Bear Creek trail. It’s actually not hard to spot if you happen to be coming down the trail, but that didn’t do me much good.
So, despite foreknowledge, I actually missed the turn-off, again, and had to backtrack a few dozen yards. My photo album includes shots of this junction from both directions, to illustrate what I’m talking about here.
Once headed up this trail, however, it was easy going for a while. The trail is actually pretty clear and easy to stay with, and there are plenty of cairns, although they’re all small. I followed it as it wandered back and forth across the watercourse (Yes, there was actually a fair amount of water flowing in November, although everything looked mostly dry as a bone!), up to about 9,600 ft. There, the trail heads distinctly off to the east, toward Tenney Crags. I left the trail and angled northwest toward the saddle, which is at just above 9,800 ft.
This entailed a bit of clambering over rocks, as well as some more blind bushwhacking. I actually found a path marked with orange tape tied to trees, leading basically straight up the drainage, at one point, and hoped I could find it from above on the way down.
In ten minutes of so, I did find the saddle (where I had been with the dogs earlier in the month), and contemplated how best to make the final climb to Arthur.
The straight path up to the summit would pass to the north of a series of rock outcroppings which mark the ridge coming down to the east-southeast. Because the timber was so dense, especially on the north-facing slopes, I opted to take a more southerly route, even though this involved some bouldering. The boulders are rather large, but getting out of the trees looked good, as it allowed me to get at least a partial view of where the heck I was going!
I still had to contend with timber and brush, some standing and some downed, and I ended up topping out on a false summit at about 10,440 ft. along the way. This turned out to be a benefit, however, as it afforded me one of the best views, both east and west, along the way. From here, I was able to get good photos of both Tenney Crags to the east (an unusual view; see album), and my objective to the west.
As there was only minimal drop from this minor summit, I was soon climbing again. Although the timber continued to be a significant obstacle in places, and the sizes of the rocks increased, I reached the true summit in less than ten minutes, summitting two hours and fifty-eight minutes after leaving the trailhead. This was more-or-less exactly what I had predicted for an ascent time, so I felt good about that.
I found the view from the summit seriously screened by trees, so I took only a few pictures on the summit. But I could see enough of my surroundings that I decided to try a more direct route back down to the saddle, bypassing the minor summit on the north side. This route did, indeed, involve some dense timber, with lots of aspens, but going down it wasn’t bad. What’s more, the actual terrain was gently sloped and mostly free of large rocks, so I made good time. I had jettisoned the tentative plan to re-summit Garfield, in search of the register reported to be there, so as to keep the day short.
Sure enough, although I got back to the saddle fairly efficiently, I could not pick up the trail down anywhere near where I had left it. I finally stumbled on it probably 200 feet lower, after simply bushwhacking my way through some varied terrain along the watercourse. I’d love to see the top part of this trail supplied with a clear route west to the saddle.
Once on the trial, though, I was able to make good time the whole way back. I had deliberately refrained from pushing myself too hard on the way up, so as not to end up worn out at this stage of the hike, and it worked. Back on the Bear Creek trail, I even encountered a couple running along in my same direction. We leap-frogged each other, owing to stops to get rid of clothing in the increasing temperature, most of the way back.
When I got back to the start, it was not quite 12:30, putting me well under my estimated time! The batteries in my GPS had, moreover, managed to hold out for the entire trip, so I had reliable statistics. The round trip was about 8.7 miles. With the various ups and downs, I estimated about 3,500 feet vertical for the whole trip. By the time I got back, I was down to just summer running gear: t-shirt and running shorts. Pretty nice for mid-November!
Photos are at:

Long life and many peaks!


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