Monday, March 31, 2008

“Runs-Down-Fast Mountain”
(11,048 ft.)

29 March, 2008: For years I had noticed an obscure peak on Houdek’s Pikes Peak Atlas identified as “Runs-Down-Fast Mountain,” about midway between Kineo Mtn. and Almagre Mtn. I had never seen it referred to, at least by that name, anywhere else, though, and always wondered why. Most recently, I wondered why I didn’t see it anywhere in the El Paso County list on ListsofJohn (my favorite mountaineering site for obscure peaks). So my guess was that it was an unranked peak with too little prominence to be of much interest to anybody (except Houdek). Then I finally took a close look at a political map and found the real reason: It’s actually just over the line in Teller County, although it’s listed as UN 11,048!
With the snow retreating, and days getting longer and warmer, I decided that I ought to give it a try from the Gold Camp Road parking lot in North Cheyenne Cañon.
I threw together my gear, including long gaiters for the snow I still expected higher up, and set off from the parking lot at 8:12 am. Not exactly an alpine start, but I didn’t want to have to dress for the early morning chill (traveling as light as possible!) and the forecast promised me a good long day of abundant sunshine if I needed it. 48 minutes got me to the top of the Seven Bridges Trail. That’s where I left trails with which I’d become intimately familiar, and also where I paused to don gaiters and waterproof my feet with plastic bags.
Maps show the whole area west of there filagreed with many connecting trails, presenting more than one possible route. My best guess was to head first left (SW) further up North Cheyenne Cañon, then catch a connecting trail running north and then west, which was supposed to lead me into the saddle between R-D-F and UN 10,220 (?), a minor summit to the east which looked like it might be worth adding to the day. I had intended to decide on that option after seeing how long it took me to get to that saddle. It was after I turned off the North Cheyenne Creek trail that I first began to encounter snow deep enough to make my gaiters a necessity.
Well, sure enough, my unfamiliarity with the trails led me to make my second turn to the north too soon, and when I reached about 10,000 ft (with a great and unusual view of both Kineo and the Mt. Garfield ridge), it was clear that I was on the east side of 10,220. But the summit looked eminently doable, and I didn’t expect much of a drop on the other side, so I did a little scrambling and topped out on it at about 10:15 am. There I took a few pictures, including one of my real objective, and finally found it necessary to don my windbreaker in the increasing wind. I could also see the rest of my route up clearly: Go through a narrow band of trees on the saddle, then follow the western edge of the large treeless area on the northeast face of 11,048. This sloped scree field, easily visible from the valley below (but not from much farther away), was largely bare of snow, although I didn’t know how much the loose gravel would retard my upward progress.
In the end, I made the decision to angle south (to my left) and into the trees for the final 200 feet or so to the summit ridge. This was largely because I couldn’t see how far out of my way following the scree would take me to the north, and I knew the summit was actually to the south of me. Ten minutes later, I was convinced that this had been a mistake, as I found myself wallowing in soft, knee-deep snow more often than not. The going got very slow. Still, I finally hauled out on some rocks on the ridge, perhaps a hundred yards (horizontally) away from the true summit. Here, the wind had scoured away 90% of the snow, and a little rock hopping was all that was needed to reach the top. I arrived at 12:02 pm; it had taken an astounding three hours to get there from the top of the Seven Bridges Trail.
I found a register in a crack of the summit blocks, but after unthreading the top, I found that water had gotten into it. As a result, the paper had frozen into a block which would not fit out through the neck of the jar! I left it, in case others might have better luck in warm weather, but also placed a new register in a new (and hopefully more waterproof) container.
Following my visual impression when I finally gained the ridge, I decided to avoid the trees on the way down, and follow the ridge north all the way down to the saddle, then angle back to the south across the northeast face. On the way down, I found myself crouching as I walked to avoid being blown off my feet by the wind which came sweeping across from the west. I’m sure that the wind velocity briefly reached 50 mph, if not more. It’s a good thing it wasn’t really cold! When I got home, Suzanne confirmed that she had experienced very high winds as just about the same time. So it wasn’t like that all day up on that ridge; I had just happened to arrive at the worst possible time!
After that, I quickly intercepted my own ascent tracks and followed them (more or less) back to the saddle. There, however, I again deviated from my ascent route, opting to bypass Pt. 10,220 on the north side in hopes of finding easier terrain. This plan worked reasonably well, presenting me with gentle slopes with only a few trees and less snow than I had plowed through on the way up. When I found my tracks once again, I was back on the trail, so the rest of the return was basically uneventful.
I did find that the snow had softened in the midday sun, and I sank in in a few places where the snow surface had supported my weight in the morning. Once back at the stream crossing, I also found that my tracks had been overprinted with new ones: Someone else had actually been hiking in the area in the few hours while I had been up on my mountain.
Back at the junction at the top of the Seven Bridges Trail, I discovered that I had descended in only an hour and a half the climb which had taken me nearly three hours. I took off my gaiters and hung them on my pack to dry. I made it back to the car at 2:41 pm, for a total round trip time (including about fifteen minutes on the summit) of six hours, twenty-nine minutes. Total distance was just over eight miles, and vertical gain was roughly 3,550 feet.
Pictures are at:

Long life and many peaks!


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