Friday, March 26, 2010

UN 7140

25 March, 2010: The quest for Pueblo County continues!
Just this past winter, I climbed my first of the nine ranked peaks in Pueblo County--Booth Mtn., which is on Fort Carson. Now I am engaged in a great civil war--no, no, strike that--now I am engaged in trying to climb all the rest and finish off another county. Winter has come and gone, and I'm not finished, but I have made progress: I have six of the nine.
These are truly obscure peaks. Five don't even have names! Only one--the county high point--is higher than 9,000 feet. And all are clustered along the county's western edge. This one, in fact, lies (by my calculations) only about 500 feet east of the Custer/Pueblo County line.
As a result, I spent most of my day in Custer County. My starting point was on (Custer) County Road 388, which is also Forest Service Road 388, just outside the tiny community of Greenwood on State Hwy. 96. Setting off about 7:30 in the morning, Cimarron and I followed 388 eastward up a drainage (which I believe is called Hardscrabble Creek), until we came to the gate where it enters a private enclave of ranch property. There, we turned north along the fence line, climbing toward the ridge line to the north. My original intention had been to skirt the ranch altogether, but after climbing the slope for several hundred feet, and finding that the fence (apparently contradicting what my maps showed) continued on up to the cliffy ridge crest, we ducked through the fence and began traversing eastward. (An alternative would be to bypass the ranch on the south side and head east. This is actually a more direct path to 7140, but it would culminate in having to climb the steeper south slopes.)
After half a mile or so, we dropped into the saddle between 7140 and and UN 7380 (in Custer Co.). We crossed North Red Creek--conveniently still frozen over--and began the real climb. We headed up and roughly east-southeast through dense trees to reach the base of the rock cliffs which guard the south side of the long summit ridge. The first crack in the cliff face which I found offered a way to the ridge top for me, but the steps invloved proved to be too big for Cimarron, so we continued on east, looking for an easier option. We found one--quite easy, in fact--about a quarter of a mile short of the summit.
From there, we walked through seriously drifted snow to the true high point, which we reached after almost four hours of hiking. That was slower going than I had expected, considering that it was only about 3.75 miles! The weather was clear, calm and warm, and I got rid of some clothing. The views, especially to the north, were quite impressive.
We simply re-traced our steps back. That was easy until we got back on the traverse section. There, I found that the midday sun had all but obliterated my tracks! Fortunately, Cimarron's nose was an unerring guide, so I simply followed her. After getting back to the road, we then dealt with the abundant mud into which the same warm spring sun had turned it. The few pictures I took are at:

Long life and many peaks!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

UN 8176, UN 6947

OK; I'm trying to get back to being more timely about posting these entries!
I'm currently working on Pueblo County. It only has nine ranked peaks (a whole slew of unranked ones, though!), but they're nearly all really hard to get to. These two are prime examples (which is why it took a whole, very tiring, day, to bag two).
6947, my first of the day, is located just inside the eastern extremity of San Isabel National Forest, north of the town of Beulah. But guess what? There's no public road that actually goes into the NF that comes within five miles of it! Five miles as the crow flies: the actual path is considerably longer. And that's five miles of intense bushwhacking through scrub oak and deadfall without a trail...
OTOH, if you sprint across just a quarter mile of open range on the east end of a ranch, you can reach the forest boundary barely a mile from the summit in about 10 minutes. Technically, it's only a Class 2. Only the snow and timber slowed me down. About 90 minutes up, 70 down. One in the bag early in the morning! Then it was off down the road to Beulah and out of the north end of town to another section of San Isabel.
For this one, at least there is a tiny stretch of the road (County Rd. 212) which pokes into the NF right at the Pueblo/Custer Co. line. There's even a real pull-out! So I parked in Custer County, and immediately trapsed back over the county line, heading north up a drainage toward 8176.
It's three of the toughest miles anywhere. I climbed to the long ridge on the east side of the drainage as soon as I could, hoping that the ridge crest would represent the easiest way north to my objective. It didn't, as trees and spiky rocks occasionally make it even slower than plodding through the snow on the more level just below and to the west.
So I finally dropped off the ridge, and plodded until I rounded the next-to-last ridge point on the ridge proper. There, I crossed the saddle and gave up a hundred feet or so of elevation to reach the lower saddle on the west side of 8176. From there, I climbed back to the right (south), trying to stay mostly out of the snow, toward what looks like the summit, although I knew it wasn't. Once on the south end of the sizable summit plateau, I head north to the actual high point.
It had taken me over three hours to reach this point, and I was getting tired! It's a good thing that the weather held warm, calm, and marvelously clear. Except that I was now overdressed, and getting hot...
On the way back, I avoided the ridge, and just tramped south, mostly gently descending, across the huge meadow area west of the ridge, until I intercepted my own tracks from the ascent. The snow was getting soft, slushy, and slippery by this time, but I had little trouble re-tracing my steps right back to the car. I had figured going in that I could do this round trip in six hours at the very most...and by the time I had stripped off some excess clothing and pulled away down the road, I had used every last minute of that!
Pictures are at:
Long life and many peaks!