Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Cow Mtn. (11,143 ft.)
UN 10,543

7 July, 2010: This was another trip up Gold Camp Road, to the part of Teller County which is on the Pikes Peak quad. I took GCR nearly to Victor and turned north on an (apparently) unnamed road at approximately 38.7446°N, -105.0755°W. I followed it for roughly a third of a mile. (The map shows this road continuing all the way around in a loop by Bison Reservoir, and back to the main road, but I found it coming to an end not far beyond where I parked at a convenient pull-out.)
Heading off at 4:44 MST, I followed the road, and then a rough trail (horse?) which continued on to the north to the saddle between the two peaks. A short (quarter mile) jaunt with just over 300 feet of elevation gain (If I'm not mistaken, this is the saddle which defines this peak's prominence, and leads to its being ranked!) led to the tree-shrouded summit. The high point is in a cluster of microwave-sized rocks located very close to the literature values for the summit location. I got there at 5:10.
Back at the saddle, I headed--basically blindly--north and west, up and into the trees. At this elevation, there are still a lot of aspens. The forest is not dense enough to impede progress much, nor is there any big problem with downed timber. However, the trees plus the gentle convolutions of the mountainside do make it impossible to see very far ahead. Just as importantly, the sky had gone totally overcast, eliminating sun navigation. As I climbed higher, I was actually hitting the underside of the cloud deck, and hiking through wisps of fog. Thus, I was navigating by compass, and just kept going up. This took me over one false summit, where I gave up a small bit of elevation. When I encountered another segment of the elusive, deteriorating 4WD road, I stopped to check my position by GPS one more time. Continuing up and west again, I soon encountered the steepest climbing of the day: The east side of the summit is guarded by a talus slope that goes on for a couple of hundred vertical feet.
I finally found what had to be the summit at 6:22, where GPS confirmed that I was indeed in the right place. It's a good thing that I had this modern device, though, since I couldn't see anything more than a few dozen feet away.
Hoping that the coulds would lift, I dropped off the north side until I once again encountered the old road. I still had hopes of crossing the drainage to the northwest (the outflow from Bison Reservoir) and adding Trachyte Knob to my day. After all, It was still very early in the day, and I had thought that afternoon thunderstorms would be my worst meteorological enemy. But no! The persistent clould cover and fog--which showed no sign of burning off--still made it impossible to see where I was going. I could see myself pushing on to the third summit (You can always get there by just going up until there isn't any more up!), and then getting hopelessly disoriented on the way down and being unable to find my way back to the slopes of Cow Mtn.
Thus, I called two rarely climbed, ranked peaks good for the day. Despite the fog, I managed to come right back to the point where the road crosses the Cow/10543 saddle, and quickly made it back to the car. Only two peaks left on the Pikes Peak quad! (Due to the fog, no photos on this one either.)
RT: 4.3miles, 3 hrs. Vertical: approx. 1,700 ft.
Long life and many peaks!


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