Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cedar Mountain & Friends

UN 9514

Truman's Rock (9,420 ft., unranked)

Hackett Mtn. (9,424 ft.)

Cedar Mtn. (8,939 ft.)

UN 8630 (soft ranked)

Participants: me and Cimarron

13 November, 2010: This trip made some overdue progress on peaks of Teller County.These peaks all lie just off CR 51, which is also FS 360, north of Florissant. I actually picked up CR 51 at Divide (just north of US 24) and followed it north and west into Pike NF. It was supposed to be like “Five Easy Pieces,” but it turned out to be more like “Four Weddings and (almost) a Funeral.” By this last I don't mean that I nearly got killed; I didn't. But I actually did begin to doubt my chances of success. The “funeral” was Cedar Mtn., the lowest ranked peak, but by far the most difficult one of the day. More on that later. First, the easy ones:

UN 9514 and Truman's Rock

I started at the south end, just after the road turns to running basically north, about12 miles out of Divide (CR 51 has convenient mile markers!), and about 5 miles after the pavement ends. FS 220.1A heads west off the main road at about 39.0464º N, and gives access to these two. After going west just a few hundred yards, 9514 is on a spur road/trail to the south, and Truman's Rock is on a spur road to the north. I concur with an earlier climber that 9514 is probably the easiest ranked peak in Teller County—an easy walk-up with surprisingly decent views, especially to the west. Truman's Rock is unranked, with only 80 feet of prominence, but it is a more challenging summit, as some serious boulder climbing is required to reach the true high point. Total for this pair: less than 45 min. Onward and downward!

Hackett Mtn.

This gentle mountain lends its name to the topo quad. It is just west of the road, and can be seen from a couple of places as you approach. I parked just before the trees ended, giving out into the Hayman fire burn area, at about 39.0852º N. A gentle ridge leads up to the west to intersect the slightly steeper NW face of the mountain. The top is easy to locate, but I completely forgot to look for the register which my reading said was there! I also noted that my GPS showed the elevation to be about 9470—considerably higher than the literature value The view is sufficiently open that it was easy to follow the ridge back down to the car. Time for this one: also about 45 min. RT.

Cedar Mtn. (the prize of the day) and UN 8630

My idea going in was to do Cedar from the south/southeast. This was based largely on Jeremy Hakes' report noting an access road to a parking area on the south side, and an actual trail (!) leading to the summit. In addition Kevin Baker's TR had described the north side as “steep,” so I figured the southern approach was the way to go. Best-laid plans...

First off, I failed to find the access road, which actually shows on the topo map, and should have been at about 39.1152º N. So I just drove a little farther north on the road and found a place where I could pull off, roughly west of the summit.

I headed up, east, and south, skirting the cliffs which guard the summit, and hoping simply to intersect the trail heading north. Looking above me, I scanned the rocks for a weakness in the cliffs. I saw one possible one, but I was afraid it might be too steep for Cimarron, so I continued on to the south. Basically, I went all the way to the south end of the rocks, and curled around onto the east side, before I found anything that looked sufficiently dog-friendly to suit me.

Shortly after finally turning north, I encountered a cairn! I thought to myself “This must be the trail to which Jeremy was referring!” It was, but there were still surprises in store.

The cairns and easy Class 2 climbing continued, and I thought I might actually be closing in on the summit (which I now couldn't see, of course). Unfortunately, this led to confirmation of the first time-consuming mistake. The route eventually led back over onto the west side of the ridge, right into the leftward-facing cut in the rocks which I had rejected from below! It wasn't as steep or dicey as I had thought, and I could have saved a good deal of time by heading for it directly. Oh,well; I slogged on.

Next, the cairns led to a small saddle below a rather cliffy section. A quick check out onto the east face revealed a serious drop-off, so I could only conclude that the correct route was directly up the headwall facing me. Sure enough, I could see the next two cairns farther up. The problem was, although I knew that I could climb up the cracks or slabs between me and the visible cairns, I didn't think Cimarron could. So, with an eye on the time, and believing—wrongly--that the summit was just beyond what I could see, I concluded that I would have to summit alone, and launched myself up the fifteen feet or so of hands-and-feet climbing that led to the next section.

This led to an easy section, but it soon brought into view the next surprise. I was only on the south section of the summit ridge, and the true high point was on the north section, now clearly visible to the north. I now got another surprise: Cimarron had somehow made it up what I had assumed was the crux of the route, and was right behind me! Amazed, I scratched her head and pressed on.

Now it got really interesting! In between the two halves of the summit ridge, I found a cleft 20 feet or so deep, on the other side of which was—get this—a ladder fixed to a basically vertical section of rock! Again, I knew I could climb the ladder (assuming it held together...), but there was yet another problem: The drop down into the cleft was nearly vertical too, and the small ledges there looked perfectly doable by a human (due care strongly advised!), but not by a quadruped. This was indeed the route that Jeremy had described, but, clearly, he hadn't taken his dog! I could have gone on by myself at this point, but I really didn't want Cimarron trying to follow me down that drop.

The only option was to backtrack all the way to the little saddle, and very likely beyond that, and circle around on the east side of the summit rocks, hoping to find either an alternative way up into the cleft with the ladder or, better yet, another route up the east side onto the summit ridge.

Going back, I got to see how Cimarron had climbed the wall I had thought would stop her. Whereas I went down a steep crack, she flounced down a slabby rock face that I had thought looked too exposed and devoid of hand holds, as if it were nothing!

We did indeed have to go back nearly all the way to the south end of the summit cliffs to find a way to descend back onto the east face. When we finally headed north again, we were still on a steep slope, with plenty of broken rock and nasty vegetation to slow us down. I wasn't going to have come this far, however, and not knock off this peak, so we slogged on. Just as I was wondering if there were really any way to avoid the ladder, however, I spotted a narrow ledge which appeared to lead around a corner. There just might be a less steep gully on the other side...

Here, again, I thought I might have to leave Cimarron behind, but I knew the summit was close, so I went to check out the corner. I climbed up a steep crack, partially choked with vegetation, and onto the ledge, which was not exactly level and fairly exposed. Again, I had adequate hand holds, and adequate traction as long as the rock was dry, but I didn't think Cimarron could follow me.

Once around the corner, I found myself in a shallow but steep bowl of rock slabs which did indeed lead right up to a small lip just below the summit ridge. I carefully frictioned my way up the slabs, working to my left (south) to try to get to the narrowest part of the cliff band. Still fighting vegetation, I finally succeeded in hauling myself up through the final rocks and out onto the summit ridge, just south of the actual summit.

The summit is marked by a log cross about twelve feet high, secured in a pyramid of small stones nearly four feet high itself. After glimpsing this, and knowing that I had finally almost made it, I turned around to yet another surprise: Cimarron was right behind me, yet again! She had somehow negotiated the exposed ledge, climbed the slabs (which all lean the wrong way), and gotten up over the lip, while I thought she was marooned below. I could hardly believe it.

Looking down to the west, I could see the car barely a quarter mile away; it had taken an hour and 25 minutes to get here! To the east was Turkey Rock, a ranked peak variously reported as 3rd, 4th, and 5th Class (guess I'll have to go there to find out...). Off to the northeast, I could see Turtle Mountain, Thunder Butte, and Sheep Nose in Douglas County, all of which I had climbed. West and north lay the amazing smooth rock of Big Rock Candy Mountain, the most likely candidate for preventing me from finishing Douglas County. And just to the north, I looked down on UN 8630, which had been my intended fifth target for the day, but which I now wondered if I would have time for.

On the way down, however, I changed my mind yet again. Instead of re-tracing my long route around the south end of Cedar, it seemed more expedient simply to drop off the east face onto less steep ground, and circle around the north end to my starting point. A sort of (unplanned) tour de Cedar. On the way down, I realized that 8630 was a simple walk-up, and there for the easy taking; why not!?

Indeed, with all the rock scrambling now behind us, we reached the rarely-visited summit of UN 8630 only 45 minutes after leaving the summit of Cedar Mountain. And barely 25 minutes after that, we finished the easy walk back past the north side of Cedar to the road and the car. An hour and 25 minutes up, but only an hour and ten minutes down, including the out-and-back to 8630, which required almost 300 feet of climbing!

Sorry, still no pictures on this one, as my camera continues to act up.

Long life and many peaks!


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