Leon Peak: Mesa County Highpoint

After an emotionally charged first week at my new job followed by a fun Paonia based weekend, I got a text from one of my #omniten buddies Josh letting me know that he would be passing through Grand Junction along with Shawn of Teton Sports and Jordan as part of a Teton Sports #yourlead tour.

Happy to see old friends, Sprocket and I loaded up after work on Friday and headed north. After enjoying a pizza at Hot Tomato in Fruita (fresh Palisade peaches, gorgonzola, and rosemary!!!) We all pitched our tents basically on the side of the road, got eaten alive by mosquitoes, and headed for bed. In the morning, we hiked just a short way into McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area enjoying the gorgeous views.

McInnis Canyons #yourlead

While the guys had to load up and head east for Denver, Sprocket and I decided that the day was young and we were going to go up to Grand Mesa and hike the Mesa County Highpoint. Although Leon Peak was a pretty short and sweet hike, it was Sprocket’s least favorite form of hiking. Big talus boulders do not make this puppy happy!

Leon Peak

Leon Peak

As always, I can count on him to push through and follow me to the top! He even drooled a bit on the benchmark before I could snap a photo:

Leon Peak Benchmark

Checking out the remains of the old lookout was pretty cool. It was built in 1911 or 1912 but was abandoned after the end of the 1915 season due to heavy lightning activity on the peak.

 

Leon Peak Lookout

leon peak usfs

The views all around were pretty much amazing though. I loved this hike (aside from knowing Sprocket wasn’t really crazy about it).

Leon Peak views

Views from Leon Peak

Distance: Round trip about 2.8 mi

Elevation gain: 600+ feet

Sprocket rating: Not particularly dog friendly. One imaginary thumb down.

Delta County High Point: Mount Lamborn

Since Sprocket and I had driven all the way up to Paonia, I decided it was time to tackle the Delta County Highpoint, Mt. Lamborn. Mt. Lamborn, 11,396′, towers over the Gunnison Valley as you drive west from Delta towards Paonia. I was really excited about the hike since the mountain sits at the very edge of the West Elk Mountains and promised a great view in all directions. It definitely wasn’t a disappointment!

Parting ways with friends at the end of our float, I stopped for a delicious dinner at the Flying Fork Cafe in Paonia and then continued out to the Bell Canyon Trailhead for the Lamborn Trail. When I read the description on SummitPost I must have glossed over the part that read a “very rough four wheel drive road leads to the base of the canyon” but for once it wasn’t overblown hiker talk the road was pretty rough. (Not technical or hard to drive: just rocky, rough, and in some places rutted. It’s the kind of place where you use low gear not for obstacles but to go slow.)

We camped right at the trailhead and got a nice early start which was great for SP. He doesn’t like hiking in warm temperatures but loves to join me on my hikes. We started making our way up the canyon enjoying ourselves but moving quickly in the morning coolness.

Lamborn Trail Bell Canyon

Apparently humans and pups aren’t the only users of this trail. Sprocket’s paw looks so little compared to this ursine print:

Bear print

Lamborn Trail Junction

Mt. Lamborn from trail

Aspens on Lamborn Trail

Slopes of Mt. Lamborn

As we approached the summit, the views of the Elks were incredible!

Elk Mountains

Plane over flanks of Mt. Lamborn

The summit:

Mt. Lamborn summit

Way out there in the distance is the Sneffels Range! It’s hard to see here but I could pick out Mt. Sneffels, Storm King and Castle Rock, and more.

Landsend Point and Lamborn ridge

West towards the Uncompahgre Plateau:

Landsend Point

Looking west towards Delta. The very edge of Grand Mesa can be seen on the right:

Lower Gunnison Valley

On the way back to the car, my pup lead me the whole way. We had an awesome time on this county highpoint. It was gorgeous and a great workout!

Lamborn Trail

Mileage: about 10.3

Elevation gain: 4200′

Storm King and Castle Rock

After a few busy weeks of driving back to Colorado, the Outdoor Retailer Show, and adventuring back to Ridgway, it was definitely time to get out and do some classic Colorado hiking.

I’ve been wanting to hike Montrose County’s high point, Castle Rock, for quite awhile. Castle Rock doesn’t appear much higher than its neighbor Storm King from Highway 550 and Log Hill Mesa but the whole ridge is very prominent. I set off to follow the directions on Summit Post but on the ground things didn’t appear quite as described. Instead, I found myself at the base of these cliffs to the south of where I was supposed to ascend the ridge.

Storm King

I poked around a bit and found this gully that looked like it would “go” to the top of Storm King. Although it was really steep, it was an extremely direct way to attain the ridge. I think I totally preferred it to the wooded ridge recommended on Summit Post.

Ascent route Storm King

The gully attained the ridge just south of Storm King and I ambled south towards Castle Rock first, stopping a couple times to enjoy the views to the west and to get the lay of the land.

Cliffs near Storm King

Loooking south from Storm King

The ridge is fairly flat and it took me very little time at all to get to the summit of Castle Rock. Although things that I’d read seemed to insinuate that Castle Rock wasn’t all that impressive, I found the view amazing. I could look out to the east and the Cimarron valley, southeast to the West Fork Cimarron basin, southwest to the Sneffles Range and Ridgway, and west towards the Uncompahgre Plateau and beyond to Utah’s La Sal Mountains.

South from Castle Rock

Ridgway and the Sneffles Range:

Ridgway and Sneffels Range

Castle Rock panorama:

Castle Rock Panorama

I ambled over to the summit of Storm King before heading back to the Jeep definitely please with this hike!

Olallie Butte

A few weeks ago, Sprocket and I headed east into the Cascades to hike Olallie Butte. It’s a nice mostly treed hike before scrambling up the last bits of scree to the summit. Olallie is one of Oregon’s 2,000′ prominence peaks and the high point of Wasco county is just off its northeastern flank.

Olallie Butte Trail

Hiking Olallie Butte

Mt. Jefferson dominates the southern view, actually obscuring Three Finger Jack, Mt. Washington and South Sister, with Middle and North Sisters peaking over her eastern shoulder.

Mt. Jefferson from Olallie Butte

Sprocket and Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Hood

Olallie Butte North Ridge

Sprocket on snow

New Hampshire Adventures

A couple weeks ago, I headed back East for Stacia and Andrea’s wedding (you might remember seeing their engagement photos here on the blog and on Amanda’s blog). Susan, who wrote about dating and rock climbing while I was in Jordan, was kind enough to pick me up at the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire and drive me to Sunday River, Maine for the wedding. I tried to take her on her first county highpoint hike to Sandwich Mountain but we were foiled by high water in the creek. Instead, we had a lovely, leisurely hike chatting and getting to know each other in person!

Sandwich Range Wilderness

Creek

Susan

Creek

Signal Peak

Signal Peak, located just south of Quartzsite, Arizona, is the highest point in Yuma County. I’ve been meaning to climb it since last year when we first visited Quartzsite but finally convinced F and Mike to join me on Wednesday; Mike’s dog Katie and Sprocket joined us as well. Signal Peak (4,877′) stands high over the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (fun fact: the word “Kofa” comes from “King-OF-Arizona” a mine that used to operate south of Signal Peak).

The drive up Kofa Queen Canyon Road is gorgeous. Traveling just north of the Signal Peak massif, it heads up through some very impressive spires and rock formations. The angle of the morning light wasn’t ideal for photography but I did grab some on the way out. Signal Peak is one big chunk of rock!

Signal Peak

After bouncing along Kofa Queen Road for quite awhile, we finally found the trailhead. F and I quickly confirmed that what we were seeing on the ground matched our online beta about the route and away we went. While preparing for the hike, I’d read several trip reports that said route finding was tricky. Using the photos available on the SummitPost.org site, I’d say that it was really quite easy to find your way.

Ten Ewe/Indian Canyon

Just barely on the trail, we spotted these gorgeous Desert Bighorn:

Desert Bighorn, Kofa Wildife Refuge

Part of the way up, Katie started limping a bit so Mike decided that he’d turn around and meet us back at the truck. F, Sprocket, and I continued heading up the mountain. The promised “scrambling” section of the hike barely rated a class 3. It’d been awhile since F had been on a hike like this with Sprocket and I and we all had a blast. I think we were both quite proud of Sprocket: he’s become quite the little mountain goat!

F and Sprocket

Along the way we spotted some more Desert Bighorns. They’re so amazing to watch run along the steep cactus covered hillsides!

Desert Bighorn

Cholla

Eventually, we asended into a bowl between the summit of Signal and Ten Ewe Peak:

Ten Ewe

At the summit, we took some time to relax, eat lunch, and try to name as many of the mountain ranges around us as we could. We’re slowly starting to learn the geography of western Arizona and far-eastern California!

Kofa 2 Benchmark/Signal Peak

View from Signal Peak

Signal Peak view to the southwest

Signal Peak was one of the best hikes I’ve been on in awhile. The drive in is long but breathtaking. The hike itself is challenging but not too horrible (it did not feel like 2,000′ of gain in less than 2 miles). And the view from the top is astounding.

 

14ers: El Diente & Mount Wilson

Thursday at 2am, we got up and headed out for another try at El Diente (and Mt. Wilson). This time we headed up via the Kilpacker trail and started our hike at about 3:45am. We arrived in Kilpacker basin just as the sun was coming up and were treated to this view of “The Tooth” catching the first rays of light:

El Diente at sunrise

Kilpacker Basin

Our timing was great. We did the easy trail hiking in the dark and started our scramble up the south slopes of El Diente while watching the sun creep along the ridges and valley floors.

F

Kilpacker Basin3UpAdventures.com. El Diente-Mt. Wilson Traverse.

Reaching the summit of El Diente was awesome. There was just the right amount of difficult third class scrambling to make it fun without being intimidating. Since we still wanted to do the traverse to Mt. Wilson, we didn’t spend too long on the summit, taking just enough time to share a Good2Go bar and drink some water.

F on the summit of El Diente

From El Diente, we finally got a glimpse of Mt. Wilson:

Mt. Wilson from El Diente

From the left: Wilson Peak, Mt. Gladstone, and Mt. Wilson:

Wilson Peak, Gladstone from El Diente

We started across the traverse. While parts of it were lots of fun, there was lots of crumbly, tippy, loose rocks with plenty of exposure. It demanded a lot of attention as we moved slowly towards Mt. Wilson.

El Diente from Wilson Peak Traverse

The last pitch up the summit block of Mt. Wilson was quite the climax to the day. The last few moves are definitely class 4 with plenty of exposure. Finally, though, we were on top. It was almost noon so we didn’t linger very long on the summit and started our decent down into Navajo Basin via the northeastern slopes.

Marmot Navajo Basin

Decent route

When we finally reached the basin floor, it was time to get walking. The clouds were gathering and we knew that it wouldn’t be long before we got wet. Fortunately, we got to see Navajo Lake from above before packing the camera away from the rain that was almost upon us. The six mile hike out was really wet but we’d made it!

Navajo Lake

Mushrooms near Navajo Lake

Trail Stats:

Miles hiked: 16
Feet of elevation gain: ~5,200′
Time: 12 hours 45 minutes
14ers summited: TWO (Mt. Wilson and El Diente plus West Wilson)

Nature 1, Us 0

Wednesday morning, we hit the road at 3:45 am to climb El Diente and Mount Wilson. We arrived at the Navajo Lake trail and began the first few miles of our hike in the dark. As we reached the meadows below the lake, the sky began to lighten and we got our first glimpse of El Diente (and South Wilson).

Sunrise on the Navajo Peak Trail

Finally we climbed the trail over the headwall of Navajo Basin and got to see the slopes of El Diente. We enjoyed a snack on the shores of the lake before starting the long scramble up to the West Ridge.

Navajo Lake

Navajo Lake

Our chosen route was steep. The going up the scree was slow but our views got better and better as we moved up in elevation. Mostly it was just a lot of two steps up, one step back but there were a few places we got to do some scrambling.

F on the slopes of El Diente

Up El Diente

Climbing the chutes

Climbing the chutes

Finally, we popped out on the ridge and we saw El Diente for the first time since leaving the meadows. Wow.

First glimpse of El Diente

Our views out to the west weren’t too bad either:

To the West

Traversing the west ridge was a lot of fun. We weren’t making awesome time because there were plenty of places where we had to cross some sketchy areas like this: (Yes, it’s a long ways down)

Knife's Edge

To the North

Ridge hiking

Ridge Hiking

Just as we started to feel within reach of the summit, the infamous Colorado summer thunderstorms began to develop. We watched as the clouds began to get more and more ominous. As we watched the clouds began to move to our south so we began moving again.

Ominous clouds

Within minutes, things went from sketchy to very bad. As my hair stood straight up and we got a fuzzy sensation, F sternly instructed me to get down and the two of us hit the rocks and rolled down the ridge 20ft. BOOM, lightning struck over head. Luckily it was cloud to cloud that time.

As we regrouped, we realized 1) that we needed to GET OFF THE RIDGE, 2) that we’d put holes in several hundred dollars worth of clothing, that F had 3) bent his thumbnail back ripping some flesh and 4) sliced 3″ of his hand open on the rocks.  We bandaged his hand with my t-shirt and hair tie (my free tshirt from S2V met a bloody death and I doubt my coworker wants her hair tie back…).

Two miles of ridge top traversing did not sound like a good idea but we weren’t sure we had much of a choice. The alternate routes on El Diente were on the other side of the summit and the sides of the ridge were full of cliffs. As we scrambled our way along the ridge F spotted a chute that appeared be decendable to Kilpacker basin and we both agreed it was worth a shot to get ourselves out of a sketchy situation. So we “skied” down 1000ft of scree while trying to avoid going over the cliff.

When we arrived in the basin the imminent threat of severe weather seemed to have been replaced with a slight summer drizzle and we were treated to a side view of How Close We Were.

Hand gash on El Diente's slopes

Instead of following our tracks out to the Navajo trail, we decided to hike out Kilpacker trail to see if trying the South Slopes approach would be a better idea next time. Just shy of the trail head we met a father and son who had made it to the top of El Diente before the storm but had to abandon the traverse to Mount Wilson. They kindly agreed to drive us back to the Navajo trailhead to pick up the Jeep.

Bummed about not making it to the summit, we took Last Dollar Road from Telluride back to Dallas Divide. Along the way, we saw elk herds, some Aspen and pine groves, and lots of trails to explore.

Elk on Last Dollar Road

The Jeep even got to have some muddy fun:

Green Jeep.

Back in Ridgway over pizza and beer, we began to make plans to give the climb another shot. We’re on a mission now!

Hike by the numbers:
Miles hiked: 11.8
Feet of elevation gain: 3800′
High point: 13,600′
Stitches needed: 9
Summits reached: 0
Dollars worth of clothing torn: a lot 😥

 

Mt. Sneffels Climb

Wednesday, F, Ezra and I decided it was time to climb Mt. Sneffels. The climb marked the first 14er for both Ezra and I as well as the first 14er F has climbed (he’s driven up Mt. Evans).

We started our climb in beautiful Yankee Boy Basin. From the last parking area, it’s only about 1 1/2 miles to the summit so we took our time on the way up. We stopped for awhile to photograph this really friendly marmot:

Marmott

As is normal in the San Juans, the views just get better and better (and my list of mountains to climb gets longer and longer).

F on Mt. Sneffels

F and Ezra on Mt. Sneffels

Views of the San Juans from Mt Sneffels

Views of the San Juans from Sneffels

Mt. Sneffels final chute

North from the summit of sneffels

Blue Lakes

DSC_0078

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DSC_0086

Beth & F on Sneffels

We even found a bunch of fulgurites (is it still a fulgurite if it’s not a tube?):

Fulgurite

Day 7-Lassen National Park

We got up bright and early and explored around our campsite a little more…we both managed to get stung by yellow jackets on a bridge…so we hit the road.

After a nice coffee break in Greenville we were headed for Lassen Volcanic National Park. After a perhaps misguided summit of Mt. Lassen we abandoned plans to hike Bumpass Hell (something I kind of regret) and headed north out of the park.

After a yummy hamburger in Old Station we made a pit stop at Subway Cave, a lava tube. I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was with the Ape Caves but it was fun all the same. A bit down the road we stopped and stretched at Bridge campground at Hat Creek. Hat Creek was deep and GORGEOUS–I almost went swimming.

We pushed on a little further, trying to see the falls at McArthur-Burney State Park but deciding that the $9 day use fee was a little steep passed by and made a stop at Lake Britton. We headed north a bit more and camped southeast of Bartle.

Day 6: ~153 miles

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.