Bushnell Peak: Fremont County Highpoint

When I’m home on a Friday, my day usually starts out with puppy cuddles and gently transitions to coffee at my computer for #hikerchat. A couple of weeks ago, as the chat was just gearing up, Mike mentioned that his climbing partners were hurt and wanted to know if I was down for a summit. I am always down for a summit.

We started trying to decide where to go and I immediately gravitated to my county highpoint list. Many of the peaks were out because of distance or potential avalanche danger. I narrowed in on Bushnell Peak in the northern Sangre de Cristo range. I could find precisely one report of it having been climbed in late-winter conditions around the end of March. It had been quite awhile since Colorado had received any snow and none was predicted for the coming week so we decided to go for it.

Dirty windshield Sangre De Cristo
‘Scuse the dirty windshield

We met up in Poncha Springs and headed south in the growing dusk to the trailhead. We really lucked out, I did not realize that all the roads in the Raspberry Creek area are closed starting March 15th for Sage Grouse protection! The road up towards the trailhead was rough but not very difficult. Be careful though; there are some sharp rocks here and you can get yourself in trouble really quickly with a slice to the sidewall of your tire.

We were able to drive up to about 8,800′ and I probably? could have pushed up to about 9,000′ in the jeep. We discovered when hiking the next day that once the road entered the trees, the snow was both slushy and about a 1′ deep. Parking down at 8,800′ added less than a mile so it wasn’t too big of a deal.

Jeep cuddles

Early early alpine starts are not my forte so I was glad that Mike pushed me to hit the trail at 3am. I rolled out of bed at 2:45, walked Sprocket around a bit, and was ready to hit the trail. As I mentioned above, we shortly ran into snow and the postholing started. I started out breaking trail and immediately began to think, “There is no way we’re going to reach the summit with these conditions.”

The old mining road peters out as it reaches the wilderness boundary and attempting to follow it in the dark was more difficult than I had expected. We crossed Raspberry Creek and I wasn’t seeing the road continuing up the creek drainage that we expected to follow. Mike and I briefly consulted and we decided to just head directly up the southwestern ridge of Bushnell.

This wound up being a really great plan. Just out of the flats we started to run into bare ground on the top and south sides of the ridge. From about 9300′ up to nearly 10,200′ we enjoyed just patches of snow and mostly easy forest walking. As we reached an aspen grove, the slope abated a little bit and the sun started to rise.

Northwest from Bushnell's SW Ridge

What started out to be a glorious sunrise lighting nearby Twin Sisters and the Collegiate Peaks to the northwest faded a bit as dark clouds began to gather just on the eastern side of the summits. We briefly discussed the weather and both agreed that the clouds seemed to be moving more north than west towards us so we pressed on.

Bushnell Ridge

The snow got harder and more difficult to traverse but the final pitch to the summit looked to have plenty of exposed rock that looked easy enough to walk up. Here, my spirits started to rise. I was feeling strong and I realized “We could actually do this.”

Bushnell Ridge

The wind at this point was cold so we just kept moving. At the summit, I snapped just a couple of photos, including this selfie, before hi-fiving Mike, and getting moving again. I’m pretty sure I excitedly fist pumped as I walked the last few feet to the summit for my 36th Colorado County Highpoint.

Summit selfie

Looking south from Bushnell Peak

View southeast from Bushnell

Downhill travel is always faster and that pace really helped to warm me up, plus I was motivated to down out of the wind! As we approached the valley floor, we found ourselves descending into a beautiful spring day.

SW Ridge of Bushnell on Descent

Thanks for an awesome, confidence building day Bushnell. I had a blast and I was so so excited to know that my recent efforts to prepare for the mountains are working. Thank you to Mike for the suggestion to get out and do something big and for being willing to work with my goals!

Jeeping: Mt. Blanca Road to Lake Como

Labor Day Weekend I called in a favor and asked a friend with a more built up Jeep to drive me up to Lake Como. My FSJ is pretty capable but she’s not going to make it up that road, nor does the old lady need that kind of abuse. We headed up the road under uncertain skies and with a forecast that wasn’t looking particularly promising for a big day or two above treeline but since we’d made the long haul down to south central Colorado, we decided to go for it anyway.

Mount Blanca Road

Mount Blanca Road

Stay on Trail or Stay Home

White TJ Mt. Blanca Rd

Sprocket started out pretty excited about the ride but after several miles of rough road he was a lot less excited.

Sprocket

Lake Como Road (or Mt. Blanca Road, it seems to be known equally by both names) is better called a Jeep trail than a Jeep road. At many points, it was a lot more rockcrawling than jeeping. While the whole road is really rough and without a very modified Jeep or a buggy it takes some careful maneuvering throughout. The “signature obstacles” on this trail are called Jaws 1, Jaws 2, Jaws 2 1/2, and Jaws 3. They’re really creative with their names.

The photo below wasn’t even from one of the “Jaws”:

Lake Como Road

As we hung out at the lake in the evening, the skies got more and more cloudy. Since we’d hoped for a big day above treeline to do the Little Bear-Blanca traverse (one of Colorado’s four “Grand Traverses”) things were not looking promising.

Lake Como

Lake Como

As it got later and later, the wind kicked up, it spit rain and was generally pretty miserable. I was hopeful that everything would blow out by morning but we awoke to clouds hovering just above the lake. With the prospect of no views, wet rock, and wind on high ridges nothing about climbing one of the 14ers above the lake sounded like fun and we called it good with a pretty successful jeeping adventure.

Essentially, this wound up being a preview for me of the Lake Como road that I’m almost certain to be hiking next summer in a bid to bag all three of the 14ers gracing the basin.

Lake Como

Lake Como