Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Argentine Peak

It feels like it’s been a month since I was last in the mountains.  I have been eager to get back out but this new work schedule isn’t working with my climbing desires too well.  Lucky for me Brian was available to get out on a short hike so we made plans for Argentine Peak in the Front Range.  I had to be back in Denver by 2pm so we had another early start ahead of us.  As our usual we met at the T-Rex Lot on I-70 at 4:30am for a hopeful early morning start.

Unfortunately not all plans go according to schedule.  Argentine is a 13er, so it doesn’t see as much traffic as the neighboring 14ers.  When not as many people climb these mountains there is less and less beta with old trip reports and directions to trailheads.  This is where the day started sour for us; just getting to the TH.  We found the FS248 road off of the Galena Road out of Georgetown just fine.  The issue was it was still pitch black out and there were all of these side roads heading off of the main FS248.  I knew there was a series of switchbacks right at the beginning so I kept to the curves going up, well my first left turn ended up down a dead end road.  Let me tell you, backing up a tight 4WD road in the dark is no fun.  Brian got out and helped me back down about a 100yrds of road till there was enough space to turn around.

I guess my initial problem was not bringing the directions with us.  I figured it was going to be a lot more straight forward than it was, and I was wrong.  We were back on the main road now and not long after we had our next split…great, another opportunity for another bad decision.  There was a sign for FS248-1B, it was a signed road so I thought that looked good.  No, not the right road.  We took this for a mile maybe more.  This was a full 4WD road as was most of the way up since leaving the pavement.  At one point it was just a boulder road and I told Brian “I hope you’re in for some boulder driving.”  We were both joking around that we thought this resembled a creek bed..well it was a creek bed and not a road.  There was a trickle of water and the boulders were wet and at one point we got stuck.  I put it 4WD low and backed out…at this point I was ready to just back down the creek if I could.  Brian took off up the creek bed to see how far it went.  I weighed my options for a few seconds then just got back in the truck and plowed through the boulders to where I found Brian on a chunk of dirt.  It appeared to be a hunting campsite of sorts and the road/creek bed went no further.  We both got back in the truck turned around and back down the rocky creek we went.

Evans Group
What seemed like an eternity and was probably the matter of minutes we made it back down to the previous “disaster” split.  Brian was pointing “the” way, and at this point I wanted nothing to do with navigation anymore, because apparently I had no clue what the hell I was doing.  I hate to ruin this great travesty for all of you, but we were now on the right path and no more issues with the drive occurred.  This was an incredibly rough road, the ugliest road I have seen yet in Colorado and rivals with anything I have drove in Idaho.  We were over an hour behind our schedule, from the pavement it took over an hour for this escapade of a mere 8 miles.  If we were on the correct path the whole way it is only 6.2 miles from the pavement to the Waldorf Mine.  This still took us about 40minutes to descend on the way out, so that may give you an idea of how bad the road was.  Looking back it would have been a great film opportunity driving the creek bed in my Blazer…after all it is a Blazer and not some tricked out Jeep.

It had already been a long morning.  The sun was coming up over the mountains, so we now knew our plan of multiple summits was doomed for this outing.  Right around 7am we rolled into the Waldorf Mine parking area and I had to check that on my GPS to make sure we were in the right spot.  We were hoping to have been hiking for over an hour already so we already made an adjustment to our route.  I suggested we just head up to Argentine Pass to climb Argentine Peak and if we had time we could head to Wilcox or Edwards.  Brian was in agreement, so a little after 7am we were finally hiking.

Grays and Torreys
We took off up the old road towards Argentine Pass.  The views back in this area were amazing, I wish we made it a week or two earlier to get a full color transformation…but I’m not complaining.  I was feeling pretty exhausted from when we left the car, not sure if it was the altitude or maybe my change in diet with exercise that was backfiring on me.  Needless to say I was slow going right out of the gate.  The road is as easy to follow as it gets, just keep trudging up and up.  When the road started doing some switchbacks I caught up with Brian who was patiently waiting for me.  Just as I made it to Brian two four-wheelers came up the road.  The exhaust was worse from these guys than anything on Pikes Peak so suddenly the Pikes Peak Road didn’t seem so bad.  We decided instead of following the road to the pass were our ATV friends were, we would head cross country towards the peak and get a class 2 hike in.

The terrain here was very easy; not too rocky till making the ridgeline.  I was just in my day hikers and soon I wish I had put on my boots that were sitting in the back of my truck.  I prefer some extra ankle support while off trail.  Brian was a few hundred vertical feet above me by the time I hit the ridge.  I decided I needed to put my jacket on since the wind was quite chilling at this point.  While I was re-layering I couldn’t help but take in the amazing view of Grays and Torreys directly in front of me.  After I was adjusted with warmer clothing I was good to go and started up the north ridge of Argentine.

Argentine Benchmark
There was a dusting of snow, well I don’t know if it was snow or not.  The large pebbles of white resembled frozen hail more than snow.  My feet were a bit chilled since I was in shoes but it never got too bad.  Time to take back my North Face hikers, there is a leak in the toe somewhere.  The ridge stays pretty gentle; I mainly used boulders to stair climb to avoid any of the snow spots and a slip.  From where I gained the ridgeline there was probably 600-700 vertical feet to the summit.  It didn’t take too long to meet up with Brian on the summit, but it seemed like a lot longer period of time during the climb.

The summit area was quite large.  There was a large post declaring the high point of Argentine Peak.  Brian found the benchmark, or at least what was left of it.  Only half of the benchmark was there, so we were trying to conjure up what caused that.  I have a hard time imagining someone came up just to bust the benchmark, but I have been wrong before.  We wandered around the summit area getting a few pictures of the surrounding peaks and trying to decide if we were going to be able to get another one in today.  The ascent took a lot longer than anticipated and with our delay from the drive in we decided it would just be one mountain today.

We contemplated on hiking to ridge to Mount Wilcox for our descent, but I thought it would take more than two hours to get back to the TH if we went that way.  Unfortunately I was on a schedule and we had to be at the car by noon, so that hindered us from having any more fun for the day.  We decided to head down the way we came up, but take a bit more of a direct line down once we got off the high part of the peak.  This turned out to be a great route down and if I ever do head up again I will probably take this line.  You can see this in the GPS track of the photo album where we head directly off the ridge instead of following our ascent line.

Me on the Summit
We made it back to the road in no time at all.  There was one guy hiking up towards us taking pictures of all the fall colors.  None of my pictures really give the color justice, but the red and orange colors were amazing.  Brian and I both agreed that that we would most likely not drive this horrid road back up this way.  So, when we finally do climb the surrounding peaks we will have to find some easier roads to access the peaks.  My Blazer took a beating today and I don’t like to beat up my main ride too much.  I was impressed with my new Michelin tires and they get my seal of approval for their work to get up and back out to the pavement.

Not sure what is next, hopefully a peak on my trip to Oregon next week.  I still hope to get my 50 peaks in this year and I have more than 10 to go so I better stop messing around.  The 13ers are a great option to lose the crowds and get some solitude in the mountains of Colorado.  This marked my 9th 13er this year and I foresee many more in the near future.
GPS Track

Date: 9/29/2012
Starting Elevation:  11,580ft 
Argentine Summit: 13,728ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,150ft
Distance: 5.03 miles
Time: 3:28 moving, 1:18 stopped
Partners: Brian

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