Saturday, January 19, 2013

Colorado Mines Peak

Trail Head of Berthound Pass

I’m not proud; I will take any summit I can get.  I figure what makes an easier summit than a trail head at over 11,000ft?  Brian and I had a difficult time deciding what mountain to climb, so I made it easy for the both of us by picking Colorado Mines Peak.  The forecast temperatures were around 30°F and winds up to 35mph giving a wind chill of -17°F…sounds like good weather to me.  I have learned that with winter climbing in Colorado this is in fact very good weather.

Flora and James Peaks
Brian and I met at one of the Dinosaur Park-n-Rides off of I-70 around 7am.  The only bad thing is everyone else in Denver was at the Park-n-Ride too, for a weekend of skiing at the many Colorado resorts.  As we got on the freeway the traffic resembled more of a rush hour scene than my typical trip into the mountains.  The drive to Berthound Pass took a bit longer than it should have, but we couldn’t really complain too much.  As we de-boarded the car I glanced at the temp reading on the dashboard and it was registering a warm 16°F.  I knew the temp was a bit cooler since there was a good breeze going at the time.  I didn’t waste any time putting on my layers for the hike. Within a few minutes we were off on the trail.

From the TH the trail follows along an old road, which is probably used for the maintenance of the towers atop the peak.  The snow pack started out very good and I was thankful since we both left our snow shoes in the car.  Being in the trees helped with the temp as there was no wind, so we were probably experiencing 16°F through the woods.  After a few switchbacks on the road the snow drifting took away our nice hard packed route.  I started post holing to above my ankle then to knee level for a little while.  I really wished I had my snow shoes now!  The upper windblown mountain looked like a better option than staying on the road.  We ditched the road and headed straight up the mountains face. 

Brian Knee Deep
The going was much easier now that we were off the road.  There was 600-700ft to go, so I just took as straight of a line as I could and trudged up the mountain.  The wind was kicking in and my feet were starting to freeze.  I decided today to wear my hiking boots rather than my heavy plastics.  The going was much easier in these boots and I did bring some toe warmers, but I was waiting to get to the summit to put them on.  My knee was tightening up a bit so I moved into a rest step mode and it helped a lot.  After a bit more of a trudge I made the summit.  It took 1hour and 20minutes from the car, not too bad, basically on the 1,000ft per hour schedule that I like to keep.

I found a nice wind block and dumped my pack and started digging for my toe warmers.  I wasn’t sure if these things would work, but I was pleasantly surprised when my frozen toes started thawing out.  The wind chill was so cold, somewhere in the -15°F range that I would remove my glove take two pictures and then have to glove up my frozen fingers.  I was glad to have my down gloves with me because they warm you up really, really fast.

Longs and Meeker
We just hung out in the wind block for most of the time, but the clear blue sky was giving us great views.  I was glad Brian had brought up some warm tea; it sure hit the spot on such a cold day.  We decided that the wind chill was too much for us to continue onto Flora today, so we will save that mountain for another date.  After about 40minutes we decided to gear up and start making our way down the mountain.  The upper portion was bone chilling cold, but after we descended a few hundred feet the winds subsided.    After a bit of plunge stepping we made our way back onto the original trail.  The descent was quick and we were back to the car in no time at all.  This was a great short peak to climb; I hope to add some of the nearby ones in the future.  But for now a warm chair and a cup of hot chocolate sounds pretty good.

GPS Track
Date: 1/19/2013
Starting Elevation: 11,317ft
CO Mines Peak Summit: 12,493ft
Total Gained Elevation: 1,176ft
Distance: 2.78 miles
Time: 1:50 moving, 1:10 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Brian

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