Friday, August 2, 2013

Number 100: Otter Mountain

Otter Mountain
Today was the big day, the day I go for my 100th unique summit on summitpost.  After hiking two times already this week, the idea was to keep it easy.  I chose Otter Mountain, and today Brian would be back with me in the mountains.  We met at the TRex Lot at 6:30 and we were off to the Silver Dollar Lake TH.
The main TH is accessible with any vehicle.  The Silver Dollar Lake TH is on the Guanella Pass Road, so follow the directions from my previous post.  A few miles before Guanella Pass there is the Guanella Pass CG, drive a few hundred yards past this and turn right at the TH sign.  This also facilitates as the winter TH for Bierstadt for those of you that are interested.  Passenger cars can park here, or you can continue driving up the road where there are a few spots to park.  I must put this warning out now.  I would advise against using my GPS route for the trip since the downfall is so bad.  Take a look at a few pictures and you will see.
The Jungle:  DO NOT ENTER
We didn’t walk to far up the road till diving into the maze of downfall; perhaps the worst downfall I have ever been in.  I got enough cuts on my body to prove I have literarily been into the jungle.  The crossing of the deadfall added a lot of time, I’m not sure how long we were in there but it seemed like eons.  The goal was to get to the south ridge which was all covered in trees, and we both hoped there would be a way up from there.  After probably a good 45 minutes of tree hopping we finally made some progress, the valley opened up in-between Wilcox and Otter.  We crossed the stream and the willows and found ourselves at the base of the south ridge…finally.
Evans Group Along the South Ridge
From the base of the ridge the trees thinned out and there wasn’t nearly the downfall that we had just came through.  There were plenty of game trails to jump between, but the climbing was steep.  It was good though, because we were now making some good progress.  After 400-500ft of gain we were on a thin ridge and the trees were thinning.  The tree line was in sight and we were both thankful for that.  Once past the tree line, it was a simple hike up the ridge.  The air opened up and the views around were amazing.
Now out in the open the wind started picking up and it was getting a little chilly.  We took a break to fuel up and knew we were not far off.  The hike up the ridge was nice and quick.  I didn’t want to stop because I thought I would get too cold, so we both powered up to the summit.  There we were, I was now on my 100th summit of Otter Mountain!  It was a chilly one, so I had to put on an additional layer.  I took a few pictures of the surrounding mountains.  I particularly enjoyed the view of the Evans group, this was now in a new angle for me and you could really see how large Evans was.
Me on the Summit of Otter
As we were making the ascent I was monitoring the cloud build up, and they looked less than desirable.  We chose to head back down instead of bagging Wilcox in case the thunderstorms started early.  I think if the jungle didn’t beat us up so much early in the day we would have had plenty of time for Wilcox, but we don’t mess with storms too much.
For the descent we headed to the mouth of the valley in-between Wilcox and Otter.  This actually worked out well for us.  There was a steep descent of a few hundred feet, but the footing was good.  This eventually fed back into the willows and we made our way through the maze on some good game paths.  After descending a few hundred more feet we made our way to the west side of the creek and followed above the willows to stay out of the brush.  After consulting my GPS we decided to cut over a small rib that led to the road.  By doing this we had to work a bit to get over the hill, but we avoided the willows.  There were many game trails and not as much deadfall since we were more to the west than our initial morning crossing.  It was just a matter of following the game trails through the woods till they met up with the road.  We didn’t have any jungle tramping to speak of and the trail was rather efficient making it to the road.  We intersected the road about 50 yards from the private property gate, so our navigation skills are still up to par.  From here it is a simple hike down the road to the car.
The climb was demanding because of all the bushwhacking, but I think if it was too easy it would not have been a memorable 100th summit.  Once out of the downfall the remainder of the hike was a lot of fun.  I really enjoyed the ridge walk and hope to back soon for Wilcox.  With any luck I’ll be out again soon, but I better let my wounds heal a bit first.
GPS Track

Date: 8/2/2013
Starting Elevation: 10,867ft
Otter Mountain Summit: 12,772ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,344ft
Class: 2
Distance: 5.03 miles
Time: 3:20 moving, 1:16 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Brian

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