Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mount Edwards and Mount McClellan Birthday Climb

Mount Edwards
School is in full swing now so finding time to get back into the mountains has been tough.  With my birthday coming up and Brian’s just passing, I knew I wanted to squeeze in a birthday climb so we could both celebrate our youth in the mountains.  The original plan was a climb of Mount Wilcox from the Waldorf Mine, but plans always change as they did again on this trip.  The weather forecast wasn’t looking too bad so we slept in a bit on met at the Trex Lot at 6am on Friday morning.
Last October we both made a trip back to the same TH of Waldorf Mine when we climbed Argentine Peak.  I’ll be honest the drive back here sucks, and it sucks a lot, be prepared for a long bumpy ride.  From the Trex lot it took about 1hr 45min to get to the TH.  From the Denver area head up I-70 west and take the Georgetown exit.  Drive through town heading towards Guanella Pass Road.  A little over 2.5 miles up the road from town there is a second set of switchbacks, on the second corner is a small pull-out and a dirt road (FS 248.1).  In the winter time this would be the TH or if you have anything other than a high clearance 4WD this would also act as the trailhead.  The drive is about 7 miles along this rough 4WD road and plan on about 45minutes to get to the TH.  The worst part is the very beginning heading to the first switchback; if you can get past here you should be good to go.  Just stay on the main road, there are numerous smaller roads heading off to the left and right.  There will be a series of switchbacks you will drive through before  heading in a south westerly direction.  Once the switchbacks are over the road stays pretty true to the creek for the remainder of the drive.  This was once an old rail road grade that went to the top of Mount McClellan for tourists to take in the view of Grays and Torreys.
Me and Brian on Edwards
We arrived at the Waldorf Mine around 7:45am and were off on the trail by 8am.  There are multiple options of peaks and routes back in this area, we were able to do two of them in under 5 miles but there is a good loop of four 13ers for those up for a bit of a challenge.  Like I said earlier, we initially were going to climb Wilcox but we changed plans while hiking up the road.  Last October I had made the summit of Mount Edwards from the Stevens Gulch side while Brian did not.  Needless to say he had some unfinished business to do and asked if I cared if we climbed Edwards and McClellan.  My response was, doesn’t matter to me as long as I climb something.  So, there you have it, within the first quarter mile of our hike we changed plans and started making our way up Mount Edwards.
Grays and Torreys from Edwards Summit
There is a more direct way to Edwards from the Waldorf Mine that is easy to see, so if that is your objective the climb is a straight shot.  We had to do a bit of a willow bushwhack, but it was all dry so it wasn’t too bad.  We made our way for the main gully and it leads you directly up the south face of the mountain.  This is a steep and short hike, so make sure to stretch out those calf muscles because they are going to burn.  This hike is as straight forward as they get, just keep heading straight for the mountain till you make the summit.
I won’t like, I was sucking some serious wind and my legs were good and tight so I was taking my time.  Brian was a good distance ahead of me and was going at a good clip today.  Towards what appeared to be the top, he said there was a mountain goat sleeping.  As we got closer we could see he was dead, the key being his gut sack lying next to him.  A hunter arrived to the spot we were at almost the same time telling us he had shot the goat the previous night.  I was none too happy to see this since mountain goats are my favorite animal, but that’s life.  We chatted for a minute with the hunter and then climbed the last 50 vertical feet to the summit.
Continental Divide Looking South
Before getting to the summit I was baking like a hot potato in the oven.  I had my alpine pants on and the sweat had been flowing freely.  Once on the summit the clouds covered up the sun and the temperature dropped about 30 degrees almost instantly.  So, from hot to cold in an instant, the sweat was now frigid on my legs.  This was quite the rapid change; I even put my jacket on while we had our lunch.  The sky was starting to get pretty cloudy, but I was still able to take a few decent pictures of the surrounding mountains.  This is an amazing summit because the 360 degree views of the mountains is perhaps as good as it gets this close to Denver.  We may have hung out for around 20 minutes then saddled up for our next objective; Mount McClellan.
Mount McClellan
This is about as easy of a twofer that one can ask for.  Just hike along the ridge where game trails come and go.  From the low point of the saddle it is only about a 200ft vertical gain to the flat summit of McClellan.  It is a really enjoyable ridge walk as looking to the north the cliff faces drop into the Stevens Gulch below.  The hike between the two mountains is quick, so I would definitely recommend doing these as a pair.
There are a few options for getting back to Waldorf Mine.  Either head down the gully you ascended or do a loop like we did that heads around the east side of McClellan.  I think the loop that we did is a lot mellower of a down climb than the gulch, it just adds probably another half mile or so.  The hike to the east of McClellan is pretty cool; this side is all cliff chutes heading down into an old mining camp.  Follow the gentle slope and don’t get suckered into the direct talus bowl.  The grass rib you can hike down will cross a number of roads, just keep in mind where you parked and there will be a way to connect yourself to the right road.
It tried to rain a bit on us as we were within a quarter mile of my rig.  Nothing serious started coming down till we were packing up our gear into the truck.  Once again, we made it just in time before the ugly weather came in.  It’s important to get an early start and know about how long your trip is going to take; weather can be a real S.O.B. in Colorado at times.  Now that I have these two mountains under my belt, Wilcox is the only one left to finish the group heading all the way to Mount Evans from Kelso.  This is a great area to explore, and even better because all the other “suckers” are on 14ers leaving us some solitude on the 13ers.  I love it, mountains are meant to be climbed in solitude…at least for me they are.
GPS Track
Date: 9/6/2013
Starting Elevation: 11,582ft
Mount Edwards Summit: 13,850ft
Mount McClellan Summit:  13,587ft
Total Gained Elevation: 2,440ft
Class: 2
Distance:  4.95 miles
Time: 3:40 moving, 1:30 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Brian
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