|Nick on the East Ridge|
You may have all heard of me talk about North Star Mountain before. It is one of those mountains that is starting to become a nemesis. This isn’t because it’s a particularly hard mountain to climb; it just always seems to attract the worst weather. Well, this time is no different. North Star Mountain is part of the Ten Mile Range that is located near Breckenridge, Colorado. This is a relatively easy place to get to from Denver, so that’s probably why so many of my trip reports are from this range.
|The Front Range|
The weather in Denver had been cold lately, so the high mountains weren’t going to be much better. We both knew we had a pretty crummy forecast, but sometimes you just deal with it. The drive in was pretty clear, with patches of fog here and there. By the time we arrived at the TH we were socked in the fog. This wasn’t the most ideal way to start the climb, but I’ve seen worse.
Once geared up we took off on the trail right about 7am. This was my third time on this trail, so I kind of feel like I have it engrained as part of my mental map by now. Well, not really, but this one doesn’t require advanced navigation. In the summertime the first few miles of this trail is an old road that some people drive part way. Today it was covered in snow, which lucky for us was pretty hard packed so we didn’t need our snowshoes quite yet.
My history of this mountain has taught me a few things, and this one I will share with you. Looking at the mountain on Google Earth it has a label on the far east side, this is not the summit. The elevation at that point is around 13,400 feet. The true summit is on the other end of the ridge, a mile or so away at 13,614 feet. The point I want to make is don’t waste your time climbing this 13,400 foot point, traverse below it and save the energy…because you’re going to need it. If you download my gpx file you can load that on your GPS and see where we cut over. It’s pretty easy to figure out when you’re on the mountain. The traverse will eventually land you on the main East Ridge.
|Cole gaining the East Ridge|
The snow was still firm for the most part, here and there in the little dips we would break through to maybe knee height, but nothing too bad. The visibility was pretty much crap. It was almost a sleet-snow-rain, I’m not sure what you would call it, but we sure couldn’t see much. This is what made this route time consuming. I lead and tried to keep a close real in on Cole. I wouldn’t call it a white out, but it was close. We followed all the endless ups and downs, and a couple times we looked at each other thinking- is this ever going to end. It always seems longer and harder than it was, but the conditions are what makes it that way. It took us and hour and fifteen minutes to make the summit from the start of the ridge. We were on top within 10 minutes of my goal of 10am, so I was pretty happy with that.
|East Ridge to the Summit|
We could tell once we made it back to where we first intersected the ridge on the ascent and started making the traverse to the shoulder. Now we couldn’t see a damn thing. We were back in that complete white-out fog. After a bit I checked my GPS, as both of us thought we were dropping elevation too fast. We both agreed to drop to an old mining road and then boot it out from there. I really wanted to glissade, but I was hesitant at first. The slope was pretty steep with only a couple inches of soft snow covering a hard pack. After another hundred feet I convinced myself it was safe. We could have screamed down the whole side of the mountain, which would have been fun till we had to make our way out. We both controlled our glissade with our trekking poles and after dropping some vertical we got off the slide at the mining road we were eyeing from above.
I took my spikes off and we started hoofing it down the road. We could see now, but the wind was starting to blow pretty hard from the south. I needed to fuel up, so we found a spot near some rocks and tried to make a mini wind block so we could rest for a few minutes. It wasn’t that bad sitting down, but once you stood up you could really feel the cool mountain air.
We weren’t far from the gate and it was about noon so we were thinking about real food. Empire Burgers in Breck was on my mind. Maybe that gave us a bit of a boost.
|Nick and Cole on the Summit|
I forgot to mention that today way my nephews 13th birthday. It feels pretty cool climbing a 13er on his 13th birthday. Next year we will have to do a 14er on his 14th birthday. Happy Birthday Gabe!
Date: May 15, 2016
TH Elevation: 11,540 feet
North Star Mountain Summit: 13,614 feet
Total Ascent: 2,346 feet
Distance: 7.82 miles
Distance: 7.82 miles
Moving Time: 4 hours 28 minutes
Stopped Time: 1 hour 53 minutes