Intro/StatsFletcher Mtn (13951’)- CO Rank 60
“Drift Pk” (13900’)- soft ranked
7.9 miles RT, 3240’ gain
From Blue Lakes Rd closure (11400’)
Participants: Dave “Hoot” Gibson & Kevin Baker
I decided to continue my Sept onslaught of centennials with a short hike up Fletcher and soft ranked Drift. The forecast for the day started out well at the beginning of the week, but degenerated to a 50% chance of precip and 60mph gusts! It’s only Sept though and it’s a short hike, so how bad could it be? Out of all the hikes I have done this year, only twice (once being summit day on Kili) have I had to put up with serious winds. Was it time to pay the piper? I sent out a few invites, but Hoot was the only one brave enough to sign up.
Into the Mists on FletcherWe headed up Blue Lakes Rd just north of Hoosier Pass from CO-9 and discovered that it was closed about 7/10 mile short of the trailhead at the dam due to construction. This wasn’t that big of a deal, as the road was pretty gentle. We set out at 6:24am with a stiff wind in our face. We hoped this short hike wouldn’t turn into an epic day as things were looking ominous.
We followed the road and crossed the dam, finding the trail at the northern end. We could have just gone up the hill below the dam as Roach describes and saved some distance. The trail traverses above the lake until it heads steeply up uphill, but we ended up missing it and taking another trail that traversed and later petered out in willows. After a little willow bashing, Hoot picked up the trail and I crossed a creek and hiked up a steep knoll. We were now more exposed to the wind and it began to snow, but it wasn’t too bad. The visibility also began to drop, but we could still see a good half mile.
We followed the trail to the base of a steep headwall, the top of which is a high plateau below Fletcher’s s.e. slopes. The boulder hopping up the headwall wasn’t bad, and the wind now wasn’t much of a factor as we were in a wind shadow. Once reaching the plateau, we donned our shells in anticipation of being blasted by the wind on Fletcher’s s.e. ridge. We experienced the highest wind of the day at 13400’ when cresting the ridge, so we stayed slightly below and it was much better. We both agreed that the gusts on the day were no worse than 40mph as we were able to maintain our balance. The final 500’ to the summit went quick and we topped out at 9am. I wasn’t expecting to be able to set down and rest, but conditions actually weren’t bad at all on the summit with a temp of 30 as the winds dropped and the views opened up.
Traverse to Drift & DescentWe hung around for about 20 min and began our descent down to the Fletcher/Drift saddle. The ridge from the saddle to Drift is deceiving as it looked doable, but I knew there had to be some hidden towers. The rocks now had a coat of about ½ inch of snow on them, so this slowed us down quite a bit. We descended down to the small saddle with Pt 13515 and picked up a faint trail that traversed below the cliffs of Drift’s south face. I realized we were too high still when all I could see above us was class 4/5 terrain, so we dropped down and traversed into the proper couloir. The couloir is east facing and is difficult to spot, so I was glad I had a waypoint for the top of it.
This couloir was very steep and quite loose, so we stuck fairly close together.
Once on the south ridge of Drift, it was an easy stroll to the summit, arriving at 11am. The wind was brisk, but nothing out of the ordinary for this time of year. It looked like more weather was coming from the west, so we headed down at 11:20. The descent down the loose couloir wasn’t fun with a fresh coat of snow to make things interesting. We took turns descending to minimize rockfall danger. Once out of the couloir, a long, annoying, slick boulder hop ensued to a small pond.
The boulders finally gave way to nice grass and we descended the Monte Cristo Creek drainage back to the lake. We had a little willow bashing to contend with near the lake, but not much. We made our GPS track interesting by crossing the dry portion of the lake, which makes it look like we swam across. Our track would be underwater in spring! On the way out we saw some rockfall coming down North Star’s steep north face that left a trail of dust. We made it back to the car at 2pm, happy to see that the forecast wasn’t as bad as advertised!