After having a leisurely New Years, John and I were anxious to get out, but not too fired up about hitting the ski/holiday traffic on Sunday so, we opted for something local to Colorado Springs and decided on Mount Rosa.
Before heading out, I tried to find FR 379 on various map pages, but failed to locate it so, we headed up having a general idea of where it should be and hoped it would be marked. We started out in the afternoon and by guesswork found FR 379...it did not appear to be marked...it is, but the sign is very small and I missed it...go figure. :) For those that are unfamiliar with the area, look for Road 381 (which is marked with a more obvious sign), then 379 is 1 or 2 roads past 381. FR 379 has the large brown and white sign talking about motorized vehicles and such (just as the webpage shows :). My GPS read: UTM 13 S 0503800 4287982.
Enough prattling about that. Old Stage Road/Gold Camp Road is a surprisingly well maintained/grated dirt road with only patchy areas of ice and packed snow on it. FR 379 was not plowed, but gets a lot of recreational traffic and was packed down and easily passable with a 4WD...until you reach an icy creek crossing. At that point (and until late spring arrives), I would highly recommend parking in a small area to the right, next to the creek. Even if you make the creek crossing, the road on the other side is a THICK sheet of ice and it's doubtful, you'll go much further.
We parked, and put on our gear while we watched 2 other vehicles attempt the creek crossing, with spinning wheels and several runs at it. They both made it across, but ended up parking immediately on the other side.
We started hiking up the icy road with items on our feet to keep us from falling on our *sses. Me with snowshoes and John with some sort of rubber-wrapped-with-wire-thing he slid over his boots (can't recall what they're called, but they worked really well...and I was envious ;).
We came up on a large parking area and started up the trail to Mt Rosa (unmarked perhaps? or did I again miss the sign?...entirely possible...). Fortunately, we had reviewed the topo beforehand and marked a few waypoints as much of the trail was covered in snow, and there were only a few footprints ahead of us and sometimes they forked off in other directions. The hike was beautiful and snowshoes were needed for almost the entire way.
When we got to the flat portion just before the last 0.5 mi climb to the summit, we ditched the snowshoes as the ground was bare up there. Don't do that. We ended up postholing the remaining 0.4 mi to the summit. :)
We arrived at the summit just in time to see part of the sunset...it was gorgeous. That combined with Pikes Peak and the city lights made for an impressive view. It was surprising seeing Colorado Springs so close, as you felt like you were so far from civilization until that point.
We stayed at the summit taking in the views until the wind and cold kicked us off, then we donned our headlamps and fired up the GPS. I'm glad we had the GPS. John and I lost our tracks and got turned around in the dark. It was tough to put our opinions by the wayside and blindly trust the GPS, but we did, and the GPS was right. It got us back onto the trail no problem. We wouldn't have gotten completely lost, but it would have made for a long night, given the direction we THOUGHT we needed to go....
Hiking down in the dark was wonderful, yet slightly eerie when we'd see shadows move and I started to think about all the animals that may be watching us. At one point, I thought I saw glowing eyes, it turned out to just be a broken reflector in the distance.... Made me laugh.
We made it back without falling on the ice, getting eaten, or being stalked by anymore reflectors. As we approached our car, we came up on couple in a truck that was high centered on an impressive, large, rock (trying to cross the creek :). We made the empty offer to help, but there was nothing we could do and the guy said he had a call in for assistance so, we wished them luck and took off for a wonderful steak dinner and shower. Relishing in the beauty of the night hike...and the fact that we parked on the other side of the creek...just kidding. ;)
Oh how wonderful to have such mountains in my own backyard!