Intro/StatsCopeland Mtn (13176')
11 miles RT, 4800' gain
From Wild Basin TH (8540')
Oct. 28, 2010
Participants: Bruno Lucidarme and Kevin Baker
I met Bruno a few years ago on summitpost looking for a partner to hike up Mt Baldy in the LA area on a business trip. We've stayed in touch and have hiked together a few times since. Both of us are unemployed and he decided to take a trip to CO before the heavy snows hit. It turns out the weather didn't cooperate too well for him. He got most of the way up Quandary, but was turned back by high winds near the top. A couple days later he hit local 11er Rosa near my place in the Springs and he said it was very cold. How about a death march up Copeland, Bruno? Hey, it's only 11 miles and less than 5K vertical with about 6 miles of easy trail. Piece of cake, right? Folks, the easy days in the high country are over for awhile!
Into the Fray!We stayed at my cousin's pad in Broomfield, which is my little RMNP hotel for early morning getaways! Thanks Brian and Courtney! We arrive at the deserted Wild Basin trailhead before dawn and set out at 6:15am. Bruno's not too excited to be starting that early, but I would rather be back on the trail before dark on the way down. Who knows how deep of a trench we'll have to plow up high! It's actually a fairly warm and comfortable 25 degrees and there's just an inch or so of snow on the trail with recent tracks. We make quick time to Ouzel Falls after 3.4 miles, where the smooth sailing comes to an abrupt end.
Beautiful early season snow on the trees at Ouzel Falls:
We decide to leave the trail here to save some distance instead of going all the way around to Ouzel Lake. Not sure if it saves time or not, but there's a lot of deadfall to deal with. I made a couple waypoints prior to the hike as the bushwhack to the n.e. ridge is pretty mellow and non-distinct. The snow deepens as we climb, but not more than about 1.5 feet deep initially. The deadfall is annoyingly slow, and snowshoes would do little good in this mess.
Having fun yet, Bruno?
The trees are loaded with snow and the little Charlie Brown trees look like big marshmallows. We thrash about, weaving here and there to avoid deadfall when we can in the land of the fat marshmallows. Snowy trees are cool though.
Our pace slows considerably as we near treeline. I look at my GPS every 15 minutes or so and we only move about 1/10th of a mile! Drifts are unavoidable near treeline and we plow through some waist deep ones for awhile. Our morale is low and I'm starting to have doubts that we will make it. We are both getting pretty tired. We finally put snowshoes on about 100 feet below treeline and should have done that a long time ago as we could get some flotation.
We take a snack break at treeline in prep for a battle with the banshees. Luckily, fall banshees are not as bad as they are in winter for the most part. Both of us forget to bring goggles and I can't find one of my bigger gloves in my pack. I think we can get by though. Into the fray we go!
The snow is in great shape above treeline and we leave our snowshoes on all the way up to about 12400'. We cache them there as there will be a lot of talus hopping the rest of the way. The first real hike of the season in winter conditions is always tough, and this turns out to be a battle. Luckily the gusts are not enough to blow you around and are no more than about 35 mph, but it's right in our faces. It turns out I end up getting a bit of frostnip on the tips of 2 fingers in Oct! They're almost back to normal now. We finally top out at 1:55pm and it's a bit nippy up there.
Ogalalla and company:
Bruno arrives a few minutes later and we snap a few pics and head down. The wind has picked up more on the descent and there's a pretty nifty ground blizzard going on. Luckily I set a waypoint at our snowshoe cache or they would have been tough to find! I got a bit out of site of Bruno and he went down a bit right of the snowshoes, so I strapped his to my pack. I end up doing a few cool glissades in the midst of the ground blizzard. Always a first in the mountains! We regroup at treeline, happy to get out of the wind for good.
Our track is blown over a bit, but we pick it up and painstakingly reverse it back down to Ouzel Falls. We leave snowshoes on until it steepens near the bottom and it turns out to go quicker than expected. We hit the trail a bit before dark and cruise back to the trailhead, which we finally hit at 7:15. Hope you enjoyed the alpine butt kicking, Bruno!