After an extended weekend of skiing with my wife's family at Monarch, I decided to take a Tuesday off to bag a high peak. With the weird weather of the last few days, I was not sure if I could pull this off. The weather report called for a 10% chance of snow, so I left C. Springs at 4:20am so that I could see what the weather was like before committing. As expected, I couldn't find anybody to join me in the middle of the week, so Horseshoe looked to be a safe bet to do solo as long as the weather held. As I crested Wilkerson Pass, there were only a few low clouds here and there, so the day looked promising.
I was worried about being able to get close enough with the recent snows, but it looked like the Ten Mile-Mosquito range was not hit as hard as other areas. CR-18 was plowed/mostly dry all the way to 10900', which is the point I wanted to start at anyway to get my silly personal 3K' total gain requirement. I set out at 7:13am, with temps probably in the low 20's. Above 10900', the snow was 3-6" deep on the road, packed down by snowmobiles and recent snowshoers. A high clearance 4WD could make it to the Leavick mine, but I wouldn't guarantee it. The weather looked like it would hold all day, but I feared that it would be windy on the ridge.
I made good time up the road despite the snow, finding the turnoff for Horseshoe on the mining road at 11580' in about an hour. My GPS batteries quickly died, and I found out that I only had 1 spare pair, so I left it off for most of the day. I made my way up the confusing switchbacks, following recent tracks from Mark Milburn. The snow deepened as I ascended, but it was well consolidated by the wind, so the postholing was manageable. I used my snowshoes below treeline above the Leavick mine until wrapping around into the beautiful Horseshoe basin, at which point I was rewarded with stunning views of the Horseshoe cirque. I followed the road up the north end of the basin to the base of the slope leading to the Horseshoe/Peerless saddle. There was a large snowfield with a moderate grade of about 30 degrees, but the snow looked stable. I followed the road as much as possible, trying to avoid any steep snow that covered it. I ended up staying to the left of the large snowfield, choosing a line that was not as steep directly to the ridge. There was a short 200 ft stretch just below the ridge where I ascended some low angle snow, at which point I heard a "whoompf" sound. I paused to see where it came from, not knowing if this was a slide on the other side of the ridge or the wind. I topped out on the ridge above the saddle at 13270' and began the push to the summit.
The ridge is a gentle 700' climb from the saddle in .7 miles, but add a little snow and wind and things slow down. The wind surprisingly was not bad at all for an early spring day. I didn't even need goggles, but a balaclava was necessary. I found the trail on the right side of the ridge, which dropped me onto the long summit plateau. One false summit later, I topped out at 11:26am. The summit shelter was not very high, so there was little protection from the wind. The register had quite a few entries from 14erworld members, with only 2 prior ascents since Nov. If Horseshoe was 102' higher, it would be a popular climb! Hard to believe so few climb this character laden peak. Views of the Sawatch, Elks, and neighboring peaks to the north were incredible with the new snow blanketing them. At 12:10, I headed over to Peerless as my hands were getting cold. After a call of nature on the saddle (I probably mooned some planes), I cached my pack and did the short climb of unranked Peerless, which had quite a bit of snow on its east side). I stayed to the left and topped out on the higher northern point at 1:03. Once again, great views and a little warmer this time. Nearby bi-centennial Sheridan was tempting, but I was tired and I would be cutting it close with daylight. The south side looked pretty steep with not too many lines around the snow. I stayed for 5 min and headed back to the saddle to get my pack.
On the descent, I got a few short glissades in, but the line I chose was not too steep to avoid any possibility of a slide. I then stuck to the dry spots in the basin, following the road from time to time. I found my snowshoe tracks just above treeline, and it was smooth sailing back to the car other than some annoying gear issues. The snow stayed relatively firm throughout the day, so postholing wasn't too bad. I made it back to the car at 3:13, happy to enjoy a pristine early spring day in the high country while everybody else was working!