From N. Halfmoon TH
Saturday July 1, 2006
I drove to the trailhead late Friday night in order to get an early start the next morning. The night was very dark and just a wink of a crescent moon shown low in the sky briefly before going down in the west. The dirt CR11 wasn’t terribly rough but it seemed endless as I drove deeper into the forest and lost track of my mileage and just couldn’t find the trailhead. I finally stopped and asked some people who were camping and the one guy knew exactly where it was and I arrived there shortly thereafter, and totally relieved.
The night was as dark as I’ve ever known and with no lights, no moon; I quite literally could not see my hand in front of my face. I donned my headlamp and made ready to spend the night in the back of my truck equipped with a topper. There was nobody around and it was rather spooky being so dark, however I was far too tired to scare myself into staying awake and I was soon fast asleep.
I set my watch for 5:00AM and made a quick breakfast of instant oatmeal and black coffee. Two guys showed up as I was filing out my Wilderness Permit (free) and they started up the trail before me, another group of people now arrived and I figured I’d better get going before things got too crowded. I started up the trail at 6:00AM sharp.
I followed an excellent trail west along a swift creek and the forest was very pleasant as the weather was ideal; sunny and mild, with blue skies. I was making pretty good time as I climbed higher through the forest and was looking for a clearing where I was supposed to find two large cairns that marked a new CFI (Colorado Fourteeners Initiative) trail section that went off to the right and advanced up the south side of the mountain. I did find a clearing (meadow) but I must have been sleep walking, or had my head down as I kept on going west and never saw the cairns or the new trail.
I stayed on the excellent trail through some trees and bushes as it continued west and then turned right (north) as it began to lose its definition as I crossed a snowy section before climbing higher onto a beautiful green “mesa” now above tree line. Before me was a huge basin still in the morning shadows and far above on the ridge I briefly caught a glimpse of two people making their way across from right to left. I now realized that I had totally missed the CFI trail (duh!!) and now had to figure out how to climb up to the ridge far above the basin.
I picked a spot on the ridge directly in front of me and started making my own way as there was no trail, cairns, or anybody around to follow as a reference. Heading across the mesa and crossing a couple of small snow fields I made a good advance to the bottom of the basin to where I figured I’d start the ascent up to the ridge. I now was in a slow, steep, scree-loose talus filled, climb and I soon learned where to find a good hand and foot hold as I paused often to catch my breath and find the best line up. Although my advance was certainly slow it was steady and every step forward was also a step higher and before long I was making my way around the right side of a large rock outcropping and over one last rise and up out of the shadows of the basin and up onto the sunny summit ridge itself.
I totally lucked-out with my “dead-reckoning” form of navigation and found myself about 100 yards left of the summit proper and I could see lots of people already there and lots of others coming up from the north and east approaches. As I hiked along the ridge towards the summit I looked back down the basin where I had come from and saw two other groups of climbers who had either planned this approach or had simply made the same mistake I had, I’ll never know.
The summit was quite full and getting more crowded by the minute. I was glad when I stepped up to the summit at 9:34 and signed the summit log. I stayed about 20 minutes and took in the marvelous views, took some pix, grabbed a quick bite to eat and drink and started back down the way I was supposed to; on the CFI trail, which is most clearly marked on the summit ridge with a large wooden sign.
On the way back down the CFI trail features a good many switchbacks and steps in the rocks to make things a bit easier as I took my time while enjoying the wildflowers and marmots along the way. From this vantage I could clearly see the trail that I had taken earlier way around the west side of the mountain. It wasn’t long before I was back to tree line and pushed through one last section of bushes where the trail opens in a meadow and there I found the two cairns right where they should be as I turned left back onto the main trail.
The day was warmer and clouds were starting to build as I got back to the trailhead at 12:19PM. Although I had made a mistake and missed the CFI trail, I never felt lost by any means and the basin climb was harder and a bit farther but no less direct to the summit. Anyway......alls well that ends well, my 24th 14’er and another wonderful day in Colorado....sweet!!!