Living in Colorado Springs and working in Woodland Park allows me the pleasure of driving up and down Ute Pass daily. The drive is dominated by Pikes Peak, but there are many other smaller peaks that make up this beautiful skyline. Cameron Cone is one of them, along with the likes of Mt. Almagre, Mt. Rosa and Cheyenne Mt. Cameron Cone has been on my list to climb and Election Day 2004 was the first chance that I had. I voted early and then headed for the bottom of the Barr Trail. This is a notoriously difficult route finding climb as Mike Moerk rightfully warns on the main page for the mountain. Ideally, this mountain should only be tried with a GPS or a compass with a topo map. Still, I was determined to go for the top. Colorado Springs got its first heavy snowfall of the year the day before and I knew that this could cause me problems. I made way up the short section of the Barr Trail that you have to take, then down to the creak that you have to go over and across the Cog Railway. That is where the "fun" started. I scrambled up the side of Englemann Canyon and found the trail that leads to the gully that Mike mentions in the route page. It was then that I hit a brick wall. I searched in the snow for a trail to go farther up the side of the gully, as Mike directs, with no luck. There was no way to cross the gully at that point. I slid down to the railway and did some serious head scratching. I walked back down the railway a short distance and found signs of fresh tracks in a patch of dirt going back up the side of the canyon. I was relieved that someone else was on the mountain and figured that they might know where they were going. Again, I scrambled back up the side of the canyon. When the tracks hit fresh snow I realized that they were not human, but bear tracks! These are beautiful animals, but I was not eager to meet up with one on a narrow trail. I slid back down to the tracks, found a sunny log to sit on and had lunch. I wanted to go for the top, but realized that it would be hopeless finding the route in the snow. I was frustrated, but reminded myself that I was hiking in the sun and snow in Colorado while Republicans and Democrats were fretting over exit polls across the country.
Mike Moerk was nice enough to offer to go back up Cameron Cone with me the following Sunday. He knows the route as well as anyone and we both figured that most of the snow would be gone after a warm week in the Springs. We started out from the Barr Trail a little after 8 a.m. and quickly made our way to the point where I turned around 5 days before at the wall of the gully. Plain as day the trail leading up the side of the gully was staring me in the face, but I didn't feel bad. There was no way I would have been able to see that in the snow. We followed the trail up through numerous switchbacks to a natural bridge across the creek that runs throught the gully. This is a critical point to the climb. Not finding this crossing will add serious time and bushwhacking to get across. Once across we followed a decent trail to the top of the ridge. This is a dramatic part of the route, as Pikes Peak first comes into sight and you have spectacular views down Englemann Canyon. Across the canyon on top of Barr Trail Incline are Mt. Manitou and Rocky Mt. We followed the ridge past Gog and Magog rocks and onto the dirt road that takes you deep into the woods along the east face of the mountain. Someone had gone along the trail and place numerous plastic ribbons in trees. There were also numerous cairns. We thought we had it made. However, as it is common on Cameron Cone, we lost the trail, probably ~ 1000 feet below the summit. The southeast ridge looked so close, but trying to reach it took on epic proportions. We knew that we had to get there to get to the summit. We found ourselves bushwhacking through the dense forest. When we were not climbing over, under and around trees, we were sliding down rocks covered in snow and ice. Contrary to what we hoped the snow had not melted off the upper parts of the mountain. It became increasingly treacherous as Mike and I each took some nasty slides. 500 feet below the summit we decided to turn around. We were frustrated, but we knew that it was not worth taking a chance.
Mike very accurately warns that you should not try this route without a GPS or at least a very good working knowledge of topo/compass usage. Climbing in the snow makes it even more difficult. I would recommend going for the top when the snow has melted off, unless you like bushwhacking in harsh conditions.
This was the first time I had turned around on a mountain so close to the summit. Also, it was the second time in one week! But not all was lost. I had a good time hiking with another summitposter for the first time on a beautiful day. Mike has done an excellent job writing a route description for a mountain with a route that is very difficult to find.
This mountain is not going anywhere and neither and am I. I love living in Colorado Springs and I will wait for the spring or summer to try her again. I won't shake my fist at the mountain when I look at her from my back deck each morning. For now I will enjoy seeing her on my way to work and enjoy the views from the top even more in the spring.