Casco revisited from North Lake Creek TH

Casco revisited from North Lake Creek TH

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Additional Information GPX File: Download GPX » View Route on Map
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 13, 2011
Seasons Season: Summer


A few years ago I attempted to do the Francisco Classic - French, Frasco and Casco - with some friends. It had snowed the prior night, and we got a late start from the 4WD parking at 10,800. After completing French and Frasco, one of my friends did not want to go on, so we headed back to the car while the rest of the group finished the climb.

This unfinished business had been disturbing me ever since that time, so I planned a route with some different scenery, and put a few related waypoints on my GPS based on the route description in Gerry’s 13ers book.

Although I was able to find my way without too much trouble, the navigation was somewhat challenging, so the intent of this trip report is to help the next adventurer reach the goal a little more quickly than I did.

The Trip

I slept through my alarm, then ran into a bicycle race traffic jam around Leadville. Fuming at all the delays, I arrived at the North Lake Creek Trailhead at mile marker 66 around 8 am and was on the trail by 8:15.

I followed the initial directions fairly easily, but quickly came across the first challenge – getting across the swollen stream. Although it was already August, the normal crossing was still too deep from the record winter snow and continuing summer rain. I headed upstream a little and hopped across some rocks. Then I had to head back south and cross some additional streams to get back on track.

Leave trail hereLeave the trail here

North Fork high waterHigh water, taken from the north side of the crossing

Following the directions, I headed up the switchbacks on the old road. At around 11,100 there were a few cairns on a switchback to the right. One of them was against the tree. I followed these, then turrned left into the woods.

First critical turnCairns for first critical turn

On the path through the woods are 2 cabins. This is a photo of the first one.

First cabinFirst cabin

This trail through the woods ends at a meadow of willows. It looks like you should descend at that point, but instead, turn right and go up about 20’, crossing over a large fallen tree. When you look out of the woods towards the meadow, you should see a rock field. If not, continue up through the woods until you do. Then cross the rocks and thrash your way uphill through the willows.

Rock field to crossRock field to cross upon exit from woods

Path through willowsPath through willows

After following the path through the willows, I passed under a few more trees and found the trail again. The trail soon headed down to a stream crossing. When I returned home, my GPS reading was 11,680’ for this crossing. Following a defined trail, I came across another cairn where I turned left and crossed the second stream.

First stream xing after cabinsFirst stream crossing after willow meadow

Second stream xing after cabinsSecond stream crossing after willow meadow

If, for some reason, you find yourself on the wrong (north) side of a deep gulch, don’t fret. Keep ascending, and you will be able to cross over the stream eventually.

The next part was the hottest part of the trip. The elusive trail winds its way through trees and bushes and eventually I reached the upper limit of the trees.

Route near treelineThe route near treeline

Above treeline, the trail follows a contour just above the creek and is either well-worn or cairned.

Trail above 12,000 The trail above 12,000’

Cairn along upper trailCairns mark the trail along the stream

At about 12,350 I ascended up the hill from the streamside. There was a cairn on top of a large rock at this point and the cairns (although smaller) continued as I traversed the hillside. You could ascend sooner, or even stay along the stream, and you will arrive at the same place eventually.

Large cairn after creek ascentLarge rock cairn after ascent from stream

Meadow xing with cairnsCairns across the meadow

At the end of the meadow there were a couple of choices. The actual trail ascends through an unstable rock field. An easier way is to go to the right on the grass, as in the photos below. I took the grass up and the rock down just to see the difference, and regretted my choice of the rocks.

Route at end of meadowEasy way up on the grass

Normal route end of meadowThe cairned route, more unstable and difficult

After climbing up the grass, there was a snowfield. I headed across it to the next challenge, the saddle known as “Fiascol”. This climb looks worse than it is. Step carefully and it is over with fairly quickly.

scree ascent routeThe ascent up the scree to the saddle

Looking down scree gullyLooking back down the scree ascent route

Top of scree ascentTop of scree ascent route

At this point the end was in sight! I climbed south from the saddle, usually staying just to the left (east) of the ridge. Towards the top, it is necessary to stay low and cross over (middle photo below) to a dirt gully, which is the final ascent to the top.

If there was one, the summit register eluded me, but it was a beautiful place to enjoy a snack prior to heading back down.

Casco from the saddleCasco from slightly above the saddle

Cross to final gully hereCross to the final gully here

Casco final ascentCasco final gully ascent

The worst section on the descent was the scree below the Fiascol saddle, but taken slowly, it was over with quickly. The unstable rock section just above the meadow was equally frustrating but unnecessary.

The Route

Casco route part 1Part 1 – map of route

Casco route part 2Part 2 – map of route


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Sarah Simon

Sarah Simon - Sep 6, 2011 5:42 pm - Voted 10/10


Quite an informative TR - I like all the annotated photos.

Not bad, there, her Royal Surliness (or whatever whats-his-face called you...)


Viewing: 1-1 of 1



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