Intro/StatsAtlantic Peak (13841')- CO Rank 61
Pacific Peak (13950')- CO Rank 87
October 14, 2006
4.0 miles RT, 2900' gain
From Mayflower Gulch 4WD TH (11520')
Participants: James Just, Brian Kooienga, Kevin Baker, and Mojo
It seems like everytime I planned on hiking these two centennials, the forecast looked too nasty to attempt. It seems like the Ten mile range attracts bad weather, but this time the forecast looked good. I met James Just at his place in Highlands Ranch and we met Brian Kooienga and his dog Mojo at the T-Rex park-n-ride. The skies were looking promising for a nice day, and we were soon driving up the road south of Copper Mtn Ski Resort leading to the head of Mayflower Gulch to its end at 11520'. I was surprised at how little snow there was in the basin as the road had only a few patches of snow and ice.
We got off to a late start at 8:15am, but we knew this hike wouldn't take too long. We initially were interested in climbing the exposed west ridge of Pacific, but dealing with the slick rock did not really appeal to us. We decided to climb the more gentle yet interesting west ridge of Atlantic, then traverse north on class 2 slopes to Pacific. The initial part of the hike is a brief willow bashing session that wasn't bad as we found paths through them without a problem. The elevation gain then begins in earnest as we gained the west ridge. It looked like Mojo was going to have a ball on this hike as he was hiking twice the distance as us exploring things. I was not feeling particularly strong on this day, so I was the sweep man for the day.
The sun was teasing us early on and never really made an appearance although the winds weren't bad at all. We did not encounter any significant snow on the south facing slopes until gaining the ridge proper at around 12400'. This ridge is fairly broad then narrows as you ascend.
Our first view of Atlantic's summit halfway up the west ridge.
The snow on the ridge was well consolidated for October and the postholing wasn't bad. I would imagine that this ridge develops some interesting cornices in the winter.
Looking down on Atlantic's fun west ridge.
The views of Pacific and its west ridge were awesome from our vantage point on the ridge.
Pacific Peak from Atlantic's west ridge.
We seemed to be making good time even though I felt I was plodding along and I topped out on Atlantic at 10:25.
The gnarly connecting ridge from Atlantic to Fletcher.
It was relatively pleasant on the summit even though the sun wasn't out, and we enjoyed the views over to Quandary, Fletcher, and Drift. It appreared snow showers were heading our way though as Quandary soon disappeared. We departed for nearby Pacific at 10:47 down the north slopes.
Pacific Peak and Descent
There was quite a bit more snow on this side and it was fun boot skiing down to the saddle. We even got in a short glissade. At this point, it began to snow but the winds still weren't much of a factor.
On the way up Pacific, we got a chance to see the highest lake in the U.S., Pacific Tarn. This lake covers about 5 acres and sits at 13420'. It was already iced over for the winter.
Pacific Tarn, highest lake in the U.S.
The snow on Pacific's south slopes was well consolidated and we were soon on its dramatic summit cone as I topped out at 11:32. Brian wanted a shot at nearby Crystal to the north since he hadn't done it yet, but James needed to be home by 5pm and the weather looked like it wasn't going to improve. Visibility still wasn't too bad as we could still see over to Atlantic. Brian was fine with calling it a day.
After about a 15 minute break on top, we headed back down the south slopes. I initially wanted to descend from the more gentle west slopes below the Crystal/Pacific saddle, but it looked like the terrain below the Pacific/Atlantic slopes would be doable. About halfway down to the saddle, James and I spotted a moderately sloped gully that would afford safe passage. We got out our ice axes and began to descend. It ended up being a little steeper than we would have liked and it was hard to kick steps in the snow.
The snow actually was easier to descend than the nasty scree we found below. The rocks were too big and slick to scree surf on, so I wiped out a few times. I was beginning to have El Diente north slopes flashbacks, but it was short lived. One or more of Mojo's paws began to bleed from the day, so Brian went ahead to get him back to the car and tend to his wounds. James and I made it down to the basin and it was smooth sailing to the car from here. We skirted around the bottom of Atlantic's west ridge to the other side that we had ascended. I got off track a little in the willows, but it wasn't bad and we were back at the car at 1:12pm. It's not too often when you can get a late start, bag two centennials, and be back at the car this early. Another fine day to be in the mountains!
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