Intro/StatsHomestake Pk (13209')
11 miles RT, 3300' gain
From CR-19/Wurts Ditch Rd. (10400')
Jan 17, 2009
Participants: Pete Krzanowsky, Adam McFarren, Sarah Thompson, Dominic Meiser, Steve Mueller, & Kevin Baker
I was itching to hit a high peak after many weekends of bad forecasts, and we finally got a good forecast that held for the whole week for once. Usually it gets worse as the week progresses. Homestake was on my list of reasonable 13ers in winter and Stevo's report from a few weeks back confirmed that it would be a nice outing. On this hike you can take advantage of ski trails to the 10th Mountain Hut near Slide Lake. It had been awhile since any of us had been on a 13er, so it was a perfect time to get back in the swing of things on Homestake.
Steve and I carpooled from C. Springs and met the rest of the gang at the junction of US-24 and CR-19 n.w. of Leadville. It was an uneventful drive other than I ran over a bunny. I'm sad to say I've killed my fair share of bunnies in the wee hours of the morning heading for peaks! A bank thermometer read 13 degrees as we pulled through Leadville, but it would warm up quick.
We consolidated to two cars at the lower trailhead and shaved off a couple miles by parking at the bottom of Wurt's Ditch Road. I think there is a sign somewhere discouraging this, but we got there early enough to take the first spots. I think gravel trucks use the county road. We set out at 7:45am on the well tracked Wurt's Ditch Road. Adam led the way as he was on skis while the rest of us got by without snowshoes for awhile.
Homestake's East Ridge: A Winter Gimmie on This Day
It didn't take long before we were stripping layers as it was shaping up to be a rare January bluebird day in the high country. We followed the road briefly until we came to a saddle s.w. of Pt 10904, which would be our secondary goal at the end of the day. We left the road at the saddle and took FR-145 n.w., which is one of a variety of ways to get to the hut. We followed the forest road until 11100', where we got our first view of Homestake and its gentle east ridge.
Here we donned the slowshoes and made a beeline for a gentle shoulder in the trees that would bring us to the base of the east ridge. We were surprised at how consolidated the snow was as for the most part the postholing was minimal as there was a nice, firm base layer below 6 inches to a foot of powder. This must have been the most pleasant snowshoeing I have done in Jan! The trailbreaking got a little bit tougher on this shoulder as be bobbed and weaved through trees and deep drifts.
Once we reached the ridge, it was obvious that we would keep our snowshoes on all the way to the summit. I had heard that the views on Homestake were remarkable, and it did not disappoint.
Turqouise Lake to the south:
Continental divide bumps to the s.w:
All of us except for Adam were beginning to feel the effects of not being at altitude, but we made pretty decent time up the east ridge, topping out a few minutes before noon.
Views eastward to the Tenmile range:
Nearing the summit:
It's always a privilege to enjoy the spectacular winter scenery on a rare day when you can actually spend some time on the summit! There was a bit of a breeze, but probably no more than 10mph gusts. We spent a half hour or so soaking up the views and the warm sun.
Savage and the northern Sawatch:
Endless sea of peaks:
Maroon Bells & company:
I must say that was the most enjoyable winter summit I have ever been on above treeline. Usually you're lucky to be able to sit down and eat! After a leisurely break, we enjoyed an awesome plunge step down the ridge. We were down to treeline in no time, seemingly floating on air as the snow was in great shape. Adam tried to ski down, but apparently his skis were a bit too narrow for the snow conditions. This would be an excellent peak to experiment with ski mountaineering since the east ridge is so gentle.
The hike out was pleasant and we had enough time left in the day to add Pt 10904, which is also a Continental Divide summit! Steve decided to call it a day and headed down to the car. I couldn't believe he passed up such an illustrious summit. It's so close that it's worth the extra effort, so we left the track from the saddle s.w. of the summit. We had to switch off 3 times with the trail breaking duties for this short 1/2 mile, 300' trip. Our reward for our effort was some Valentine's Day Peeps that Pete broke out. We think that the company who makes Peeps should sponser our hikes since we give them so much publicity. Here's another Peeps summit shot for the photo album coming soon to a store near you.
For added taste, be sure to dip your hearts in the snow! This hike was exactly the right length and effort and we cruised back to the cars at 3:42pm. I wish they were all this "easy"!