Clinton Peak (13857')- CO Rank 80
McNamee Peak (13780')- unranked
Traver Peak (13852')- unranked
10 miles RT, 3249' gain
via Clipper Classic route
Participants: John Collard, Renata Stouracova, Patrick Thornley, Kevin Baker, and 8 other CMC members
My friend John Collard was leading a climb of centennial Clinton Peak with the CMC club, so I decided to kick off the "winter conditions" hiking season by signing up. I knew the central part of the state had some heavy snows a couple weeks back, but felt that quite a bit of it would be melted since the weather has been pretty stable since. Boy was I wrong! I conned my friend Patrick Thornley into joining me as he had already climbed these peaks this summer. We left C. Springs around 4:30, arriving at the Montgomery Reservoir near Fairplay around 6:45. The lowlight of the drive out was when Pat took out a confused bunny rabbit. We didn't see him laying on the road on the way back, so hope he survived!
There were quite a few cars there already when we arrived, and 12 people were signed up for this little climbed centennial! 14erworld members Bill Stafford and John Broadbooks were part of the group as well. There was no snow at Montgomery Reservoir (~10900'), so we all decided to leave the snowshoes in the car. Some brought ice axes but I felt poles would do the trick today. We left the trailhead at 7:05 and began the pleasant hike up the heinous 4WD road to Wheeler Lake. In my opinion, this road is worse than S. Colony Lakes road in the Crestones albeit shorter. Less than 400 yards up the road, a series of slabs would turn back all but the hard core 4WD enthusiasts. The forecast for today was not great with 1-3" of snow in the works, but as long as the visibility was good, we felt we could at least get Clinton, which is the only ranked peak of the three.
John set a nice, steady pace up the road, which had quite a few deep puddles, some of which were partially frozen over. We bypassed these sections as there were paths through the willows to avoid this. We made good time up the 3 mile gentle stretch on the road to Wheeler Lake at an elevation of 12168'. The road gets a little steep for the last half mile or so. We took a short break at the lake, then ascended the steep benches above the lake. We had light snow for much of the day, but at this point the wind began to pick up and blowing snow became a problem, but the visibility and temp were still reasonable. The benches above the lake were a little icy as we were actually a little left of the standard route which ascends a more gentle gully with deep snow.
We did not run into significant snow until just below the lake, but after that the powder snow was consistently 1-2' deep with occassional drifts and bare spots. That storm must have dumped 4' up here. Quite a few of us took turns breaking trail and the group moved slowly but steadily up the basin. A nice benefit of hiking with a group this big is you put forth a lot less effort than you would with a small party. At around 13200' we still could not see the ridge but the summit was only 1/4 mile and 600' vertical to the right, so we began climbing the steep s.e. slopes of Clinton. There was not enough snow to cover the talus, so as expected the going got tougher. I ended up following my waypoint to the summit directly, which skirted below the east ridge. Most of the rest of the group gained the east ridge and traversed to the summit. As I approached the summit, the sky suddenly opened up as the summit appeared as well as the nearby peaks! What a treat. I topped out at 11:45 and quickly retreated to the leeward side of the summit. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so we took a short break and then headed over to McNamee as everyone was staying warm and felt good.
The ridge over to McNamee along the Continental Divide was short and sweet, but there still was a good bit of snow with hidden holes in the talus to watch out for. I topped out on McNamee at 12:37 and headed right over it to get out of the wind. After a brief pow-wow, everybody was game on heading to the final peak of the day, unranked Traver. Traver misses being a ranked peak by about 70', so it is not a trivial climb with snow. This was the hardest climb of the day as John had me break trail on this. The snow was pretty deep along the ridge and was now taking its toll, but we all plowed our way to the top as I arrived at 1:10. The wind was pretty calm here, so we all had a quick lunch and enjoyed our success on a marginal weather day. My electrolyte drink had turned into a tasty slurpie on Traver.
We headed down the n.e. slopes of Traver, which as expected had 1-3' of snow over blocky talus to contend with. Quite a few of us took some falls down the bobsled run, but we made good time down to the top of the benches above the lake. We descended the standard route to the left of our ascent route, which was heavily drifted. The skies finally opened up temporarily to blue skies as we took a long break at Wheeler Lake. The views over to Lincoln, Silverheels, and North Star were superb. The slog back down the road was uneventful other than another snow shower that got a little heavy for awhile and we arrived back at our cars a little before 5. This is an easy hike in the summer, but throw a lot of snow in the mix and it's a whole new ballgame. A great hike with a fine, strong group of CMC'ers as winter draws nigh!