Henry Mountain is the highest point of a west-trending spur of the Sawatch Range that terminates with Fossil Ridge, designated Fossil Ridge Wilderness. At 13,254', the peak is not especially a target of most Colorado peakbaggers, however, prominence and isolation measure high for this somewhat obscure peak. The closest higher peak is 10.93 miles away on the crest of the Continental Divide, and Henry rises nearly 1,700' above the saddle connecting it to the spine of the Sawatch Range. From Gold Creek Campground, Henry Mountain makes for a moderate hike/scramble with some opportunities for visiting other nearby peaks and geological anomalies, for which Fossil Ridge is named. Henry Mountain can be a fine spring climb as ridges can be followed avoiding avalanche slopes (click here for May trip report).
Comparison of June vs. May conditions
Usually Square Top Mountain is climbed first to get to Henry Mountain (see link for Jon Bradford's informative Square Top Mountain page), but this is not the easiest route. Square Top's 3rd class East Ridge can be avoided by ascending Fossil Mountain from Mill Lake, then traversing from Fossil to Square Top Mountain. If you're up for a scramble, Square Top's East Ridge has really good quality rock and provides some excitement. Nearby Broncho Mountain at 12,864' makes a nice follow-up to Henry and Square Top on the east side of Gunsight Pass, and those who are very ambitious can continue on to Fairview Peak, collecting a few 12ers en-route (see trip report).
Ridge near Gunsight Pass - photo by RyanS
Fossil Mountain from the east - the alternative to the 3rd class ridge above
Per Exploring Colorado's Wild Areas by Scott S. Warren, "Much of the Fossil Ridge Wilderness consists of sedimentary rocks that overlie a mix of Precambrian Granite, Schist, and gneiss. These sedimentary formations include limestone and sandstone dating back to the Paleozoic era, 300 million to 600 million years ago. Many Fossils of marine invertebrates are found here."
Fossils in Limestone
Gold Creek trailhead is accessed from Parlin on road 76, 12 miles east of Gunnison on highway 50. After 8.5 miles northeast on this road to the townsite of Ohio, head north 6.5 miles of dirt road to Gold Creek Campground. Private property lines much of the road on approach to Gold Creek. See route section for more detail.
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