Deer Mountain-Northeast Ridge Route-RT 7.5 miles and 3,000-ft.
From the 4wd parking at 11,500-ft, locate the signed trailhead and start hiking northwest on a well-worn single-track trail. The trail gradually ascends with Halfmoon Creek .72 mile up into the beautiful basin at 11,100-ft between Point 13,045 and Mt Massive. From here, overlooking the upper basin to the west is a stunning view of Deer Mountain. From here, your trail continues to ascend northwest and begins to climb above Halfmoon Creek. After another .68 miles and 450-vertical feet, you should be well above Halfmoon Creek and you can preview your route up into North Halfmoon Creek Basin as well as a spot to cross the stream when you eventually get to it.
From here, leave the trail and descend a steep grassy slope about 200-vertical feet down to Halfmoon Creek, it may be wet and marshy. At this point you will have to find a spot to cross Halfmoon Creek; hopefully you scouted out a spot from up on the trail. Cross Halfmoon Creek and begin hiking up the beautiful North Halfmoon Creek Drainage; the terrain here is easy class 1 with plenty to look at, especially your fantastic view of Deer Mountain looming over the rest of your route.
From here you have a few choices as to how you can make your way to the broad saddle between Mount Oklahoma and Deer Mountain. You can stay low in the basin and follow the creek as it ascends into the upper basin and reach the saddle from there or, you can do as I did and ascend the south slopes of Mount Oklahoma for about 400-ft and start the side-hilling, traverse to the flat area below the Oklahoma/Deer saddle. It is 1.55 miles from the creek crossing to the flat area below the saddle. The ascent to the saddle (12,860-ft) is class 2 and route finding is obvious.
OK, now you are ready for the rest of your climb, yes, your route will turn into a climb. From the saddle it looks like the rest of your route will be an easy class 2 hike on steep, grassy slopes. The visible highpoint from the saddle is a false summit. Ascend the slope 500-vertical ft until the ridge narrows. From here do short but easy class 3 scramble on semi loose rock and top out on the false summit. The view of the remaing portion of the route may be discouraging to an inexperienced climber.
With a little route rounding, the ridge to the summit climb is only class 2+. Once you get to the base up the summit climb, locate the steep, dirty slope and ascend it up through the rubble to a nondescript ridge crest, from here find a spot to cross over this ridge onto north side of the ridge (class 3). After crossing over, stay on or as near to the ridge crest as possible and scramble up the steep rock to the summit block. Ascend the summit block by locating steep steps of rock that can be easily managed with class 3 climbing. From the summit you get a comprehensive view of the central Sawatch Range and you can preview an optional route down Deer Mountain's south ridge, it looked like class 3.
A large party might want to consider wearing helmets.
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