Mt Owen A (13490')
Sangre de Cristo range
15.5 miles RT, 7300' gain
From Wild Cherry Creek TH (8530')
Participants: Dominic Meiser, Sarah Thompson, John Kirk, Pete Krzanowsky, & Kevin Baker
John sent me an invite for this long Sangre loop hike and at first I wasn't real interested because it would involve a lot of vertical and driving on little sleep. The prospects of little snow and warm weather was too good to pass up though, although I knew this was going to be a long day for me since I hadn't been above 9K' in three weeks.
I only got a couple hours of sleep before leaving COS at the ungodly hour of 2:50am. I was excited to hit some rough roads as this was the maiden hiking trip for a '01 4Runner I bought on Ebay. County road AA was very mellow though and didn't present any obstacles, although it would tough for a 2WD to get up there.
12860 & The Catwalk
We set out at 6:04am under clear skies and mild temps. We were surprised at how warm it was for early November and it was shaping up to be a bluebird day, a rarity in November. We inadvertantly followed a road south too far and had to bushwack a bit to catch the trail. The goal for the day was to do a huge ridge run counter clockwise starting with Pt 12860B on the south side of Wild Cherry Creek basin. 12ers are usually extra credit peaks at the end of the day for me, but we had to oblige Sarah by doing Owens last since it would be a repeat peak for her!
We followed the trail up the drainage until about 10100' and bushwacked up a ridge intersecting the west ridge of 12860. There was an inch or two of snow to deal with, but we weren't complaining this late in the year. The bushwacking was pleasant as we made our way steeply up to the summit. Sarah announced we only had 1.1 mile to go, but 2400' vertical left. That's steeper than the Manitou Incline! The good thing about this hike is you already have over half the vertical wiped out when you get to the first summit!
The climb up the west ridge is on stable talus that was made a bit more tedious by a thin layer of snow in spots. We topped out at 10:07 and soaked up the views on this gorgeous day.
The Crestone Group:
The ridge traverse began with some excitement on the leg over to 13122. We were aware of a narrow section of ridgeline from Ken's report that could pose a problem with snow. Just below the summit we had to downclimb a north facing class 3 gully made tougher with snow, so we threw our poles down and went down one at a time.
We soon were faced with a long catwalk on the ridge that looked fun as long as we could find enough dry sections for holds.
Most of this section was airy, class 2+ with some class 3 sections here and there.
The middle part of the ridge narrowed a bit more, enough to grab your attention and keep your focus. This would be a straightforward traverse in summer, but a little snow added to the pucker factor.
13122 & 13490
Once beyond the catwalk, the terrain mellowed out and it was a quick stroll up 13122. After refueling with some Halloween Peeps, we continued our eastward traverse over to 13490, which would involve many ups and downs. We felt like we could complete the whole loop and maybe add Pt 10995 to the day if we could make decent time.
There was a bit more snow to deal with on the way over to 13490 as apparently the last storm wasn't windy enough to blow the ridges clean. There was a bit of postholing here and there, but not too bad. 13490 had 3 false summits to go over, which started to take its toll on me.
Before we had made it to the 2nd one, speedy John was already on his way down and decided to head over to Owen and 10995 on his own so he could get back down before dark. We parted ways and plodded on up 13490, which posed no difficulties. More sugar refueling ensued for the long traverse over to Owen, the only named peak of the day.
Owen, 10995, & Night Bushwacking
We retraced our steps down 13490's west ridge until it connected with the ridge heading north to Owen. We took another break at the saddle for the last big climb of the day (~800 ft) to Owen. I decided to skirt below Pt 13054 along the way, but it probably was more effort than just going over it with all the sidehilling. We went over one more bump and finally made it over to Owen.
I topped out at 4:23 and was really starting to slow down. Everybody was still game for doing the 10er on the way down. The motivation for hitting this ranked summit is that it is the only one in the Mirage quadrangle, so you get to fill in another square on your quad map! I was beginning to question that motivation later on! We made quick work down Owen's west ridge and enjoyed a nice sunset.
Darkness fell just as we reached treeline, and bushwacking ensued. The bushwacking was pretty mellow until we neared the saddle and it started to get thicker. You would think a measly 375' to the summit of this 10er would be a piece of cake after what we had already done, but this steep little buger wouldn't go down without a fight. Either I was hallucinating in the moonlight, or this one had at least 3 false summits. I kept looking at my GPS and it seemed like I was only gaining 1/10th of a mile at a time! We finally topped out at 6:30 and I was able to call my wife with an ETA.
No rest for the weary as it was time to get back to the trail. I typically enjoy a bushwacking challenge, but this was a bit much after a long day. Sarah did a great job picking the best line down the s.e. slopes to the trail, but it was a loose, slick mess of deadfall, wet talus, tree branches, and whatever else could drag you down. Bushwacking takes on an extra challenge in the dark because you really don't know what you're stepping on even with a headlamp. I probably wiped out at least 3 times. We finally hit the trail at 9860' and I was sure glad to be home free! We finally made it back to the TH at 8:20. What a day!