Flat Top Mtn (Garfield county highpoint)-12354' - CO Rank-1104
8.6 miles RT, 2064' gain
via North Derby trail
On the way back from Idaho, I decided a trip to the Flattops to knock out a couple more county highpoints would be a worthy cause. We stayed at the nice Bear Lake campground which has pleny of nice sites. Overnite a storm blew through that kept me awake most of the night as the wind was blowing pretty hard. I did not have high hopes of summitting Flat Top, but I awoke to clear skies! I could already see clouds to the west, so I knew the weather would be unsettled today. I drove the 4 miles or so down FR-900 to its end at Stillwater Reservoir and was off at 6:20am. One couple was in front of me, while it appeared that others had headed down the more popular Devil's Causeway trail. From a distance, it appeared that I could get by without snowshoes and I guessed right this time. The trail was muddy but not as bad as the south facing slopes from yesterday. I only encountered one drift that was problematic as it was too steep to cross, so I just went straight up the slope and found the trail again. Within an hour, I was at the base of a short snow climb to the saddle. I followed what I think was bear tracks up the snow, as he kicked some nice steps in the snow for me. Luckily the tracks were not fresh!
At this point, the weather was looking iffy but from what clouds I could see they did not appear to be lightning producing. I did hear a couple rumbles coming up, so when I gained the saddle I decided to wait it out in the trees for a weather window. The cloud ceiling ended up dropping below me reducing visibility, but it was short lived. After a 55 minute delay, I was heading up the long summit ridge. For the most part, I stayed on the crest of the ridge enjoying the views below. There was one small snowfield at a mini-saddle. The terrain is easy going on Flattop, but the distances are a little deceiving as it took longer than I thought. I made it to the highest cairn at 9:37 just as it was beginning to sleet a little. I signed the register, took a couple pics, and headed right back down. On the way down I stayed below the ridge to reduce my exposure to lightning, but I never heard/saw anything. After a short glissade off the saddle, I was back in the woods. On the way back, I tried kicking steps in the steep drift across the trail, but ended up wiping out and sliding down 20’ or so. No blood, no foul. Intermittent graupel began to fall and it intensified as I neared the trailhead, but it never got too bad. I signed out at the register at 11:15. All in all, it was a great weekend in the beautiful Flattops!
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