Huron Peak (14,003’) – CO Rank 52
Browns Peak (13,523’) – Unranked
Route: North Ridge II via Lulu Gulch
Elevation Gain: 3960’
Total Distance: 8.1 miles
Participants: Jim & Karen Ohl
Karen had successfully made the summit of Huron Peak back in May 2005, so this hike was her third repeat of the year and yet another chance for me to catch up with her. We opted to take an alternate route on the ascent, via Lulu Gulch, and create a nice loop hike descending via the standard route to the South Winfield trailhead. Our starting point would be 0.4 miles up the 4wd road toward South Winfield where a fork in the road directs you into Lulu Gulch. Another early wake up call in Colorado Springs put us on the trail by 6am. Prior to starting a fellow hiker drove by in a Jeep Wrangler announcing intentions to take the standard route. He then mistakenly drove up the fork into Lulu Gulch. I sprinted up the road after him but he was out of sight before I could catch him. We would later see him near the summit and found he had ended up on an interesting bushwhack across the northwest shoulder of Browns Peak before linking back up with the standard route.
Browns Peak Climb
The 4wd road that continues on into Lulu Gulch and all the way up to Pt. 12,622 looked fun and passable in a stock SUV with an experienced driver. We made moderate progress as our bodies started to wake up and came to a distinct junction in the road at 11,400-ft. We later found out that the hiker we had met earlier went right at this junction and eventually the road came to a dead end, and the bushwhacking commenced. An easy mistake to make this time of year as the path to the left was covered by a tremendous stretch of deep snow likely caused by an avalanche earlier in the year.
Karen crosses what looked to be an old avalanche path
Once past the debris field we were back on the dry road and continued up toward treeline. At 11,600 we left the road, slightly earlier than planned, and followed a nice ledge into the basin on the northwest of Browns Peak.
Our first objective of the day comes into view!
From here, our route to the summit became clear as we chose to ascend a nice gulley with continuous snow that would gain the north ridge. It was shaping up to be a nice sunny day and we could hear the sound of snowmelt rushing beneath a talus field as we traversed to the gulley.
Jim traverses across the basin to the snow filled gulley
We donned crampons for the shaded gulley, which was a gentle 30 degrees at its steepest, and made quick work up to the ridge. Upon reaching the ridge we saw that we would need to keep moving as the sun was out in full force and quickly softening the snow we intended to follow to the summit.
The final bit of Browns gentle north slopes
About 100 feet from the summit, I started post-holing up to mid-thigh and quickly found a path of dry ground to follow the rest of the way, topping out at 9:02am. The view of Huron from Browns was inspiring as the North face looked particularly rugged with the remaining spring snow.
Terrific views of La Plata and surrounding 14'ers!
Huron Peak Climb
After a few summit photos we started the traverse over to Huron Peak, staying fairly close to the ridge proper the whole way.
Beautiful Huron Peak and the connecting ridge from Browns
Karen gave me the option of tagging Pt. 13,518 along the way but I decided to just bypass it along the west side and continue as it was not a ranked summit. Our competitiveness took hold as we pushed to reach the junction of the north ridge ahead of a group of hikers ascending the standard route. We made quick work hoofing our way up the remaining 600 vertical, topping out at 10:20am. The weather and views were terrific at the summit of Huron and we spent 40 minutes enjoying the day and naming the surrounding summits with good company.
Yale, Princeton, Antero, Shavano, and Tabeguache were all visible!
By 11:00am we were ready to for a quick trip down to the car as we were headed to meet a crew of good friends camping at Rainbow Falls, near Woodland Park – they were already having too much fun without us! The descent of Huron’s upper flanks was a blast and we caught a series of fun glissades to quickly lose 1000 ft of vertical. On the descent we watched a fellow hiker doing some serious post-holing in the lower basin between Browns and Huron and we were thankful that we opted to pack our snowshoes as they definitely helped when it was our turn to cross the basin. After crossing the basin we quickly found the trail for the standard route near treeline. The route down to South Winfield was pleasantly gentle with plenty of switchbacks along the way – I could understand why Huron is such a good peak to introduce someone new to the 14ers.
The Three Apostles as seen on the descent of Huron's standard route
We made it to South Winfield by 1:00pm with an easy 1.5 mile walk left down the 4wd road to the fork where we left the Jeep. The road to South Winfield is a bit over-rated in my opinion, as there really weren’t any challenging obstacles that would demand high clearance. 2wd vehicles would struggle at the entrance to the road and certainly in the muddy sections but a stock SUV with average clearance should have no issues making it all the way to the trailhead. We took our time the rest of the way, enjoying the prime spring weather and were back at the Jeep at 1:40pm. All-in-all, our loop route made for a terrific day and a fun Tour de Huron!