West Chicago Creek

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 39.61700°N / 105.66°W
Additional Information Route Type: Hiking
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Sign the Climber's Log


West Chicago Creek Trail provides access to Mount Evans, Mount Spalding, and Gray Wolf Mountain.

It is a long approach just to reach the upper Scott Gomer Creek plateau, and reaching it can be frustrating unless you already know where to go.

I wouldn't recommend following this trail to reach Mount Bierstadt, since it would require traversing the Sawtooth twice.

Getting There

West Chicago Creek is accessible only from Hells Hole Trailhead. Directions to the trailhead can be found Trailhead: Hells Hole

Route Description

The West Chicago Creek trail runs between Lake Edith and Hells Hole, which is a cirque on the north side of the Scott Gomer Creek plateau. The distance between the trailhead and the plateau is 5.31 miles.

The West Chicago Creek basin, while pretty, is also not a spectacular sight. You do have the unique opportunity to see the very impressive west fact of Gray Wolf Mountain, and there are some nice shots of Sugarloaf Mountain as well.

The Lonely WallGray Wolf Mountain

Sugarloaf PeakSugarloaf Peak

If following published directions for this trail, or even if following a topographical map, these can be some pretty frustrating 5.31 miles. For example, the trail does not end at Hells Hole, as published in Roach's "Colorado Fourteneers," and the southern half of the trail is 800-1000 to the west of where the USGS topographical map depicts it. These are key differences, because it makes reaching Hells Hole more difficult than it should be.

There are two options to reach the saddle at the top of Hells Hole between Gray Wolf Mountain and Point 12988: through Hells Hole, or around it.

Through Hells Hole
Although shorter, this route will require more "forest-," "marsh-," and bush-wacking," having to navigate through a "sea" of willows on the north side of Hells Hole.

To follow this route, in my opinion, you should leave the abandon the trail at 39.635~N 105.67~W on a SE (135~) bearing. On this bearing, there will soon be cliffs on both sides, which mark the entrance to Hells Hole. After reaching and crossing West Chicago Creek, continue on this bearing through the forest and marshes until it opens up at some rocky slopes. Ascend these slopes to reach another relatively flat area, and behold the willow fields. I found it easier to get to the west side of Hells Hole, and address the willows there. (This will also give you the opportunity to visit the lake at 11940 feet.) Once past the willows, there is a very faint trail that leads to the saddle between Gray Wolf Mountain and Point 12988. The last 200 feet of ascent out of Hells Hole is on a somewhat steep but easy scree field.

[img:f:aligncenter:small:Hells Hole]

Around Hells Hole
This variation is 0.1 miles longer than going through Hells Hole, but it only involves crossing perhaps 30 feet of willows. It will also involve more elevation gain, since it follows the west ridge of Hells Hole over Point 12988; it also requires some Class 2+ scrambling.

Follow the trail along West Chicago Creek to its end. There is a shallow (2-3 inches) lake to the south of the trail's end. On the far side of the lake, there is a band of willows, followed by steeper terrain.

Pk 12988Going around Hells Hole

This is where you want to go. Find a way across West Chicago Creek--I walked right on the lake--and reach the band of willows. Snake through the willows, and begin ascending what is actually the north slopes of Point 12988 on a bearing of 160~. After about 1000 feet of elevation gain, you will reach a ridge overlooking Hells Hole.

Hells HoleGoing around Hells Hole

Resist the temptation to downclimb into Hells Hole, and instead ascend the ridge southwest toward the summit of Point 12988. Some 2+ skills are required, but this is an easy climb. Follow the rim of Hells Hole to the saddle between Gray Wolf Mountain and Point 12988.

Keeping in mind that the following data doesn't reflect the condition of the routes, here are the differences in reaching the Scott Gomer Creek plateau:

Through Hells Hole (THH)
1-way distance: 5.31 miles
Elevation gain (gross): 3253 feet
Elevation loss (gross): 133 feet

Around Hells Hole (AHH)
1-way distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation gain (gross): 3340 feet
Elevation loss (gross): 220 feet

From here, there are three peaks to choose from.

Mount Evans (Class 2)
Descend into the Scott Gomer Creek Plateau on a SE (135~) bearing and cross the creek. ZZZ Continue on this bearing while ascending a gentle slope that is actually Mount Spalding's west "ridge." Once on the ridge, head straight for the saddle between Mount Spalding and Mount Evans. From the saddle, follow the ridge to the summit of Mount Evans.

1-way distance (from Hells Hole): 2.67 miles
Elevation gain (gross): 1752 feet
Elevation loss (gross): 306 feet

Mount Spalding (Class 1)

Due to the gentle west slopes of Mount Spalding, the summit is not readily visible until very close to it.

Descend into the Scott Gomer Creek Plateau on a SE (135~) bearing and cross the creek. ZZZ Continue on this bearing while ascending a gentle slope that is actually Mount Spalding's west "ridge." Once on the ridge, follow it eastward to the summit.

1-way distance (from Hells Hole): 1.42 miles
Elevation gain (gross): 1162 feet
Elevation loss (gross): 170 feet

Gray Wolf Mountain (Class 1)
Follow the ridge eastbound to the summit of Gray Wolf Mountain. That's it.

1-way distance (from Hells Hole): .88 miles
Elevation gain (gross): 800 feet
Elevation loss (gross): 0 feet

Planning data

Note: Distances are rounded to the nearest tenth of a mile.

Mount Evans
Round-trip distance (THH): 15.6
Round-trip distance (AHH): 16.1
Elevation gain (THH): 5444 feet
Elevation gain (AHH): 5618 feet

Mount Spalding
Round-trip distance (THH): 13.5
Round-trip distance (AHH): 13.6
Elevation gain (THH): 4718 feet
Elevation gain (AHH): 4892 feet

Gray Wolf Mountain
Round-trip distance (THH): 12.4
Round-trip distance (AHH): 12.6
Elevation gain (THH): 4186 feet
Elevation gain (AHH): 4360

Of course, combinations are always possible. Here are some of the most likely.

Mount Spalding-Gray Wolf Mountain
Round-trip distance (THH): 14.3
Round-trip distance (AHH): 14.5
Elevation gain (THH): 5177 feet
Elevation gain (AHH): 5351 feet

Mount Evans-Mount Spalding
Round-trip distance (THH): 14.9
Round-trip distance (AHH): 15.1
Elevation gain (THH): 5695 feet
Elevation gain (AHH): 5869 feet

Grand Tour (Mount Evans-Mount Spalding-Gray Wolf Mountain)
Round-trip distance (THH): 16.9
Round-trip distance (AHH): 17.1
Elevation gain (THH): 6154 feet
Elevation gain (AHH): 6328 feet

Essential Gear

Standard 10 essential and a sunny disposition. :)



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