We started out with the directions in the Roach's Colorado Thirteeners
guidebook, and improved on them. The approach takes you to the top of a short but steep couloir on the west side of the ridge between Casco Peak and Frasco Benchmark. From that point, read the Route Description.
Walk a quarter mile north from the trailhead and cross the North Fork Lake Creek to the east. Hike generally east on an old mining road. The road switches back first to the south, leaving you to doubt its direction. But follow the road into the Lackawanna Gulch. After a half mile or more the road becomes a trail, while you continue up the gulch past a couple of old prospector cabins. There are lots of possibilities in this area for a secluded overnight camp. After a good mile, look for a crossing to the north side of the creek before it forks, and into the north fork of Lackawanna Gulch. We crossed at the first major break in the trees.
Pick up a strong trail that leads northeast, above the north fork. The creek in this area runs through a gorge that is 100 feet deep or more. Pass another old cabin and on to flatter terrain as you pass under Mount Champion on your left. You should be well above the creek. The creek makes a huge sweeping curve around to the right, eventually terminating under Casco Peak. Continue to gain altitude as you stay on the outside of the curve.
You pass under the mile long, north-south ridge connecting Casco Peak with Frasco Benchmark. Climb toward Casco, to the base of the shortest scree slope under the ridge. You want to minimize the time you have to spend on this loose rock. Spread out from your climbing partners, and ascend to the ridge, 300 feet above. (On your descent, you may want to find the longest
scree slope to exit this ridge. Enjoy your own version of "Ride the Rockies".)
Once you reach the saddle, you will probably want to make a side trip to Casco Peak, 0.3 miles to the south. Then, return to this saddle and begin your ridge traversal to the north, toward Frasco Benchmark. Frasco Benchmark marks the high point at the convergence of three ridges. It is not a ranked summit. The ridge is gnarly, and you can use up time just finding the easiest path around each obstacle. I think the easiest path is usually on the ridge crest or just to the west side. But don’t drop very far below the ridge or you will be climbing up the scree again. Up and down you go, as you near Frasco. Contour eastward 100 feet below Frasco’s summit, and continue in the direction of French Mountain.
Follow the ridge eastward to the summit. From Frasco, it is 10 minutes down, 10 minutes up, and you are there.
Return the way you came, but with an earlier exit from the Frasco-Casco Ridge, to shorten your commute.
Normal hiking gear is all you need. I would have felt more comfortable with a helmet in the couloirs on the west side of Casco/Frasco, however.
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