Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mt. Huron

Mt. Huron (14,003')

miles hiked: 10.0
elevation gained: 3,815 feet

For the first climb of our second trip, we climbed beautiful Huron Peak. We were eager to return to the Sawatch Range where the mountains are taller and, in general, more remote than those of the Tenmile-Mosquito Range. At just over 14,000 feet, Huron, has a reputation as the easiest Sawatch fourteener to climb, so it was as logical a place as any to start. We soon discovered, however, that even an "easy" Sawatch fourteener is a long, committing, thigh-busting day. Despite this, Huron was a beautiful mountain and a thoroughly enjoyable climb.

At 5:00 am the alarm pulled me from strange, troubled dreams, and we tightened our layers of clothing to block out the chill of a 10,000' morning. We took down a bagel and made the relatively short drive to Winfield, an old mining camp where the trailhead lie. It was a pristine morning to begin the second portion of our summer: the sun graced the upper slopes of the mountains and the crystalline water of the South Fork of Clear Creek tumbled by with a crowd's whisper.

Ella at the beginning of our Sawatch expedition:

It took fifty minutes of hiking to reach the actual trailhead from where we parked our car to the spot where the relentless 4WD road ended. The trail began with a relentless set of switchbacks through the high alpine trees, gaining over 1,500 feet. Near the top, we reached a ridge that boasted huge vistas of the valley from which we'd come. Breathtaking sights of the Three Apostles, three of the Sawatch's more dramatic peaks (but not fourteeners), opened before us.

At 12,000' we reached the basin at the foot of Mt. Huron, and the summit was visible at last, though still towering above us. The basin was a short, flat expanse with babbling streams and armies of brilliant, multi-colored flowers. We watched marmots chase each other with remarkable dexterity through the steep scree at the basins top end.

Ella climbing towards the basin at Huron's base:

Though the basin floor provided a much-needed respite, it did not last, and the most challenging section of the hike loomed before us. The last 2,000 vertical feet consisted of a dramatic set of gravelled switchbacks. Though the trail was well-defined, the climb was relentless. Slowly, however, the basin floor sunk beneath us, and we reached the upper defenses of Mt. Huron's Northwest face.

Looking down on the basin at the base of Huron's northwest face:

Beautiful views of La Plata to the north:

view up towards Huron's summit:

A little before 10:00 am we made it (finally) to the summit. We were rewarded with calm, azure skies and perhaps the best views yet from any summit. The Three Apostles dominated the view to the south. To the west we could see the basin from which we'd come and distant views of the familiar Elk Range skyline. To the north we could see our old friend, La Plata Peak, the first fourteener we climbed. To the east were much of the Collegiate Peaks: Missouri, Belford, Oxford, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

Ella making the last few feet to the summit:

Breathtaking view of the Three Apostles to the south from Huron's summit:

West Apostle:

Ella on Huron's beautiful summit with the Apostle's in the background:

Smiling on the summit:

Me on the summit:

On the descent we could relax and enjoy the scenery, but by the end the exhaustion overtook us. We passed several beautiful campsites and were disturbed to find them polluted with reckless garbage: beer cans, soda bottles, and other refuse. It was unfathomable to me to imagine coming to a place as pristine and breathtaking as this and casting into it your ugly, disgusting garbage. What sort of person would do such thing? Sadly, quite a few of such people exist. A disappointment like this tempts me to misanthropy, but I must, instead, try to maintain compassion.

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1 comment:

  1. Nicely described. I'm planning an autumn hike up Huron, via Lulu Gulch, when the weather clears Monday morning.