Monday, July 24, 2017

Huron Peak 2017

Route Name: Northwest Slopes
Trailhead Elevation: 10,567 ft.
Summit Elevation: 14,003 ft.
Distance: 6.84 mi.
Elevation Gain: 3,407 ft.
Start Time: 6:28am
Summit Time: 9:18am (46 minutes on top)
End Time: 11:58am

Trip Report:
There is arguably no other 14er in Colorado with better summit views than Huron Peak.  You can see all the Collegiate Peaks, the Elks, and beautiful nearby 13ers like Ice Mountain and the Apostles.  You also really have no interruptive views of cities or any other civilization other than some faint views of mountain roads.  When I was on Huron in 2009 with my brother we spent almost 40 minutes on the summit.  Today I wished to go for the same.   Earlier in our vacation I had only taken 2 minutes on Uncompahgre's summit because of impending storms and the need to get my boys down the mountain.  Just yesterday on Princeton I only took 10 minutes because of my habitual need to keep moving, and some imposing clouds.  Today, I was hoping for a great Huron summit stay.

Today was the penultimate day of our trip.  I had always intended to work in a climb this morning as there were no real other plans for the day.  If I knew I had the whole day to work with I was conceiving of larger hikes like the whole of the Mt. Antero road or a Yale traverse.  Instead, I was given the hint that we may still wish to do some family things in the afternoon and so a shorter, quicker hike of Huron was adopted.  I was also willing to take this on solo if I had no other takers for this morning's hike, the evening before my Dad decided it sounded like fun and he was in.  We made plans to be up at 5am with a 5:30a departure hoping to be back to our camping trailer at 12:30pm.  

We got out of the Buena Vista area and made our way to the Winfield trailhead for Huron.  We saw 5 vehicles in the 2WD trailhead area.  We continued on up the 4WD road.  It was pretty narrow the whole way.  Early on the road we had a jeep moving quickly behind us and so we found a place to pull off for them to pass us.  Rocky, but no horribly large rocks that caused an issue our F250.  We drove by a handful of vehicles that were parked off the road with tents nearby.  There were a number of places to pull off along the road should oncoming traffic be encountered.  When we got to the end of the road, the 4WD trailhead, we encountered 7 vehicles already there.  Things were wet from the previous night's rain and it was a chilly 45 degrees out.  

For today's hike I was wearing my long-sleeve white Fila tech shirt and zip-off pants.  I was also wearing my relatively new Osprey Stratos 24 backpack.  I had packed about 2 Liters of water (no gatorade) and some food alongside the other essentials.  At the trailhead there is immediately a junction where you can head left for Huron or right to Lake Ann.  When we saw the Lake from the summit it looked like it would be a beautiful destination.  We got started on the Huron trail at 6:28am.  

The first section of trail gains just a bit and has a long mostly flat portion.  It was a bit narrow at first and then widened to a typical trail width.  Things were fairly wet and this portion of trail was obviously a bit older with plenty of roots showing.  The trail eventually begins to gain in earnest when it meets the creek coming out of the drained below Huron.  In here we passed a trio of hikers who had been in the jeep that passed us on the 4WD road.  There were numerous small waterfalls in the creek.  Above here the trail begins numerous short switchbacks that just take you straight up the slope.  The switchbacks take you up to about 11,600 where a longer straight section takes you southeast into another drainage gully.  From there two more switchbacks await to take you up to 12,000 feet.  In the midst of this we were treated to amazing views of Huron's neighbors and already were filling our cameras up with good shots.  

We were moving really well today without any extended stops.  It was a well placed steady pace that kept us going at a sustainable pace.  The trail and the views heading into the upper basin are just fantastic.  At 12,300 things level out for a bit into wildflower meadows and a small creek crossing.  By this point we had encountered 4 people already on their way down, 2 of which who had targeted sunrise summits.  We could also see a large group well ahead of us on the upper slopes.  

At around 12,400 the trail ascends a series of switchbacks and a rock staircase to leave the meadows and gain the upper slopes of the basin towards a saddle on Huron's north ridge.  As the trail ascended there were numerous switchbacks in beautiful grassy slopes.  We took our time to continue moving through these switchbacks.  My father offered to let me go ahead and summit sooner but I said I'd rather stay with him.  

We gained the main saddle of the north ridge at 13,500 feet.  Here we caught up with a trio of hikers whom we had seen in front of us.  From the saddle the trail enters rocks and there is a reasonable trail to follow with a keen eye.  We met another single lady coming down and a gentleman from Texas who had had most of one leg replaced.  He said his doctor didn't want him out here but he really wanted to be.  What looks like the summit from the 13,500 saddle is really just another small saddle at about 13,900.  We gained that and could see from there the true summit was just a short ridge climb away.  There was never any precipitous exposure but a reasonable amount of modest class 2 work through the rocks to finally gain the summit.  It was 9:18am when we topped out and we found 14 people on top with us.  It was a 2:50 ascent for us from the 4WD trailhead.  

As I remembered from my previous summit here, the views were fantastic.  We could see all of the Sawatch range from Massive and Elbert on down to Shavano, only Holy Cross was out of view.  We could also see the Elks including the Maroons, Snowmass and Capitol.  The weather was also holding perfectly and it was the best weather day of the whole week.  Everything was just perfect for us.  This day, July 24 was also the 2nd anniversary of our finishing the 54 and so a fitting "14ers Day" for us to be on top and loving it.

After just over 20 minutes on top my father started to descend knowing he would be a bit slower.  I stayed put to enjoy the top and give him a head start.  I held out for awhile thinking I might get the summit to myself for a bit as a large group left and only a group of 3 and myself remained.  Just as the group of 3 began to depart a large family group of at least 8, including 3 dogs, 2 kids near the age of my own kids, and an infant summitted.  They were all very nice, although they were shirking the rules with the dogs being off leash.  I finally left the summit at 10:04a after a lovely 46 minutes on top.

As I descended a host of people were still coming up.  In the upper rocks I encountered 16 people on my quick descent to the saddle.  Below the saddle I caught up to my father in the switchbacks on the upper slopes.  He was moving pretty well and trying to get a jogging pace at times.  Between the saddle and the meadows we encountered another 30 people making over 60 for the day.  I moved ahead of him to get down to the meadows where I would wait for him on a nice rock enjoying the views.  The weather was still perfect for us.  I talked to another trail runner in here from Philadelphia.  He seemed to know a lot about the ultra community and some of the big races like Hardrock.  He looked really fit and was the only person to pass us all day. 

After leaving the upper basin and entering back into the lower switchbacks we just turned things onto autopilot to make the rest of the hike out.  The sun was out and finding paths through the tree cover so we started to get plenty warm in the last miles of the hike out.  It was 11:58a when we got back to the truck.  There were now 15 vehicles at the upper trailhead but still room for a few more.  Huron is surely on a list of hikes that I would be happy to do again anytime to enjoy the trail and the views.  Its a Colorado classic.


I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).  

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