Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fools on the Hill

To celebrate the Fourth of July, Walker, Jeremy, and I attempted to summit Fools Peak, one of the mountains listed in Dave Coopers (now self-published?) book Colorado Scrambles. We chose Fools for three reasons:
  1. "Towering" at not even 13,000', Fools is not well known. We hoped to avoid crowds.
  2. This peak offers some of the best class 3 scrambling in the state; a perfect warm up for potential assents on Longs and Capital Peaks, The Maroon Bells and/or Ice Mountain
  3. Brooks and Natalie happened to be camping about ninety minutes from the trailhead. 
Hiking trips are better seen than described.
We met up with Brooks and Natalie at a camp site on the Colorado River. Walker fixed a wonderful dutch oven stew. Brooks snagged Jeremy's machete and the best image of the trip. At 5:30 a.m., Jeremy, Walker, and I left the other two snoozing and headed to the trailhead.

The trail begins at Fulford Cave Campground, and proceeds quickly up through 4 easy miles of lush woodland. I decided to tell REI that yes, it's still legal to hike in cotton.

Our first destination was Lake Charles, a wonderful camp spot set below Fools Peak (to Walker's left).

After circling to the far side of the lake, we headed up a grassy, boulder strewn gully to reach the rocky base of Fools Peak.

After reaching treeline, we crossed a small basin and headed up the North ridge of the peak (straight up the middle of the mountain in this photo)

This is what it looked like up close.

 The mountain is actually split by a large gully, which tops out at this steep notch. The route suggested reaching the gully by finding a downward sloping ramp, which can be clearly seen in the middle of this photo, (which I took from a thousand feet away after we'd descended). Up close, however, the ramp proved very difficult to find. We first tried the lower ramp, but balked at the steepness of the gully at the ramp's end. We then retraced our steps all the way to the left and climbed to the top of the spire, only to find ourselves peering off that poky point at the top, a sight that left Walker and I with goosebumps. Finally Jeremy worked his way down and found the correct ramp which soon brought us to the gully.

Although it's not visible in this photo, the suggested route involved climbing directly up 600 vertical feet of rock slicked by melting ice and snow. This seemed like a terrible idea so we angled our way from left to right between these snowfields and then scrambled up 400 feet of scree to gain the soft ridge on the right. From there it was only 20 minutes or so to the top!

Rarely have I encountered such perfect weather on a Colorado climb. After a sparse lunch, the three of us found flat-ish spots and fell asleep.

Too quickly, it was time to head down. During lunch, my IT bands had stiffened, which made for a rather painful descent. I popped some Ibuprofen and at Walker's suggestion, rolled back and forth on top of a waterbottle. Painful but  effective.

To save my knees, we slid down some gentile snowfields. On one of these, I accidentally almost peed on Jeremy. I limped down the remaining scree field and the gully, returning to Lake Charles. By the time we reached the lake, my body had warmed up. 2 hours later, we were at the cars. 12 miles in 10 hours. Not too shabby when you factor in that we lost the route, amended the route, and napped at the top. Can't wait for Longs in two weeks!


Amanda said...

Looks fun, glad you had a good time.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a terrific hike/climb. Looking forward to seeing you next week! - Steve

Anonymous said...

Awesome pics. I'm getting in shape so I can join you on a hike next time I'm in town.