Date Climbed: 9/18/11
Beginning Elevation: about 11,700'
Peak Elevation: 13,951'
The Group: Tim, Julia, JimR
Distance: about 4.8 miles
Total Elevation Gain: about 2300'
My wife and I, along with two friends (Tim and Julia), rented a house in Salida for a week in mid-September. Tim and Julia were visiting from England, and the plan was to spend most days hiking—weather permitting. As it turned out, weather was less permissive than we had hoped, but we still got in a few good hikes. We left Salida on Sunday, and my wife generously offered to clean up and “check out” so that Tim, Julia, and I could leave early and get in a hike on the way back to Boulder. We decided on Fletcher Mountain, since it looked short enough, none of us had done it, and I have wanted to do it since climbing Quandary’s west ridge a couple years ago. The forecast was for wind with gusts up to 30 or 40 mph, which worried Tim. For my part, I was concerned about how much snow there might be. None of us had really counted on much cold or snow for this week, so we hadn’t brought much cold-weather gear.
We left Salida at about 7:00 and arrived at the Blue Lake Trailhead at about 8:15. As soon as we got out of the car, we discovered that Tim’s concerns about the wind were well founded. After a brief discussion, we agreed that it was too cold and windy to expect to summit, but that we would just go on until things got too miserable (or dangerous). It seemed likely that that would be fairly soon. At least we might get some good photos.
Looking up the Monte Cristo valley, from above Blue Lake. Wheeler Mtn and Pt 13698 in back.
We started hiking at about 8:45 and immediately took a wrong turn. When I had done Quandary’s west ridge, it was difficult (for us) to find the upper trail, and we had stayed too low too long. That had led to an unpleasant uphill battle through the willows to finally get to the correct (upper) trail. So this time, I went straight up right from the dam. After gaining a couple hundred vertical feet up a little gulley, it became obvious, even to me, that we should have started on the lower trail. We went back down to it and almost immediately encountered a sign that now marks the cutoff to the (correct) upper trail.
Sign marking the cutoff for the trail up to Fletcher & Quandary's West Ridge.
We took the right fork at the sign, heading uphill and NW, and were on our way. The wind seemed to abate a bit, or maybe we were just getting used to it, but we were still glad for occasional sheltered sections of the trail. We soon came to the ruins of an old cabin and got our first view of the valley leading to Fletcher and Quandary’s west ridge.
Looking up the valley at Fletcher.
We continued up the valley on the obvious trail, stopping to take pictures of some of the numerous marmots who were watching our progress.
A couple marmots wondering what we're doing.
The wind was still quite strong, but no worse than it had been. As the trail faded away and we approached a steep section below the upper lakes, I began thinking that if we made it up onto the bench below Fletcher, at about 13,300’, that I wanted to go for the summit. We picked our way up the steep section to reach the upper lakes (ponds), and continued NW, heading for the area between the two snow fields we had seen from below.
The two snow fields above the upper lakes and below the bench, seen from below (obviously).
Looking back at the larger of the upper lakes, as we start up the slope to the bench.
There’s a fairly well cairned route up through this area, and we were soon up on the bench. Julia had lagged behind a little (she’s rather cautious on uneven and/or unstable terrain—what a concept!), so Tim and I discussed whether to go on for the summit. I wanted to go on, and Tim was adamant that we should keep the group together, so obviously we all had to go for the summit. The snow wasn’t deep enough to be a problem, and there was no appreciable ice, and a while later we all found ourselves on the summit. Amazingly, there was hardly any wind and it was almost warm for a while. The recent snow resulted in great views in all directions (well, except for the toxic ponds at Climax).
Decalibron, seen from Fletcher summit.
Quandary's west ridge.
We hung out on top for a little while and ate some lunch, then started back down. The trip back down was generally uneventful (which isn’t a bad thing), and we were probably a bit more efficient in following cairns than on the way up. At the upper lakes we ran into a lone hiker on his way up. Apparently, he lives in the area and hikes there quite often. After a brief conversation, we went our separate ways. We were soon (well, maybe more like eventually) back at Blue Lake and the car, and on our way to Boulder—and, in the case of Tim & Julia, back to Liverpool the next day.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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