In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. -Albert Camus
Approaching the summit of Huron Peak.
Huron Peak is an elusive mountain in winter. It's tucked deep into the folds of the Clear Creek drainage, a hidden kingdom guarded by sentinels that rise even higher. In summer, the mountain is typically approached from the old town of Winfield, which is accessed using county road 390 from highway 24. In winter, county road 390 is usually closed near highway 24, and that can add 15 to 20 miles of snowy foot travel to the standard summer route.
But this winter season is different. The 2-wheel drive summer trailhead at Winfield remains accessible to 2-wheel drive vehicles. This is a rare ocassion in winter, and impossible to ignore. A team comes together: Mike, aka Chicago Transplant; Kevin Baker; Darin Baker; Scot, aka Floyd; Colin, aka Astrobassman; Kevin, aka Papillon, and Sarah, aka Wooderson. We meet Terri Horvath on the road.
It was an honor and pleasure to climb with new friends and old. In the past few years, the tales of adventure and the sage advice that these climbers provide on 14ers.com have been a great inspiration as I make my own journey. But I digress...it's time to hit the trail and make this climb happen. We lace our boots, shoulder our packs, and set out. Together we learn that Huron Peak is not an easy proposition in winter, especially when the forecast is for snow.
Heaven Up Here: The Huron Peak Standard.
Huron Peak - 14,003 feet (ranked 52nd highest in Colorado) Climb date: Saturday, January 7, 2011 Trailhead name: The town of Winfield, approx. elevation 9,600 feet Total distance: Approx. 11 miles roundtrip Total vertical gain: Approx. 3,800 feet Difficulty: That depends on your point of view Forecast: 80% chance of snow, 2 to 4 inches, 10 to 15mph wind. And it was just like they said it would be.
Captions on top of photos.
Some of the crew arrive the night before to sleep in our cars. The silvery mountainscape is revealed by a full moon in the clear night sky. And then sometime in the early morning, under the cover of sleep, the clouds move in and it begins to snow. By 8 AM, we walk the road toward Huron Peak.
The view, back over the shoulder.
The upper trailhead for Mount Huron.
A well-used winter boot track - a rare sight in these parts.
We hike back and forth through the trees. The trees thin, and the track goes straight up the slope.
We climb higher and higher.
The view to our right.
We leave the trees behind as we crest the slope and gain the lower basin. The wind gains speed and the snow flies. At this point, due to illness, Scot and Colin turn around to head down the mountain. We will miss them on the remainder of the hike.
We reach the upper basin and continue toward Huron's north ridge.
Now that feels like winter.
The north ridge is in sight - we push on.
We cross talus slope to gain the ridge. The cold wind stings bare skin.
We reach the ridge in pure white light.
And the team vanishes into thin air.
The northeast face - a ghost ship in heavy fog.
Apparition or Huron Peak?
The clouds break for a moment as we push on.
We can't see the summit but we can feel it. The cold wind continues to howl.
Onward and upward, toward the light.
Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? - Maurice Freehill
The summit is guarded by Banshees. We keep our heads down and push on as the Banshees stomp and crash about.
And sometime after noon, in the stark darkness of midday, we reach the summit of Huron Peak. The wind relents. And we celebrate.
Papillon and Wooderson.
Chicago Transplant and D_Baker.
The summit is quiet and still, so we linger for awhile. This moment did not come easy and no one wants to give it up. But there comes a time...there always comes a time. We begin our descent as the storm clouds break apart.
The view opens up. I nearly stumble and fall into the roiling sea of white caps.
Kevin Baker stays high on the ridge as the rest of us drop down into the basin. Kevin is going for Browns Peak, Middle Mountain, and UN13462. He will make it.
The view downward is breathtaking.
I look back toward enigmatic Huron Peak and say thanks. Some mountains come easy. Huron isn't one of them.
The standard summer trail is visible in the snow, so we follow it down.
Bodies are descending but our spirits remain high.
Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. - Maori Proverb
We swim in the moment.
Clouds lift from Huron Peak, revealing its shy grace.
The come down.
We are greeted by silvery trees.
We walk on the road, behind a vanishing sun. Twilight lingers on the high mountain tops.
In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary. - Aaron Rose
The difficult weather provided a strong sense of accomplishment. It was rough, but it was a lot of fun. I need to thank my partners for making this an enjoyable and unforgettable day in the hills. And thank you, the readers, for joining us on our adventure. Climb on.