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 Peak(s):  Huron Peak  -  14,003 feet
 Post Date:  04/07/2012 Modified: 04/08/2012
 Date Climbed:   04/06/2012
 Posted By:  mattdecoste

 Huron Peak via standard North Ridge route      

We made the drive from Colorado Springs to Winfield in about 3 hrs. arriving about 8:45. It Since we had 6 guys in a Jeep Cherokee and a Subaru AWD we decided to try to push as far up the 4WD road as possible. Encouraged by a recent TH update a few days earlier we thought we had a good show. It was not to be. After only a few hundred feet we experience 6"-12" snow drifts and decided not to push it. We parked and started walking around 9:15. Good idea too because around each bend was another snow drift covering the road that made any travel for all but the stiffest and daring 4WDs a no-go.

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The forecast was for a high of 32 and winds up to 30-40 MPH. It was a sunny day with few if any clouds and the temperate felt fine in the bright sun as we continued up the trail. The snow was crusty and hard and in quite a few places we walked on the frozen mud trail. Only on rare occasion did we punch through the snow. No showshoes were needed for any of this portion and only half of us brought them along. We had great views of Granite Peak all the way.

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We quickly covered the relatively level ground up to the actual TH (4WD) and past the wooden sign that pointed up to the single-track trail and soon the wilderness boundary sign-in log. Here the snow instantly turned a bit more consistently deeper but it was still very cold so we weren't postholing—yet. For the first 1/2 mile or so the trail was fairly gentle and the snow not a problem. We were following previous hiker's steps through the snow and started angling more steeply up the hill as we entered the switchbacks. Almost immediately the "trail" petered out and we lost track of the previous hikers steps. We looked a round a bit but found nothing. The trail was not marked in any way through the trees so just decided to start bushwacking up the hill. Soon we caught magnificent views of the Three Apostles to the south.

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This is when the snow quickly turned deep and we began post-holing up to knee and then hip deep in places. Those of us that brought the snowshoes through them on while the others bravely soldiered on, exasperated by the extreme effort. We took a short break to catch our breath, down some calories, and snap some pics and then headed back up the hill. After another strenuous 15 mins or so we finally crested the hill that opened up into the high plateau below the summit and caught our first magnificent views of Huron's summit.

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The wind was really picking up now and swirling all around us and we could see the spindrift swirling hundreds of feet high on the peak. We decided to drop our snowshoes here as the snow was relatively shallow 4"-6" and exposed rock here and there. We were amazed at the beauty of the high plateau and snapped quite a few pics here. The route to the summit is fairly clear at this point and after the short level valley it is all steep up hill to the summit.

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We started up the switchbacks and quickly the wind became a problem, nearly blowing us over at times and forcing us to duck our heads and stretch a hand out to the hill for support. We made slow progress and due to the swirling winds mixed with icy snow we literally crawled on all fours in several spots to make progress. Slowly we inched up the hill and soon found our Microspikes helped tremendously on this mixed rock and slick powdery snow terrain. Our group of 6 was now spread out to nearly a half-mile or 30 mins from the top to the bottom, each man negotiating the strenuous trail as best he could.

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It was maddening at times because while the winds generally moved west to east they would at times come at you from any direction, knocking you off your stance you thought you could trust. Ten steps and rest. More high winds and blowing snow. Then it stalls and you make a bit more progress only to see the swirling winds headed towards you again. It was like this nearly the WHOLE time we were above treeline.

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Finally, just before 2 pm, our first couple guys topped out on the summit. The summit was a wicked place covered in snow and gale force winds up to 50 MPH in our estimate. We made sure we did not get to the snow-loaded cornice on the east side of the summit as we watched the winds pick up 8"-10" chunks of snow crust and launch them like a canon off the summit.

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After spending no more than 5 mins on the top they quickly retreated back down the ridge to take shelter from the deafening wind. I popped out on top, snapped a few pics and nearly froze my fingers and headed down after spending a few minutes taking in the views and the Three Apostles.

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We made a quick retreat and carefully picked our way down the steep slow as the wind kept howling. We found a few short spots to glissade on the upper portion of the mountain and then enjoyed a 400-500 ft glissade to end in the high plateau. We stopped to take a bite and rest as the wind relented. Up on the summit the wind and snow still swirled.

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Rather than retrace our exact path back down to the valley below we decided to take a diagonal traverse line more to the north to more quickly intersect the trail. There were a few steep spots but we also enjoyed several more spots in the trees to glissade. We did have some more post-holing here now that the sun had warmed the snow a bit.

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We finally found and intersected the trail we came up not 5 mins. from the wilderness boundary log-in sign. The trail back to the cars was sloppy and more post-holing. We got back to the card around 5:45 with plenty of afternoon sunlight left but weary from the hike. On the drive back we hit our favorite post-hike eatery, the Coyote Cantina in Johnson Village, and wolfed down amazing chimichangas and regaled the day.

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Huron was an awesome peak and it's difficulties in these windy, snowy conditions belie it's 14,003 ft and "beginner peak" status. Would love to climb this one again in the summer.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
Artvandalay


Fun day!     2012-04-08 15:43:05
Looks like pretty good conditions. I'm thinking of getting Huron soon myself.


RockyMountainMustang


Nice!     2012-04-08 19:02:53
Pic #10 is a bad-ass shot! Congrats on making the summit! The wind definitely makes everything way harder, but at least you got cool pictures out of it.


mattdecoste


Thanks!     2012-04-09 13:03:01
Hey thanks guys! It was a good first 14er of the season. A fun peak for sure. Pic #10 does look epic. One of my favorites as well. I have since posted a brief video highlighting the wind we experienced as well. Best to you and yours and see you in the hills!



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