My cousin Jeff and his friend Colby came from Michigan to CO to visit Matt, (Jeff's brother) they wanted to claim some summits, not caring if they were 14ers we decided on the French group. Matt Jeff and Colby climbed Bierstadt on Monday, Jesse and I (jesse as well) met them in Georgetown and we piled into my Santa Fe bound for the Sawach range.
The FS110 FS103A turnoff is marked as 110J and a ribbon tied around a tree to the left of the road. This turnoff is after the Mt Massive Trailhead and quickly leads to Halfmoon Creek.
Crossing Halfmoon Creek
The four passengers got out and my stock 2004 Santa Fe forded the creek with ease. The 4x4 road immediately got very rough and they all had to walk the road and were nice enough to toss rocks and act as effective spotters. I got almost the entire way to where S Halfmoon Creek had washed the road out at 10800ft, but not without scraping at least 7 rocks. I took the Santa Fe a few years ago to the old 4x4 S. Colony Lake Trailhead, this 1 mile 4x4 road was the same condition and difficulty.
We set up camp just below the washed out bridge (a very nice site is about 1/2 up the road beyond the creek crossing) had a glorious dinner and were in tents by 10:15.
Stars from camp near 10800ft
Jeff woke me up at 3:40, we packed the car ate and were crossing the Creek at 4:30. The 3.1 miles up to the "Iron Mike" mine were easily hiked on the excellent road.
Sunrise on Casco Peak
Casco and the beginning of the ridge
Taken just below the mine this shot turned out great all on its own.
Sunrise over Mt Elbert
We decided to climb Casco Pk first to be able to ascend the 2+ ridge to Frasco Benchmark.
Jeff's silhouette shot
Standard Tree post sunrise silhouette
A few sunrise picture and we were off to gain the ridge somewhere east of Casco Pk.
Colby on the climb from the basin to Casco
Jesse can be seen in the lower part of the picture on his climb towards Casco Pk
Matt with French Mtn to the left
You could go all the way to the saddle but we opted for the more direct route strait to Casco's summit.
If we had gained the ridge I would have missed out on this completely unnecessary excellent class 4 summit pitch.
Colby and I climbing the final pitch to Casco easier options are on either side of these rocks
Colby and I summited at 7:30
Summit of Casco Pk
After a very long (50 min) break we turned our sights on to the Casco Pk Frasco Benchmark ridge.
Frasco Benchmark and French Mtn
2 More peaks to go
I enjoy training for class 3-4-5 mountaineering so we picked the direct ridge descent. There are multiple ways to move down to the saddle we opted for the direct fun downclimb.
The downclimb from Casco Pk, a gully just left of this picture would provide a class 2 descent
After the initial head wall the terrain lessened to easy class 2. The views from these peaks are amazing with so many big mountains all around we admired every Elk peak from a distance on this traverse.
On "Fiascol" the Casco Frasco saddle looking towards Casco Pk
Down to the "Fiascol" saddle in no time we started the ridge to Frasco Benchmark.
The view of the ridge from a small way up Frasco BM
Gerry Roach rates this ridge as 2+ some people have put it at class 3 I'd say with careful route finding (or walking far down around the towers) it is class 2. But if you stay on the ridge direct it was a bunch of short fun scrambles.
The hardest part was the climb here.
Matt Jeff and Colby starting on the 2+ ridge towards Frasco BM
The other side of the tower they are on was the hardest, the downclimb from the tower is easier than it looks.
Jesse Jeff Colby and Matt on the ridge's main tower
Looking back to Casco Pk after all the 2+ 3- climbing
View of the remaining ridge to Frasco BM class 2 talus
We gained the rest of the ridge and I climbed over to "West Frasco" for a good shot of them on Frasco Benchmark and French Mtn
Jesse Jeff Colby and Matt on Frasco BM with French Mtn to the left
Frasco Benchmark's Benchmark
Summited Frasco BM at 9:30 at 10:00 we took the group pic and headed over to French Mtn.
Matt Jeff Colby Jesse and I on Frasco BM one to go
Taken near the Frasco French saddle looking back to Frasco BM and Casco Pk
The remaining ridge to French Mtn was easy class 2 with great exposure on the West side
To the west the drop was nicely exposed, the traverse to French Mtn was simple yet fun.
Summit of French Mtn!
We retraced to the saddle and dropped quickly back down to the Iron Mike mine. The scree and sand provided us with soft steps down and at this point we were all glad we didn't have to climb up it. I highly recommend if you are going to climb all three peaks to do it the way we did. Gaining the Casco ridge was simple and there are many options to do so, climbing up to Frasco BM would be much easier than trying to descend off of it. Also trying to climb up to the French Mtn Frasco BM saddle would leave most frustrated and disheartened.
From the Frasco BM Frech Mtn saddle we descended loose rock and sand to the Iron Mike mine
We got back to camp at 1:30, ate brats and prepared for the henious (for my small SUV) drive down to FS110. With more help spotting and by being extra careful I managed to not scrape any rocks on the way down. I won't ever take it on that road again, bring your bigger 4x4s on that road.
Recrossing Halfmoon Creek the Santa Fe intact (luckily)