After reading Colorado Snow Climbs by Dave Cooper, www.amazon.com/The-Mountaineers-Books-Colorado-Climbs/dp/B00119YVOA Ramsey Ross, Eric Gresse, and I agreed that Fletcher Mtn. looked like a great winter hike so we headed out from Colorado Springs around 6 am and made good time to the Blue Lakes Rd. TH. It was plowed .3 miles from Hwy 9 as is typical for the winter. We parked, and started snowshoeing up the road. It had barely 2-3 inches of snow on the road all the way up to the dam. Some areas were windblown revealing the dirt road. Other spots on the road had some drifts up to 8 inches but easy going the whole way. We used snowshowes but they were probably not needed.
Matt and Ramsey catching a breather just past the dam
We began hiking up the standard SE ridge route from the north side of the dam, doing an ascending traverse from the dam towards the first basin. It was cold, around 15 degrees and got colder as the day went on and the sun was covered by thick clouds and intermittent snow fell around us. We startled a porcupine crossing the snow 15 ft in front of us and watched as he climbed a tree with his quills aiming right at us.
Ascending a snow gully up to the first basin.
We snapped some pics and then finished going up the gully that put us right at the end of the open basin. Looking up the valley towards the Fletcher/Quandary saddle we could see some blue ice on the side of the hill that looked like it might make for a good 1 pitch ice climb. After testing the snow we decided it might be safer to bypass the standard route up the valley to the saddle and instead climb the prominent ridge to the west of us (pt 13,515) due to poor snow conditions. The initial climb up a rocky outcropping was difficult in snowshoes but the slope eased after a 2nd bump to the upper ridge that we took to the Fletcher/Quandary saddle. It was somewhere in this section that I realized my silver Canon camera must have fallen out of its holder on my waist belt. I was totally bummed. Maybe it will show up in the spring. If any good samaritan's are reading this I'd love to get it back.
Several times during the steep climb to get to this ridge slabs 3-6 feet in size would break off at about 6 inches thick and slide. Not a good sign.
A couple of mountain goats along the west ridge.
The ridge to the saddle is very broad and easy to navigate and the slope eases up, then levels, and then descends a bit to the saddle. From the saddle we rejoined the standard SE ridge route to the summit. We dropped the snowshoes here and put on microspikes and experienced 6-8 inches of snow in most places and as we were climbing another inch or so fell. A pair of real crampons would have been better but the microspikes definitely helped.
The sun made brief appearances through the clouds in the all day.
We reached the summit around 1:45 and spent 15 mins on top, and were able to place a cell phone call to the wives to let them know we made the summit. The last ascent noted on the summit register was 12/22/12 and before that were several in September 2012. We retraced our route as the temperatures dropped even more and swirling snow and clouds moved around us. We made it back to the car just before 5 pm, not thinking it would take nearly as long as it did but happy for a successful outing on a peak often overlooked due to being 49 feet shorter than the magical 14,000.
View of Fletcher Mtn. in the distance
Photos courtesy of Eric Gresse.