| North Star - Hoosier-daddy Pass
Why hello there, my name is King Vomit XIII . This report will be short & sweet, a good overview of the snow conditions during this warm spell Colorado is facing. This past weekend was pretty straightforward, Saturday was spent with a few hours of daylight to do a quick little scurry up Twin Sisters Peaks near Estes Park. Fun, short, sweet, virtually dry above treeline, and oh yeah, windier than barf. But Sunday was where a new adventure began.
Longs Peak from Twin Sisters Pks.
I met up w/ Tyler (tdawg012) for a early riser to get to Hoosier Pass. When we got there just after sunrise, we sat in the warmth of the car as the wind was blowing hard on the trees, signaling for what was anticipated to be a miserable hike. An impromptu decision made us venture up the ridge up to the far west summit of North Star Mountain which straddles between the Decalibron & Quandary on the Continental Divide. It was either that or Silverheels, which would've also been new for us, but with the wind blowing from the northwest, we figured it'd be more pleasant having it behind our backs on descent.
From the pass, a plowing up the sledding hill led to the wind-blown ridgeline that we would follow for a few miles to the east summit of North Star. It was pretty straightforward, a rather long tedious chore before taking the approach on a small faint trail that skirted just below the east summit to the south. Staying along the top of the ridge cleared one from that gated area on the road that marked private property. The road from the map led a short distance to the Magnolia Mine, which according to the topo map had an aerial cable connecting to the Magnolia Mill just above Montgomery Reservoir. That mill, long abandoned now, was visible amidst the trees if you looked carefully in the valley.
Bross & Lincoln, our long approach to the east summit, & Quandary at far right.
This initial part of the climb was the coldest and worst. The windchill was around -10, and my camera battery were having a difficult time starting up, which meant I had to heat them up in my pocket for much of the ascent to keep them active. I had rechargables, which are far more durable in cold weather than regular alkaline, but I guess even they can't survive past a certain cold temp. And while the batteries didn't cooperate, I also didn't have any face protection, so the cold wind burned at times, and we surely thought the worst was yet to come at the ridgeline.
As we approached the first summit, we took a side trail that skirted below it, meeting up with the ridge and our first view of the final way to the westernmost true summit. A commanding view of Quandary and Lincoln on opposite sides, the wind-blasted cornice-forming ridgeline made the ascent straightforward and easy. The middle summit was next, where the wind was still howling consistently, though we stayed below the true top of the ridge to avoid the miserable cold. After a few poses at the middle summit, our attention focused back at the final ridge to the true top.
Past the first summit (eastern), approaching the second false one.
Holding the earth up atop the second summit. Wish I was that strong.
Straightforward it was, ridge hopping, mopping, lopping, xopping, yopping, zopping, & chopping as we plocketed to the true summit of North Star. And while Tyler made it to the top far before I did, right at the last 500 feet, the wind suddenly quit blowing and the sun blasted through the weak ozone, giving the warmest grandest feeling ever. Being in the teens with a hard hitting sun was perfect for winter ascents. I was actually warming up as I approached the summit, and that true summit was surely the best part of the ride up.
Atop I made it, a cairn far smaller in size than the one on the east summit. No wind, except for an occasional gust or two, we marveled at the views and epic standpoints we could create. The winter views are far more rewarding and crisp. I generally stay about twice as long on a summit than in the summer, when its pleasant. We thought we were in for windy miserable conditions, but were shocked by how pleasantly calm the true summit was, we took in everything we could see, snapping photos, putting the camera away, then finding ourselves pulling it back out again because we missed something else or a new perspective made a scene photo-worthy. Gauging from the summit register, there was a handful of entries, but it is one peak you could almost guarantee to see no one, at least in the wintertime. Didn't check the summer entries. On Quandary however, I spotted a number of people huddled near the top, and a 48X zoom photo revealed two hardy souls atop Democrat.
The third & true summit, showing Lincoln, Cameron, & Democrat.
Both butt cheeks pretty frozen too, releasing gas was a tedious chore (thought you'd like to know).
Oh there it is! The true summit handstand.
Rockin in the Rockies. Wheeler Lake is frozen snowed over down below.
Across the way was Wheeler Mountain, another adventure soon perhaps. The traverse looked far more exciting from North Star's western summit due to some gnarly obstacles, though on one small high point on the ridge, several mountain goats made their appearance, huddled at the top. There was about 11 of them, & I immediately had my camera poised on them, reminiscing my Grays/Torreys ascent where two of them proudly banging about a dozen times. On this ridge, 11 of them meant there was a 550% more likely chance I'd catch them banging each other than my luck on Grays Peak. But no, in ten minutes time all they did was just stand there boring themselves as they gave their huffing noises. Aw come on, no need to be shy! Geez.
Eleven goats I counted here, and unlike my Grays/Torreys hike, not a single one of them started banging. So disappointed by these goats.
Wheeler Mountain & the ridges northwards.
Capitol & Daly make a splendid appearance.
I wouldn't say this peak had the best of views, though it sure revealed a lot of jagged spires of the Mosquitoes and Tenmiles up close. Lincoln dominated much of the south, as well as distant Democrat at the upper end of the basin. Quandary was directly to the north, where we could see dots of other climbers huddled at the summit. The surrounding peaks from the true summit were precariously placed in a manner to where you really couldn't see many other 14ers in other ranges, such as those in the Sawatch. I did get an edge-glimpse view of one of my favorites, Capitol, sticking up like an isolated tooth, along w/ Daly to the right. But views of higher terrain elsewhere were limited.
Eventually we left the summit, even though we didn't want to. This was pleasant hiking weather as the wind dramatically stopped on the ridge. The middle summit we hit, then decided to just make it to the east summit to see the view from there. A few more photos, we glissaded down our first snow bank a few hundred feet, landing hard in some of the weaker depressions before sliding into rocks.
Looking back at the second summit on our way down.
Looking to the far eastern summit.
Aw screw it, let's just tackle the eastern summit.
The nearly dry Blue Lakes below all the way up to Quandary.
Our slow descent down, and a good mile or so down I suddenly realized I left my hiking stick at the top of the east summit. Crapola! Well, I guess it was looking to abandon me at some point or another. I found it in the Oregon woods and shaved it, capping the bottom w/ a red shotgun shell that had worn away over the hikes. I had it for eight good years, guess I'll have to scout for a new one to polish up.
We looked forward to some fun glissading, especially near the road at the gated area. Some fun rides down that knocked a good 1,500 feet just like that. Our last spot was the small sliding hill right near the pass, which turned out to have the worst snow to glide down. Just couldn't gain anything from all the friction.
At the pass, such a great feeling taking off those bulky hunting boots. Tyler had worn smaller boots w/ his feet wrapped in plastic bags, which made me chuckle after having done a winter ascent in tennis shoes & plastic bags up Parkview Mountain near Granby three years ago, what a ridiculous idea that was.
At the car, we headed down during the setting sun to South Park and curved over for some food at Qdoba in Conifer. Then it was onwards home where I immediately crashed in bed after having been under the weather all along since last Friday, the cold air only feeling good enough to push me to do this kind of hiking when sick.
More just views and winter effect this time around, I know I'll have some more entertaining adventures coming soon when the weather improves. But in the meantime, here's a couple of spherical panoramas from the eastern and western summits. These are in their standard color. I'll admit that I did not see the North Star at all during this ascent, so obviously the person who named this peak was 100% full of sh**.
North Star (west summit)
North Star (east summit)
Ugh, I'm still tired, I'm still sick. And uh oh , I'm suddenly feeling this intestinal discharge ascending rather than descending, so please excuse me while I upchuck! Adios for now, until my next report!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):