| North Ridge from Clear Creek
Three of us arrived at the trailhead Friday afternoon. The road up is in good 4WD shape, no issues with high-clearance vehicles (4-Runner). We chose Saturday to hike because of the great weather report, and it didn't disappoint. Plenty of camping spots this early in the season. Parking was level enough to sleep in truck. 6:40am start time gave us plenty of sweet light to shoot photos by. I'd heard Huron was one of the prettiest 14ers to climb, and I heard right. We huffed it up at a strong pace, stopping for photo ops. Topped out at 9:30. I figure our hiking time was around 2.5 hours.
Trail up is in good shape; very easy to follow. Steep grade (I love gaining altitude quickly; it feels more like climbing even though we're on a trail). 3500' in around 3.5 miles is a great workout if you push it.'' The snow field I'd read about a couple of weeks prior ("200 yards of post-holing") was virtually gone. No spikes needed, though melt water had frozen on parts of the trail, making it slippery.
Oh, and that creek crossing a couple of previous reports made a big deal of? I was assuming it'd be higher with all the new melt. But it was just a hop over. Well, one man's raging torrent is another's splish-splash. At least that early. Maybe later in the day it grows.
Views up are stunning. Some of the best I've seen, making this one of my two fave "easy" 14ers (the other being Quandary's west ridge). The Apostles were nicely snow-covered and beautiful (another reason I picked this part of the season to go up). Usually, I don't stop much going up because I want the training, but we stopped often to shamelessly gape. Once we reached the summit, some nice fleecy clouds appeared, but, prior to then, the sky was cloudless. Wind wasn't much of an issue either. Thank you, weather gods.''
I did notice that, on the final ascent, there are some user-made trails up. People, there are wonderful folks who devote amazing time and effort to building and maintaining trails. PLEASE find and use the one they made for you. The main one is truly excellent; just take the time to spot it.
Since the weather was so nice, we hung out at the summit for maybe 45 minutes, clowning around and taking pictures. Since one of our party was a very good-looking young woman (and I'm a 60-year-old photographer) I spent some time shooting her...a delightfully-willing subject (though perhaps not quite as patient as those large, grey rocks opposite our peak).
We went down exactly the wrong way: straight down the southwest flank of the mountain. Which is a 45-degree, 2000' unstable talus and scree slope. It sucked. Why did we go that way? Because, ahem, one of our party decided to just do it (he misinterpreted another hiker's directions) and it was either follow to keep an eye on him or abandon him. Which I won't do; that's contrary to my climbing ethic. One of the strongest hikers I know broke his knee in his own driveway this winter, proving that it's easier to hurt yourself than you think. So, even though we had radios (and, oh yes, I expressed my dislike of his decision), down we went.
We found a broad avalanche gully that had some softer stuff, and sometimes did the "dirt glissade" of controlled rock slide. What fun! And my new climbing pants, so sadly (cue violins)'' no longer unblemished (REI Endeavor, $109, I love 'em -- especially when there's a 25%-off sale. http://www.rei.com/product/843371/rei-endeavor-convertible-pants-mens-32-inseam). Anyway, Our errant route-finder realized it sucked a short way down and we joined back up. I was very happy to find a patch of tundra grass to walk part way down on. The way we SHOULD have gone, to make a loop out of it, was to continue SE on the Huron ridge to a saddle, and taken the not-so-fall-on-your-ass way down. I packed up my poles in favor of leather gloves less than halfway down. The slope was bloody unstable.
Once we reached the basin, at a side creek that runs into Clear Creek, we followed it out (hoping to fairly-quickly run into the old mining trail people use to get to the Apostles). No such luck. We bushwacked until the side creek made a gorge, a sign it was close to joining Clear Creek. Then we found the trail and walked out on the relatively flat valley bottom. Which was very pretty. Flowers are starting to pop out. And the weather held beautifully. Dang. Great first 14er of the year. Dunno how I missed it 'til now.
Next time I go back, I'm headed for the Apostles. They look fun!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):