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 Peak(s):  French Mtn  -  13,940 feet
Frasco BM  -  13,876 feet
Casco Pk  -  13,908 feet
 Post Date:  08/02/2008
 Date Climbed:   08/01/2008
 Posted By:  Jon Frohlich

 French Circuit   

All photos are here:

RT Distance: ~9.7 miles
Vertical gain: 4,044 feet (per Roach)
Time: ~ 8 hours 20 minutes
Climbers: Sue, Bob, Jon, and Roger (Casco only)

Bob, Sue, and I have all been working on the Sawatch centennials and made plans earlier in the week to tackle this ridge run and pick up all 3 at once. I took off the day from work and headed down Thursday night to meet up. Bob was climbing Oklahoma in the evening so Sue and I met up and found a place to car camp at the road junction which is the starting point for this climb. This is a half-mile before the normal North Halfmoon Creek TH for Massive and Oklahoma. Bob had a late night on Oklahoma and finally pulled in to crash next to us around midnight.

We all got up around 5am and Bob agreed to try the creek crossing in his Suburban. The crossing went fine and we were able to drive to the next creek crossing about 1 mile up which is likely only passable by a modified 4wd vehicle. We found a place to park next to another jeep. There is only room for about 3 cars at most and even that would be very tight.

We got going right about 6am and started up. Immediately we had to cross a flimsy log bridge across the creek which I almost managed to fall off and go for an early morning swim. After that we hiked up the endless road and eventually made our way to the Iron Mike Mine. We had some discussion about which mountain was which that was quickly resolved by GPS and map. We headed up the steep grass slopes to the saddle with French and Frasco BM.

Casco from saddle:

After reaching the saddle we had a short easy climb to the summit of French Mountain which we reached at 9:15am. We noted a crowd on top of Elbert a few miles across the valley to the east. We took a break and refueled before heading off to Frasco BM.

Massive from French:

Frasco BM and Casco from French:

Me on French:

The hike over to Frasco BM went quickly. The terrain was easy and there was nothing over easy Class 2. The summit was tiny and there was only enough room for us to stand and take a picture of the benchmark itself. We had to hike off the summit a short distance to sit down and have another snack.

French from Frasco BM:

Casco from Frasco BM:

Bob at this point was feeling his climb of Oklahoma but decided to continue on to Casco. While Sue and I sat down for a brief rest he started down the ridge. The description from Roach mentioned a few towers on the ridge but from what we could see it looked fairly easy. We started down about 10 minutes after Bob. About 2/3 of the way down to the saddle we started to reach the towers that Roach had described. All of these were relatively easy to pass. Most of the easier terrain was on the west but there were multiple options in many cases and it was just a matter of choosing a good looking path.

Frasco BM and French from about halfway down:

We reached the saddle and met up with Roger who had told us he would be up there. He had hiked in from Lackawanna Gulch off HWY 82. He decided to head up to Casco with us first and decide if he was going to climb the other peaks afterwards.

From the saddle the first few hundred feet up Casco are steep but easy. The last 100 feet you can either do some Class 3 up through the boulders or can bypass that on the left and go up a scree gully instead. Sue and I wanted to climb a bit so we picked the direct ascent while Bob and Roger went around. The summit of Casco is a pile of blocks so we all found a place to sit. We hung out on the summit for over 30 minutes because the weather was beautiful.

La Plata from Casco:

Elbert from Casco:

French and Frasco BM from Casco:

After our summit stay we headed down the north side of Casco to a saddle with Bull Hill. This was easy terrain and we reached some grassy slopes that we could use to head back to the road. We reached the road again about 45 minutes after leaving Casco and began the long hike back to the car. The road seemed endless and I commented multiple times that we were doomed to hike the road forever. Every time we came around the corner expecting the car there was only more road. Finally we reached the car just after 2pm. We were exhausted and piled into the car to drive back down.

Absolutely great climb. We never saw anyone else except those on Elbert. The road is long but the valley itself is nice and the wildflowers were blooming nicely.


  • Comments or Questions (1)
Chicago Transplant

Fun loop     2008-08-04 09:00:53
I did this one back in ‘04, great loop. I too had the entire area to myself, thanks for bringing back the memories

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