| Lackawanna from Lackawanna Gulch
September 12, 2009
"Lackawanna Peak" (13,823')
Hikers: Carson Black & Darin Baker
Trailhead: North Lake Creek Trailhead
Approach: Lackawanna Gulch
Routes: North ridge
Distance: ~7.25mi RT (roundtrip)
Elevation Gain: ~3100'
Gear: daypack w/Essentials
Resources Used for Trip Planning: Jennifer & Gerry Roachs' Colorado's Thirteeners guidebook, Trails Illustrated map #127, and additional route information provided by our friend Cathy McKeen
Out of the Top 100 highest peaks in Colorado, twenty-seven of them reside in the Sawatch Range. The first peak I hiked in the Sawatch was 14er Mount Antero in 2002.
I finished the 14er's in this range in September of 2006, with a "massive mania" hike of Mount Massive.
I also hiked several of the 13er's in the area along the way; but the bulk of them came in 2008 with climbs of Hope, Casco, Oklahoma, French, Emerald (& soft ranked Iowa), and Cronin. However, I was still "lacking" one peak in the Sawatch to finish off the range.
"Lackawanna Peak," its unofficial name, presumably "named" after the gulch on its northern side, sits north of Hwy 82 and on the east side of Independence Pass. I've driven by it several times this summer, so finally I thought it was time to make the stop and hike this peak. Plus, I wanted visit the Sawatch Range anyway.
Carson and I planned this weekend to nab my last Sawatch centennial, and the next day we would hit a bicentennial on his list. Coincidentally, Carson was with me when I finished the 14er's in this range.
I also asked Cathy McKeen if she wanted to join us, but unfortunately Cathy couldn't get away for either day. However Cathy gave Carson and me some good information on our approach for Lackawanna that proved to be very useful. Hence the reason I will try to give some detail in this trip report, since the route description in Roachs' book can be a little confusing.
The Hike of Lackawanna
We drove to the trailhead the night before, sleeping in Carson's VW Westfalia van, which is a sweet set-up for car-camping!
We set out from our "camp" at 6:30am.
Trailhead (Picture taken later in the day.)
Shortly after leaving the trailhead, we headed northeast in search of a stream crossing that Roach describes in the guidebook.
Shortly after leaving the TH, turn right (NE) at this boulder onto a faint single track that leads to a cobblestone like trail.
The cobblestone trail will lead to the stream crossing, which at this time of year wasn't a problem.
Cross this stream, and take the right turn.
After the stream crossing, we passed a two-seater outhouse, and then the old road veers to the left.
The road switch-backs up through the forest, as is mentioned in the guidebook and it's easy to follow.
Although along the road there're a few "older" turn-offs, but the key is to stay low and continue in the direction of the gulch. Keeping a map & compass handy is helpful.
Go left here, which continues to take you E/NE in the direction of Lackawanna Gulch.
Eventually, we needed to leave the road and follow a trail. But the trail wasn't obvious to us at first. We followed our intuition instead and stumbled onto the trail!
We went straight here, where the road switchbacks to the right (south).
To the right of the last picture, we later found cairns marking the trail…
The good trail that leads to a couple of collapsed cabins.
Follow the trail east until you come across two collapsed log cabins. Go to the second structure and continue E/NE through the forest on a faint trail.
(Note: there's a cairn at the second cabin, which marks "a trail" that goes south and higher into the forest, but this is where Cathy suggested we go east beyond the cabin for a better route. Cathy did both routes, the one I'll try to describe here was the better one, or so she thought.)
This is the second cabin; from here continue beyond it and through the trees in the center of photo.
The trail through the forest (after the cabin) is short, and the goal is to reach a talus slope for the next part of the route.
The exit from the forest, looking E/SE. (Picture taken later in the day.)
The talus slope is obvious, and it's also fairly stable and easy talus to walk on. It's surrounded by willows, but there're game trails through it, some good, some not.
Once on the western edge of the talus, do an ascending traverse across the talus with an E/SE bearing.
Do an E/SE ascending traverse across this talus slope.
Once above the talus slope, we found a strong game trail leading through the willows that brought us to more open terrain in the right (southern) branch of Lackawanna Gulch.
Carson leading the way E/SE into Lackawanna Gulch.
Continue into the gulch on mellow open terrain, heading towards the distant ridgeline that runs N to S.
The direction of travel will naturally trend to the SE around steeper terrain.
Eventually, the gulch turns south and there're options as to where to go.
In the following picture, staying in the drainage works, as does staying higher (looker's right) on the grassy slope. Either way will start to contour SW towards the saddle used to reach the north ridge.
The south trending gully leading to the saddle used for the upper part of the route.
A look at the slope leading to the saddle.
Carson went up the black rock on the left of the snow field, and I went up the right side of the snow.
Carson's route was slightly steeper on okay rock/talus, and my route was loose dirt/rock. Earlier in the season, going up the snow (with an ice axe) would be my preferred route.
A look down on the slope used to reach the saddle.
From the saddle, it's an easy hike south across tundra and some rock to gain the summit.
The views also open up from here.
A look to the north, (l. to r.) with Mount Oklahoma, all of Mount Massive, "Frasco," French Mountain nestled between the former and latter, and Casco Peak (in the foreground far right).
I reached the summit at 9:35 and finished on a nice but very short class 3 section.
Carson on the class 3 finish. (Optional, there‘s a class 2 way up.)
Me and Carson on the summit.
The weather was an interesting mix on this hike.
We would be in the clouds at times with spitting snow, and other moments we would have blue skies and sunshine overhead!
All with very little wind, even on the summit!
We left the summit at 10:05, and retraced our route back to the trailhead.
We got back to the van at 12:25pm.
Roughly a 6hr tour, which turned out to be a nice hike; after all, it's a Roach "classic!"
Hindsight & Personal Notes
With the combination of Cathy's advice, Roachs' description, and our own instinct, the route finding wasn't too difficult. The landmarks Cathy told us to look for (e.g., cabins & the talus slope) certainly helped us. Without those known landmarks to look for, I think the hike would be hit and miss if we were following Roachs' description alone.
Either way, this was a nice "fall" hike. Yes, it's still officially summer, but it felt like fall.
We started the weekend out with a questionable weather forecast, but with the route we were doing, it wouldn't be a big deal if there was snow on it.
Besides, you can't always believe the forecast! Sometimes you need to go and see what Mother Nature will actually deliver; and in our case, it was an interesting mix that still allowed us to summit!
Thanks for reading,
The map above is our approximate route, for the ascent and descent.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):