Peak(s):  Jackson, Mt  -  13,670 feet
PT 13,433  -  13,433 feet
Date Posted:  10/03/2017
Date Climbed:   09/26/2017
Author:  SnowAlien
 Mt Jackson Duathlon  

Date: September 26, 2017
Distance: ~ 21 miles RT
Elevation gain: ~6,600 ft
Time: ~14 hours
TH: public parking garage at Beaver Creek

I've been looking at Mt Jackson for couple years now and felt a bit intimidated - 21 miles RT? As a backpack, it seemed doable, but what about a day-trip? After staring at a MTB Project app for awhile, I determined there were a few mountain biking trails going in the direction of Beaver Lake. Of course, mountain biking is not allowed in Holy Cross Wilderness, but maybe I could shave 5-6 miles off the total Mt Jackson mileage, making it a bit more palatable? The last couple miles just before the trailhead are always seem to be the toughest for me and buzz-killing. I waited for a good weather day, and finally it was a go time. I woke up at 4 am and drove to Beaver Creek After getting some coffee, breakfast and snacks at a gas station, I found the parking structure (it's free to park in the summer), got my pack ready, stuffed the trekking poles in the pack and took off on a bike by 7.15 am, shortly after sunrise. This would be my 2nd peak ever where I used the bike for the approach (the first one was Paiute from still-closed Brainard lake TH in June'16, but it was on a paved road, and I also had skis on my back). It took me a little bit to figure out which trail to take, but once I saw the sign for Beaver Lake trail, I took it. Dally trail (a dirt road) would be probably a slightly better choice. I regretted bringing the bike almost immediately - biking with a full pack (I forgot to bring the Steripen, so had to go with 2 liters of water), heavy bike lock, poles and in hiking clothes felt uncomfortable. I started sweating profusely, but once I stopped to catch a breath (which was frequent), I was shivering. I just couldn't figure out my layers. After a mile of this torture, I settled into almost a rhythm, as the trail seemed to be of a gradual uphill. I had to gain 1,000 ft within 2.5 miles, and it seemed to be taking forever. At about 9,200 feet the trail got a bit tougher, and I reasoned that I might be going down in the dark, and decided it won't be worth it to persevere any longer. GPS read 0.6 miles from the HCW boundary, close enough. Since I didn't haul the bike lock for nothing, I used it to lock the bike to a large tree and finally free from it, took off uphill. The pack weight immediately felt reasonable, the layers made sense, and settling into a comfortable rhythm, I started to dry out. On a luxurious trail, miles started to pile up. I was back in my element. I reached the Turquoise lakes a bit past 11 am, or 4 hours and 7 miles after leaving the parking lot (first hour+ was struggling uphill on a bike). From Benners' TR description, I easily identified the key steep gully unlocking the upper ridge.

Upper Turquoise lake

Holy Cross Ridge

Finnegan, Gold Dust and Pika

The ridge up Mt Jackson

From there, the 2 mile long talus-tundra slog, took me to the final bit of the summit ridge. The front row views of Finnegan, Gold Dust and Pika quickly elevated them to the top of the list for the next summer scramble. As expected, there was a little bit of snow past 12k, but it wasn't creating major issues, and I decided not to bother with the microspikes. A final bit with a few class 3 moves, if you stay on the top of the ridge, was taking a bit longer than was budgeted, but I finally topped out 7 hours after leaving the car.

Class 3 section on the ridge

I didn't see the register, but the geologic marker was there

After a quick snack, I was off to UN 13,433 by 2.30 pm. The traverse took another 45 minutes. After another short summit stay, I finally started heading back towards the bike. Despite the forecast, the weather strangely started to look threatening, but thankfully in the opposite direction from where I was heading. After eating more energy snacks, I cleared the final 600 ft uphill and contoured just under the Mt Jackson summit @4.30 pm to avoid the temptation to spend even more time there. I refilled my depleted water supply with fresh snow.

Class 2 ridge to UN 13,433

The summit @3.15 pm

Mt Jackson from UN 13,433

Heading down the ridge

Evening shadows

Upper Turquoise lake

The slog down the ridge seemed to take as long as coming up, and I was counting minutes of the remaining daylight. I got to the upper Turquoise lake at 6.20 pm, and tried to get as many miles as I could (that was 3) before I had to don the headlamp. Have you tried counting more than a couple of miles when you're tired after a long day? It gets so confusing. In the last mile, I started worrying about the bike - what if the marmots chewed on the tires? what if somebody stole it, despite the lock? could I even locate it in the dark? What if I get a flat tire? (I didn't bring a spare to save on weight). Thankfully, around 8.15 pm the bike was located, as good as before. This was my second time riding the bike in the dark, and I immediately realized how much fun it was. My first time was in Bend, Oregon this spring (between skis of Shasta and Mount Hood). I did a bit longer loop in Phil's trail complex than I should, and I was in the dark, a bit lost, with 3% phone battery remaining, with no headlamp, and it was raining. Let's just say it wasn't a good time. This time it was different. Although I couldn't really see the foliage, I could hear it under the tires. Instead of Dally, I decided to take the hard-earned singletrack down, I was just hoping to avoid crashing. First I took the Village-to-Village trail (green), and then Stack it (blue) down to the garage. I had a huge smile the whole way down that section. How I wish that every hike would end with a fast downhill. Ummm. Oh wait...

As with skiing, don't believe the grade inflation at Vail Resorts - it was a blue-green trail

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

 Comments or Questions

Great report...
10/03/2017 12:24 one of my favorite areas! Nice job getting it in a day


Awesome Beta...
10/03/2017 16:05
...I'm for the backpacking style for this duo though. I've been planning it since I hiked up to Beaver Lake a few years ago. This report helps fill in most of my questions regarding the lakes & upper route. Thank you!


Sweet stuff
10/03/2017 16:39
Nice job, Natalie. What a great area it is back there.


Theme of the Day
10/04/2017 09:08
I couldn't help but notice you used the term "slog" multiple times referring to the walking portion but mentioned a "huge smile" while on your bike. Coincidence? I think not

Just kidding (kinda), it looked like a great day.


Beautiful area
10/04/2017 09:08
I eyed Jackson from Holy Cross this summer and thought it would be a fun one! Is it pretty easy to figure out which parking structure to use for free access?


10/04/2017 15:45
Long, tough day. But sure looks like it was worth it. Not sure I could do 21 miles anymore - especially with 6600 vert. Great, great job.

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