Peak(s):  PT 13,374  -  13,374 feet
Date Posted:  10/22/2017
Date Climbed:   10/17/2017
Author:  Tornadoman
 13,374- A Long Trip for a Single Unnamed Peak  

One of the advantages of working occasional weekends is the off days during the week that allows. The weather forecast for Tuesday looked perfect for mid-October with mild temperatures and reasonable winds across most of the high terrain. Looking over options I settled on PT. 13,374. Despite numerous summits this summer I hadn't been to the Sawatch since July 4th. I was interested in a long mileage day, and figured an approach from the Colorado Trail via the Harvard Lakes trailhead would make a satisfying outing.

Stats- PT. 13,374
Start- 6:31 A.M.
Summit- 10:45 A.M.
Trailhead- 2:32 P.M.
Distance- 18 Miles

The Colorado Trail starts off steeply from the Harvard Lakes TH but within a mile settles into a gentle terrain (even descending a bit a couple times as I realized on the way out). It was one of those mornings where the sun seemed to rise quickly; it seemed almost pitch dark when I started but a mere 20 minutes later I was putting the headlamp away. A couple miles into my journey I came upon the first snow, which was quite icy from days of freezing and thawing. Soon afterward I reached the Harvard Lakes area which seemed like it would be a great place to see some wildlife (unfortunately none today).

Icy sections

Beautiful Harvard Lake

Views are intermittent along the CT with the Buffalo Peaks to the east providing the most frequent views. I started to zone out and was startled back to reality when a pair of large birds erupted from the side of the trail. These were about twice the size of the ptarmigan I usually see; I don't know if they are unusually large ptarmigan or a different species (I think different species?)

Buffalo Peaks

Cardiac Arrest Inducing Bird

After several miles the trail begins a descent (a bit over 300 feet according to caltopo) toward Frenchman Creek. This entire section was covered in 2 to 6 inches of snow. I donned gaiters to keep snow out of my summer hiking boots, but traction was not necessary on the easy terrain. After crossing Frenchman Creek the snow again became patchy with more dry spots than not.

Solid snow sections

Frenchman creek crossing (taken on descent)

After nearly 2 1/2 hours I reached my preset waypoint where I would leave the trail and bushwhack up the east ridge of PT. 12,890. The bushwhack only last a couple hundred yards and wasn't too bad on the ascent (was a bit tougher on the descent as I was just a bit off from my ascent line and there was more deadfall).

Bushwhack (picture taken on descent)

Breaking treeline I could see smoke from a controlled burn to the east of Buena Vista. This route offers a nice view of Columbia's long east ridge.

Fire east of Buena Vista


Columbia's East Ridge

After cresting a small ridge bump PT 12,890 is finally visible ahead.

Rocky section to ridge bump


And finally, my goal is insight! 13,374 up ahead. Originally I had planned to ascend to PT. 12,890 and take the ridge from there but seeing some steeper snow above me, I decided to traverse across the snow on the face. This was straightforward and I did not use any traction.

Finally the summit is in view!

Snow crossing (picture taken on descent)

Rocky finish to 13,374

Finally I arrived at the summit and enjoyed a nice view of Mt. Harvard. There was a register from 2005 at the summit and I spent several minutes looking through it. I recognized many familiar names; Steve Gladbach, the Kirks, the Finns, Furthermore, Geojed, SarahT and Dominic and several others from past years. There were only 6 names before me for 2017 and some of them were also from well known forum members.

Summit cairn and register

2017 Signatures

The trip down back to the Colorado Trail was fairly uneventful, and soon I found myself back to the CT. I felt that I was making pretty good time, but the 300 foot ascent from Frenchman creek in the snow was tiring and really drained my energy. Even after finishing the consistent snow I still had nearly 6 miles to go.

Loving the views

Back to the CT

I gradually found my rhythm again on the way out, keeping a steady pace but never really pushing it. I enjoyed the views and great weather and slowly but surely the mileage ticked away.

A few CT markers

Mt. Princeton

Buena Vista


Eventually, the seemingly endless trail reached the road and my parking spot. I saw zero other people on the day. I would recommend this route if you want a long but gentle day without many people. (NOTE: The gpx file is an approximation that I made on caltopo).

Happy Trails,

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

 Comments or Questions

10/23/2017 10:38
Looks like a fun day, even with a little bit of bushwhacking.


It's still a mountain
10/24/2017 05:36
...and you climbed it.
Like the report and route info.
I think the heart attack inducer is a grouse, a Dusky Grouse.
Carry on! Cheers


Cardiac arrest
10/24/2017 11:04
Looks like you had a fun day, Andrew! 18 miles - wow.... Did you do it solo? And regarding the cardiac inducing bird - I've had numerous encounters with the ptarmigans that did the same thing to me - especially in winter. I was thinking it was a grouse like Sunny1. And I will defer to her knowledge that it is a Dusky Grouse.


10/26/2017 20:20
MtnMan- Thanks for the comment. Looking at satellite I think maybe I could have avoided the bushwhack if I stayed on the CT another couple hundred yards, as it looked like there might be a clearing there. But honestly it was only like 10 minutes anyway.

Nancy- Thanks for the bird ID. Hope to see you out there sometime soon.

Jay- Yes on the solo part. I seem to encounter ptarmigans more often in winter than summer and it does tend to be a startling good time!

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