Peak(s):  Hoosier Ridge  -  13,352 feet
Red Mtn C  -  13,229 feet
Red Pk A  -  13,215 feet
Silverheels, Mt  -  13,822 feet
Date Posted:  06/29/2020
Date Climbed:   06/27/2020
Author:  daway8
 Hoosier Pass 4-stage workout plan   

While this is a pretty basic and simple route that lacks anything distinctive enough to really warrant a trip report in and of itself, I wanted to highlight the fantastic value of this route as an easily customisable 4 stage workout route that stays above 13k for much of the day. This is what I used it for since this was my second main hike after the restrictions have started to ease up.

In this report you'll find:

  • Breakdown with stats for the 4 optional length routes you can do.
  • Elevation profile of the "big finish" variation that puts Silverheels at the end (as I did).
  • A couple navigational tips (entry/exit to ridge and Silverheels crossover/rib).
  • Enough photos to give a feel for the ridgeline you'll spend most of the trip on.
  • My stats/times.

Sunrise panoramic from up on the ridge.

Customisable Workout Options

The beauty of this route is that, depending on weather and how you're feeling there are at least 4 main breakpoints from which you could stop and still have made the summit of at least one 13er. The numbers below show rough approximations of about what the stats are depending on where you turn around.

Hoosier Ridge only = ~9mi and ~3k elevation gain.

Hoosier Ridge + Red Mountain C = ~10.42mi and >3,800ft gain.

Hoosier Ridge + Red Mountain C + Red Peak A = ~11.8mi and >4,100ft gain.

Hoosier Ridge + Red Mountain C + Red Peak A + Mt. Silverheels = ~16.3mi and just over 6k gain.

In my case I opted to leave Silverheels for the end and only add it on if I was feeling good and the weather looked ok. You could also hit it first and then go for the others but I didn't want to orphan either of the Reds so I figured if there was a peak to be left I would rather come back for Silverheels (a Centennial) later, if need be.

As it turned out I was feeling great by the time I got back to the turnoff for Silverheels and while the weather was starting to look iffy I concluded I had enough time to summit before the storms hit (ended up reaching Silverheels summit just barely after high noon).

The main thing to note about doing the route with Silverheels last - as you can easily see at a glance in the elevation profile below - is that pretty much everything you've done the whole day pales in comparison to the type of elevation gain you face on Silverheels. It's a rough way to end the day but a fantastic way to work on your conditioning/endurance/acclimatization.

Elevation profile illustrating how the gain is mostly getting to the ridge with the big finish of Silverheels at the end.

Gaining the Ridge

The main thing to note about the Hoosier Ridge trail, especially if starting in the dark (as you may well want to do if you're going to go for all 4 peaks on a day with the typical afternoon thunderstorm prediction, unless you're a good bit faster than me) is that the starting point for turning off the 848W road mentioned in Bill's route description is not clearly defined.

However, there isn't really any trail at the starting point but up until you get near the area of interest there isn't really any break in the willows prior to that and if you go much beyond it the willows start up again.

In the daylight this turning point would be pretty obvious but under cover of darkness you'll likely to think like I did 'Um, is this where I start uphill? Am I am going to get stuck in another batch of willows here?' (I was having flashbacks to my recent Grey Wolf trek from Guanella Pass where I went slightly off trail at the critical entry point to the willow field).

Having a GPS out can add a little comfort under cover of darkness but it's hard to go significantly wrong - especially if you check out the pictures towards the end of this report.

One way to have a little extra assurance that you're on the right ridge once you eventually get up (if you don't have a GPS on hand) is that you should quickly come across a couple wind breaker rock piles.

Wind breaker rock pile near where you first top out on the ridge.

The Ridgeline

After that you'll have a long series of ups and downs. Though it might be tempting to try to skip the humps, in my opinion the sides were steep enough on most of these that it was less bothersome to just go up and down over these than to try to pick your way along steep loose rocks on the sides.

One curious thing to note is that at a few different points along the way there are little 'craters' of various sizes - some big enough to fit several people into. Given how barren and exposed much of the ridge is I suppose in a pinch, if you got caught in a thunderstorm on the ridge, dropping into one of these various foxholes might be your best option for waiting out the storm.

One of several 'craters' along the ridge.

Another curious thing to note is the presence of what I'll dub "chunnels" all over the place. It wasn't always clear to what extend these features where channeling from snow/water runoff vs. tunnels from some sort of gopher-like critter, thus my term chunnels. It can make it slightly annoying to walk on since the ground is soft and squishy in these areas.

Example of the "chunnels" all over the place.

The terrain switches back and forth between the ground with chunnels and rocky terrain with sometimes small, other times larger rocks. Nothing near as big as say the Boulder Field on Longs but there are a couple little sections that give you some good rock hoping practice.

Example of variable terrain on the ridge. This is one of the smaller rock sections.

Depending on when you start, this ridge line offers all sorts of sunrise photo ops with various humps and such in the foreground. I hiked quickly up and down a couple as the sun came up to get different views.

Another example of the terrain and elevation gains/losses.

Funky cairn at sunrise - almost looks like a mouth off to the right...

As the elevation profile near the start of the report shows, there's relatively little gain/loss along the ridge as compared to gaining the ridge or doing Silverheels but those little humps aren't trivial, especially as the day wears on.

A view later in the day of some of the ups and downs along the ridge.

Hoosier Ridge

I didn't research this hike to the extent of many I've done in the past so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect when I got near the three 13ers near the end of the ridge. I was afraid Hoosier Ridge would be a lame dud with a couple puny humps to either side but it was actually more visually impressive than I expected, with Read Peak A (unranked) being, as expected, the least impressive but still worthy of note.

Hoosier Ridge in the middle with Red Mountain C on the left and Red Peak A on the right.

Red Mountain C

After a straightforward stroll up Hoosier Ridge I decided to go for Red Mountain C next. I was a little concerned by a band of snow blocking the route. It was hard to judge exactly how large/steep it was from a distance but I decided surely I could find some way to deal with it either with my microspikes or rerouting or whatever.

View of Red Mountain C from Hoosier Ridge. Note the snow band wrapping over the ridge midway over.

Turns out I didn't even feel the need to put on my microspikes because there were enough steps kicked into the snow already that it wasn't an issue, even though it is fairly steep here. The snow was pretty hard when I got there a little after 7am but already starting to get a little soft an hour later when I headed back and sank in at the top. If doing a full winter climb this is an area that could create some challenge but at this point it wasn't really a problem. This band was near roughly 13,040ft.

Closer view of the snow band. You would have had to go 100ft or more to the right to loop around on steep loose terrain.
Closer view after my descent on the return. Steep with loose rock at the top but not a significant hurdle. This is at ~13,040ft.

Red Mountain C provides a great vantage point for gathering some intel on the large string of 13ers/14ers to the west.

View from Red Mountain C looking west to Quandary (far left) and Pacific Peak (sharp point left of center) along with other 13ers.

Red Peak A

From Red Mountain C it was easy to bypass Hoosier Ridge on the north to cut over to Red Peak A, although there was one snowfield which almost blocked the shortcut.

Red Peak A as seen from Hoosier Ridge. There are a couple mini cliff bands seen as shadows.

Looking back at Hoosier Ridge and Red Peak A while returning from Red Mountain C. Groove leads to snow field left of Hoosier.
Closer view of the snow field shows you can go up over it.

The snowfield on the north side of Hoosier Ridge was quite large and had some significant exposure - definitely not a place I'd recommend going out onto without traction, but thankfully it was easy to hop up over by going partway up Hoosier Ridge on terrain that was rocky and slightly loose but not too bad.

After that point there are a couple tiny little cliff bands on the path over to Red Peak A. Either aim for the center openings if you don't want to mess with them or just pick your favorite spot if you want to throw in a little scramble to the day. These bands average in height only about 2 to 10 feet depending where along the ridge you are. Near the center tends to be the easy walk through points.

View looking over to Red Peak A - shadows highlight the mini cliff bands.
Easy walk up opening in one of the mini cliff bands near the center of the ridge. Looks big in this photo, actually perhaps 2-10ft high.
View of some more of the mini cliff bands.
View from Red Peak A looking out to Pikes Peak in the far distant center.

Mt Silverheels

If you're saving Silverheels for last it's probably not a bad idea to scope out the route as you pass by so you'll know where to turn when you come back (that turn - together with the initial turn to get up on the ridge - are the two main spots where it might help to have GPS to confirm you turn at the right spot).

There are different options to go up Silverheels. At first I was going to go up the least steep rib to the far right but after bumping into someone coming down I was convinced to take the next rib over. It's steeper but shorter and once you get a little ways up it has a trail that stays more or less semi-well defined.

Arrow points to the rib that has a trail going up it.

The electrical towers give a great landmark to aim for to get you started in the right direction. After that your rib options become more apparent.

The less steep, grassy looking rib to the right requires you to drop down a good bit more and swing out way too far away to the right (away from the summit).

The steeper rib to the left can be gotten onto without dropping down as much. Though it's rocky and steep near the top, there's a halfway decent trail in that section. Perhaps a bit Bross-like overall but not quite as bad.

NOTE: You DON'T have to go over the top of the hill between the electrical towers and the ribs - just circle around to get to the rib.

View after starting towards Silverheels. Aim for the electrical towers then circle around the hump to reach the rib.
Pass under the electrical tower.
Rib to right of snow V has a big drop to get to it. Left rib is steeper and rockier but has a trail in the upper section.
Example of a portion of the trail on the left rib.

As is often the case, the trail tends to be more obvious on the way down, except that the starting point is hard to find both from below and above.

Looking back down the left rib with a couple hikers below for scale (together below right of center). This is a long steep climb.
View from Silverheels summit.

On the way back down I almost forgot to not go over the hump before the electrical poles (it's not huge but who needs extra elevation gain at this point in the day?). Then I went under the wires and up the rib.

You'll see in the GPS tracks that I then tried to cut left to shorten the return - in retrospect I may have been better off sticking with the ridge top until I was closer to the turn but it's not a huge difference either way.

Coming back to the towers.

The Return

Upon getting back up onto and then reaching the end of the ridge I could see now in the daylight that there was a faint trail going down into the valley for a ways.

Faint trail drops down and to the right.

While going down I looked over to the SW slopes of Red Mountain C and saw a really odd looking 'melted' treeline - or I guess maybe vegetation line since I'm not sure there are trees up there. I'm assuming this is some weird interplay of mild avy activity shoving debris down and then providing an abundant water source for things to grow strong at the border? (As opposed to bigger run zones where it just rips through everything...).

Funky 'melted' / 'dripping' vegetation line on SW slopes of Red Mountain C.

As you drop down into the valley the trail fades out more and more. At that point you just aim for the radio tower and look for the big broad opening in the willows where you hang a left and drop down to the road, then turn left on the road and follow it back to Hoosier Pass.

Drop down towards the radio tower and turn left in the big opening in the willows.
Then follow the road back to Hoosier Pass.

There were only a couple other vehicles that overnighted at the pass but plenty when I got back at a quarter till 3. A light snow started just after I got to my Jeep.

Back at Hoosier Pass at a quarter to 3.

My Stats/Times

For a breakdown of each segment with mileage and gains, see the section near the top of the report.

Total mileage: ~16.3 miles

Total gain: ~6,003ft

Total time: 11h 34min

Average moving speed: 1.7mi/hr

3:12am early start to try to beat the storms

4:23am reach 1st rock cairns near start of the ridge

4:31am first large wind break rock pile

4:34am dropping in elevation

4:38am top of next hump; stop for a break

4:53am moving again

5:10am at turnoff point for Silverheels - note location then continue on

5:18am hump past turnoff

5:30am next hump

5:44am another hump (this one with the funky faced rock cairn - see photo near end of The Ridgeline section)

5:53am a mini hump

5:54am another mini hump...

6:17am last big hump before Hoosier - take a 10 minute break at the wind breaker pile

6:43am Hoosier Ridge

7:10am at Red Mtn C snow band

7:28am summit Red Mtn C

7:48am descend, head over to Red Peak A

8:07am Red C saddle

8:19am passed over top of snowfield on north side of Hoosier

8:30am 2nd mini cliff band going to Red A

8:41am summit Red Peak A

8:55am return

9:21am Hoosier Ridge again

9:33am top of big hump

9:57am back at the funky face sunrise cairn

10:14am at the turnoff - feeling good, weather more or less holding. Decide to go for Silverheels

10:35am at power lines

10:45am left saddle low point (a little over 12,400ft)

11:45am hit ridge, turning left

12:02pm Silverheels summit

12:25pm wind really picking up, rain on horizon, time for hasty descent

1:01pm saddle low point (~12,400ft)

1:14pm power lines

1:45pm back on main trail on ridgeliine

2:09pm descend off ridge

2:46pm back at the Jeep at Hoosier Pass

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 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 32 33 35 36

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