Taking the High Road: Hope and Quail from Willis Gulch

The view east along Lake Creek from the Willis Gulch TH.

In the state of Colorado, the word “Spring” can have many meanings. For my neighbors on Eliot Street, it means they can finally come out of their homes, sit on their porches, and wonder where I could possibly be off to next. For the friends I travel these hills with, it’s the season they’ve been waiting for all year, a time to strap on the planks and ski until the snow turns to grundle in mid to late June. For others, it’s straight up couloir season. And believe it or not there are actually people who just like to snowshoe. I’m not sure I fit into any of these categories, but I always do love this time of year. Even more so this year than most, despite some of my recent solo nerd raging snowshoe grumblings! This spring was undoubtedly a snowy adventure, the beer always tasted good, the weather was guaranteed to be inaccurate, and the excellent company in the backcountry made each and every weekend something to look forward to. However, with all that said I may or may not have thrown my snowshoes into oncoming traffic last weekend, which brings us to this latest write-up!

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Casco Peak from Echo Canyon

The French Group: Casco Peak (L), Frasco Benchmark, and French Peak (R).

Casco Peak is a Centennial 13er located in the northern Sawatch Range. It is the 69th highest peak in the state of Colorado, sitting just to the west of Mount Elbert and southwest of French Peak. The peak itself is often climbed with French Peak (13,940 ft. – ranked) and Frasco Benchmark (13,786 ft. – unranked) as seen in the picture above. It is easily and most often accessed from the Halfmoon Creek TH near the Mount Massive TH, but there are several routes in all directions that enable you to choose your own adventure.

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April Showers Bring May Blizzards: Winter on Hallett

Zambo approaching the Continental Divide. Mother nature has other ideas.

It’s been quite a whirlwind of weather, outings and new climbing partners since getting back into the full swing of things. East Partner in the the Gores, New Mexico’s high point, Silverheels, Hagar, “The Citadel”, and a Crystal outing never to be spoken of again, just to name a few, and all within the past month or so. With another cataclysmic weekend weather forecast, and a “ski” trip to the Elks and/or the Gores not exactly safe or logistically possible without a long wait at the car for that guy on his snowshoes, Zambo and I decided it was best to stay close to home and hit the Park. Thoughts of Taylor Peak from Bear Lake danced in our heads. Along the way we could take in the views from Flattop, Hallett and Otis.  It had the makings to be a great morning if we could just get that small weather window that had been forecast for Saturday AM. After much thought, we left for the Park and decided we’d get up to the Divide and play the rest by ear based on conditions. At the very least it would be time well spent getting to know the Zambino and there is technically no such thing as a bad day in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Traversing Trail Ridge

Trail Ridge Road, Never Summer Mountains
The view southwest along Trail Ridge Road near Iceberg Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, with more than 10+ miles lying above 11,000 feet. Contrary to popular belief, the entire road is actually always “open”. You just can’t bring your car with you from October through June. With the absence of a motorized vehicle and the addition of snowshoes, even an easy peak, one just a half mile off of the road like “Trail Ridge”, becomes quite a feat. Scot drew up the plan. It included 3 ranked peaks that would make any driveaneer drool in the summer. While Scot was certainly up to the task, I was unsure if I had it in me after sitting in a chair for 3 months, but knew I had to give it a go. Fast forward to Friday and we both found ourselves standing at the gate at Many Parks Curve ready to put in some miles.

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