After attempting this peak back in May and failing to get through the snow, which you can read about here, we tried it again this weekend. It went much, much better.
We slept in the Jeep at the trail head as this is our typical method and it works for a couple of reasons: 1. it’s harder to sleep in when you’re uncomfortable, and 2. you can easily get a really early start. Getting started this early ain’t fun folks, but it achieves one crucial goal: getting back down at least into treeline before the afternoon lightening is likely to strike. Nearly every year, hikers are killed by lightening strikes. In fact, according to the National Lightening Safety Institute, Colorado has one of the highest fatality rates due to lightening strikes between 1990 and 2003 (see this map for more data).
So, the cell phone alarm went off just after 4 in the morning (Mr. Man’s idea – not mine), but we got moving just after 5 and were on the trail by around 5:30. There was a nice morning glow, but the sun wasn’t really up. This was our first view as we were climbing the trail that lead through the trees.
Now, it’s important to note that summer afternoons in Colorado often involve a short thunder and lightening storm. When you’re not hiking, these summer rain showers are a real treat. Just as the afternoon sun starts to make things uncomfortably hot, a little shower and cloud cover comes along to relieve it and we usually have a delightfully cool evening. It’s fantastic. Once a hiker gets above treeline, you can see the difficulty – there are no overhead protections and the hiker is completely exposed to the elements. Here’s a glimpse of treeline:
So, the key is to start out early so you can scamper back below treeline and relative safety. Of course, lightening can still strike, but it’s just not quite as dangerous with a whole bunch of trees around that are taller than you. There you have it.
As we got above treeline and saw the broad valley in front of us, you can see how glaciers used to be here. We saw dozens of low-growing alpine flowers.
They don’t get tall, and the blooms are quite small and delicate. Many of them grow out from under or in between rocks by the trail.
These tiny sunflower-like ones were all facing the sun’s rays, which were just starting to work their way over the peak and into the valley floor.
As we got closer to the base of the peak, we were greeted with a lovely field of wild flowers:
This field was lush and lovely because of the stream that ran through it:
It was amazing – the first time I’d seen this much water that high. It must have been the Spring run off from the remaining snow, but what a treat those flowers were. We ran into another little flower near the top of the peak … this guy epitomizes the saying ‘grow where you are planted’:
We got to the top and had cookies, juice, some nuts and cheese.
Here’s a shot of the trail on the top:
… and that pink line? That’s where you step over and start climbing down. It’s really rocky and involves a lot of boulder scrambling here and there, but to tell you the truth, this trail was a lot easier to follow than some have been at the top.
Then, we headed back down. I thought I’d show you a couple of shots of the trail, so you can see how it is very well-defined (when not completely buried in snow, of course). These were taken on the way down because it’s just easier to take photos when you’re not struggling to gather oxygen into your lungs:
… and here’s one of the steep stepped areas – this were between the glacier valley and before you enter into the boulder area nearing the top.
The long glacier valley looked just as lovely on the way down:
… and you can see so many surrounding peaks:
As we got to the bottom and neared the Jeep, the darker clouds started gathering:
We were down by 10 a.m. and on the trail home by 10:30, so these clouds were gathering quite early and may or may not have caused trouble for the hikers still on the trail. It’s hard to say, but if you are doing a fourteener, keep an eye on the sky.
P.S. Huron peak is 14,003′ feet high and you can read details about it here.