Monday, July 6, 2009

06.26.09 - Fossil Ridge Wilderness Area

Friday June 26th 2009

Location: Fossil Ridge Wilderness Area, Gunnison County, Colorado

Start: 7:18 am

End: 1:20pm

Clyde, Shangi, Gloria and myself made a successful summit attempt on Henry Mountain (13,254 ft.) We left the Gold Creek Campground, just outside the wilderness area at 7:18 am on the Mill Lake Trail, towards the Mill Lake. After an hour of hiking, 2.5 miles and 1,541ft. of rise we had reached the lake. After speculating what the wheather was going to do, we pressed on and traversed the north-east ridge of the Mill Gulch to the flank of an unnamed summit of 12,444 ft. From this point we treked towards Fossil Mountain, on the ridge and took some shots.

Shangi looking at Mill Lake

12,444 ft.

Mill Lake

From this point we hiked towards the summit of Fossil Mountain (12,749 ft.) in clear weather. By the time we had made the summit, the wind was picking up and we were unable to spend a desired amount of time on the summit. After crossing the peak to the north-west ridge towards Square Top Mountain (12,985 ft.) We had crossed into lower terrain, protecting our self from the black storm clouds above. The plan was to cross the lower western section of Square Top, connecting to the saddle of Henry.

The Lamphier Lakes drainage from the top of Fossil Mountain

From this vantage point, we had a great view into the Crystal Creeks headwaters. A place very far from human disruption, that is known for elk habitat. As we traverse, we heard an elk bugle. We all stopped and looked west into the drainage and saw a massive herd (40 -50) of elk just at timberline. With each dog surveying the ground below, we watched for a minute or two and took a weather forecast. All dogs with one paw in the air, I could tell they were ready to trek on. As we approached Henry the clouds were getting darker and moving faster, than when we had been on Fossil. As I approached the flank of the mountain, I sat down to wait for a cloud to pass off the top of Henry to make a summit. Clyde jumping around after the high pitched sound of marmots in the talus homes. After a short 5 minutes, the weather cleared and we pressed to the summit of Henry Mountain. With a clean, dry summit we were all able to enjoy some water and treats. Not for long did the weather throw sunshine at us, the wind pushed a dark cloud at our eye level from the west, forcing us off the summit. by the time we had gotten back to the saddle, the wind was heavy and the rain had started.

View from Henry Mountain (13,254 ft.)

Making the final push over Square Top Mountain, in the storm to reach the saddle of Square Top & Bronco Mountain, which is the Gunsight pass, a connection for the South Lottis Creek and Lamphier drainage. Climbing down the class 3 ridge to Square Top was only difficult due to the slickness of the talus. On one rock, making our way down there was a narrow footing, which Clyde, Shangi and myself made easily, but not Gloria. She sat on the rock crying. Shangi runs back over the rock she is afraid of to her and slowly walks back over the rock and looks over his shoulder to her, with a look of "this is how you do it". She walked slowly after that. I always find the dogs interacted with each other so interesting. Once we had reached timberline in the Lamphier lakes drainage, it went from raining to pouring. the loudest thunder struck and sent Shangi into a tail-tucked scamper. With a fast hike into the woods to get some shelter from the storm, we passed a flooded Lamphier lake. The trail was flooded from the lake and required hillside navigation to the lower section of the trail. Once on the 4.5 mile trail back to the Gold Creek Campground, Clyde and Gloria went missing for 3 -5 minutes. I whistle and call their names and continue with Shangi down the trail. When Gloria came running first, I saw her and then heard Clyde. As he trots passed me I see the fresh Porcupine quills in his face.

After removing the quills with my leather-man (which was in the bottom of my pack, and had to remove everything, in turn getting soaking wet....thanks Clyde) We finished the trail in somewhat of high spirits. All in all a good summit of three mountains with three dogs!

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