August 7th, 2011
To paraphrase, as many have, the poet/farmer Robert Baum “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Since last fall I had been developing a plan to make a truly memorable 14er outing to Chicago Basin. I even managed to rope in Doug H and Jon C into my plan. Everything was lining up nicely over the last month. I had talked my wife into letting me take off for 5 days. Doug and Jon were still on board. We began planning equipment, discussing meals. We called to get hotel reservations for the first night in Durango and even got our train tickets. So you can imagine my surprise when I got onto 14ers.com the Wednesday night before we were planning on leaving (Saturday morning) only to see that there had been a major rock and mud slide over the railroad tracks that were to take us into the Chicago Basin area.
Over the next 2 days I got various responses when I called the Durango Silverton train office as to when the train would be running again. With the prospect of a possible 8 hour plus car ride for nothing we decided to postpone the trip for this summer. This left me with 5 open days and no plans. So I scrambled. I dove into Roach's Colorado's Fourteeners to find a replacement. What I came up with was a trip back into the Sawatch Range, to tackle four 14ers in 3 days: Huron Peak and the Belford Group (Mount Belford, Mount Oxford and Missouri Mountain). Doug was still planning on joining me for all 4, and Jon would join us a day later to take on the Belford Group.
The adventure began on the way into Huron Peak as we got detoured in Leadville due to the Boom Days celebration, and decided to stop and get some food. Warning! Do not eat foot long deep battered, deep fried corndogs from a street vender. Not a good idea! Not a good idea at all! It became the running joke of the entire trip between Doug and I.
Our only real concern about the trip was if we would be able to drive all the way up to the trailhead on the 4WD road or if we would have to hike in the 3 miles. Arriving at the start off the 4WD road we followed another pick-up truck in, (I was driving my 2005 Tundra) and had no problems with the road. You do need some clearance to make the road, but nothing extreme. We set up camp 30 yards from the trailhead on a flat spot over-looking a small pond.
I immediately set off with fly rod in hand to check out the stream 100 yards to the west. Every other 14er I did this year had a great trout stream on the way to them, so I decided not to possibly miss out on another and packed the rod this time. I managed to bring 9 small Brookies to hand and lost at least that many. Not a bad outing.
Due to the relatively short distance up and back to Huron Peak (4.3 miles), via the Northwest Slope, we slept in and did not hit the trail until 6:4 a.m. We kept a pretty steady pace as the trail climbed steadily though the forest and passed several parties by the time we broke out of tree line. The meadow above tree line gave our legs a brief respite from the uphill grind as we worked our way across it. The wildflowers were out in full force. I felt like I was in the Sound of Music ("the hills are alive with the sound of muuuuuuuuuuusic"). The trail climbed steeply out of the north-east corner of the meadow for a short distance to reach the northwest slope proper.
The trail was well laid out and never too steep as it climbed the slope. The switchbacks were not right on top of one another, alleviating the tedious feeling they often bring on. We were passed by 1 man and his dog as they made quick work of the slope. Before we knew it we were atop the slope at the base of the 400-600 long class II section. (Side note/message to the person who relived themselves directly on the side of the table: No one wants to see your poop and T.P. - First of all step of the trail a way to do your business. Secondly learn and live some Leave No Trace ethics).
The class II scramble to the summit gave me a second wind and Doug and I both made quick work of this section, making the summit by 9:10 a..m. On top we found ourselves with 10 or so other people, with more coming up behind us. As many people do we chatted with others and searched out nearby peaks that we had done or wanted to do. As the summit started to get more crowed, be snapped our summit shots and started down after 20 minutes or so on top
The trip back to the trailhead was uneventful except for the large number of people that were still coming up. There was not a cloud in the sky on this bluebird day, so the late comers were not in danger of any afternoon thunderstorms. Once back to the truck, we broke camp and headed back down the 4WD to meet up with Jon C at the Missouri Gulch trailhead. A great start to the outing. One down and three more to go.