Saturday, July 3, 2010

Coal Creek Peak

Nick from WTS organized today's hike -- thanks Nick! It started not too early and not too far away -- thanks again! The goal was to scramble up Coal Creek Peak along one ridge and descend another.

We started the day around 8:15 by crawling under a barbed wire fence. Only at the end of the hike did we discover that the fence enclosed a parcel of Jefferson County Open Space. Probably they wanted to make sure the invisible cows didn't escape.

After crawling through another fence or two, crossing some railroad tracks, crossing a meadow and dipping into a valley, we began angling upwards towards the peak. We found a ridge and followed it northwest-ish. The terrain was a mix of live and fallen trees, boulders, rocks, cactus, brush, etc. A few places offered opportunities for some hands-and-feet scrambling -- class 3 stuff.

At one point along the ridge we heard an invisible snake. We made sure to stay away from the area that was rattling. A bit further up, our ridge joined the peak's south ridge. Things looked somewhat familiar to Nick, who had done the hike once before, but there was uncertainty about which way to proceed. We knew to stay away from the steep west side of the ridge. Rich and I scoped out the possibilities and decided a short climb would get the team to a point where we could either continue upward along the east side of the ridge, or retreat into the valley.

We split up around 11:45 am. Nick, Linda, Karen, and Elizabeth headed down the valley. Rich, Laurel, and I continued up the ridge. From there we figured it would take us about an hour to summit. At 12:30 we reached the summit, which was full of butterflies, bees, fleas, and flies. We stopped for lunch and checked out our descent options on the topo.

From the summit we had distant views of Pikes Peak and Longs Peak:

We followed the east ridge as well as we could, but there were places it was easier (and safer) to drop down into the valley. Eventually the valley eased from loose scree to a more vegetated hillside and we were able to wrap up the hike back to the cars. The whole hike was probably under 3 miles but took over 7 hours to complete.

Click a picture to see the whole album. Click here to see the route we took.

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