November 6, 1999 in Central
Finally – a trip in the summer/fall of 1999 to the Gore Range. I spent the majority of the summer hiking the fourteeners, reaching a count of 39 with a hike of Mount Yale at the end of September. This trip to Keller Mountain was with the Colorado Mountain Club so, thinking that the peak would be covered in a layer of slick snow this time of year, I figured it was safest to go with the club. I also convinced my friends Ken and Kirk to go along too. Ironically, it turned out to be the nicest day of 1999. It was very warm, sunny, and there was virtually no wind. Winter also got a very late start in 1999; there was still no significant snowfall in the mountains yet – and we were well into fall.
The trip started from the Rock Creek trailhead which, contrary to my suspicions, was quite easy to find and drive to. I think there were approximately 10 people in our group. The first part of the trail is apparently an old road and it’s very wide and smooth for a long way. Not long after the trailhead, you pass the Gore Range trail running north and south, perpendicular to the Rock Creek trail. After a mile or so, the trail narrows to a footpath, passes through some nice meadows then begins contouring along the north side of the valley. Eventually, you arrive at the Boss Mine, which is a gigantic pile of tailings that really spoils the natural beauty of this valley. In any event, it’s hard to miss it (although the leader did!) and at this point you head up the tailings along a very steep trail. The trail fades in and out above the tailings. Eventually, you need to bushwack to gain the east ridge of Keller Mountain.
Above treeline, it’s easy to see where to go. At this point, Keller Mountain looks more like a bland rockpile. Well, it’s true at this point but once you attain the point that you can see from the east side, the fun scrambling begins. Before we began hiking up the ridge, the female member of the group got tired and decided not to continue. The leader as well as a couple of the older members of the group stayed back. About five of us continued, including Ken and Kirk. Since we didn’t have to wait on anyone we made great time.
At the top of the point, we could see the rest of the route. It’s probably a little under a mile to get to the true summit of Keller and the majority of it is 3rd class although we chose a harder route just for the fun of it. It was such a nice day so we decided to make it at least 4th class. It took us well over an hour to reach the true summit but it was an absolutely delightful scramble. We spent about 20 minutes on the summit eating and taking pictures then headed back over the ridge and to the group waiting below.
The hike out was uneventful although I did have my second wind and zoomed in front of the group. I arrived about 15 to 20 minutes before the rest of the group did. This was a really fun trip – especially for a CMC trip. Ken decided that it was his best climb to date. Even Kirk liked it as well and decided that he ought to return to the Gore Range sometime.