September 22, 2001 in North
Originally, I had planned to take an aspen photo outing up to the area around West Booth Pass. But, the day before I was going to leave, George sent me an e-mail inviting me to come along with Jennifer and Gerry Roach and him for a climb of Peak
“N” in the Gores. So, without a hesitation, I changed my plans. Peak “N” was a very significant climb for Jennifer as it was the one remaining thirteeners that she hadn’t climbed. There are 638 thirteeners (I think) in Colorado. That’s a lot of mountains to climb and obviously a significant accomplishment. Up to this day, there were only eight people to have climbed all of the thirteeners.
So, I woke up at 3:30 on Saturday morning and met George along with two others, John and Lori, at Morrison. We drove up to Silverthorne and then on up the Brush Creek 4×4 road to the trailhead where Jennifer and Gerry were waiting. Surprisingly, there were many other 4x4s up there. But they were all up there for bow hunting. So we put on some bright clothing and started hiking just after 6:30.
We hiked for about a quarter mile or so before hitting the Gore Range trail, which we followed north about a mile to a western branch leading towards Lost Lake. From this trail junction it’s another 2 miles or so to Lost Lake. The lake is well below tree line. The trail runs along the eastern shore and this is a good place to take a short break, which we did. The other shores are practically inaccessible with lots of fallen trees and swampy ground. From here, we had good views of both Peaks “N” and “O”. They were both separated by a pair of nasty looking towers, supposedly not exceeding class 3 difficulty. The long broad ridge coming off of Peak “O” towards the lake was a long long talus field. At this point, there are no trail continuing on to the peaks and our plan was to head southwest and bushwack towards the wide cirque shared by Guyselman Mountain and Peak “N”. We had to ensure that Jennifer got to Peak “N” obviously!
The bushwack starts right at the lake and doesn’t let up for well over a mile. The forest is pretty dense so we had to wend and wind quite a bit. Sections of it are quite steep too. Eventually we emerged out onto some talus and had to climb over a series of talus slides to get around the steep and jagged rocky ridge coming directly off the eastern side of Peak “N”. After passing the ridge, we dropped down into a little grassy basin with a small lake that Gerry and Jennifer had previously named “Paradise Lake”. We took a short break here, right at the edge of treeline, then headed up more talus into the cirque. Guyselman Mountain (also known as Peak “M”) was right in front of us and looked quite impressive. It’s north face is quite steep and there are a couple of nice couloirs set in the face. I had originally thought maybe I’d go up ahead and climb Guyselman as well, but instead I wisely opted not to completely wear myself out and save this peak for later.
Once we got high enough into the basin, we turned towards Peak “N” and headed up. The peak has no form at all from this close up. Near the top though were long sections of smooth rock analogous to the Flatirons in Boulder. We split up here briefly: George, John, and I opted to scramble up the slabs while Gerry, Jennifer, and Lori climbed up a faint talus ridge to the left. As the three of us climbed up in parallel with the others, we had great views of them outlined on the ridge against the steep north face of Guyselman Mountain. I took a couple of pictures of them climbing up (left). Then we had to focus more on the slabs in front of us. The slabs were very solid and clean which was definitely welcome after some loose scree sections below. The climb was a bit exposed but the holds were so good that I always felt confident. The difficulty occasionally was 4th class but was a great way to finish the climb. The slabs ended a mere five vertical feet or so from the summit. We sauntered twenty feet to the summit and hollered for the others to join us. Jennifer and Gerry were on a small point about 100 feet below us as they began the final few feet to Jennifer’s last thirteener.
We took a nice long celebratory rest on top of Peak “N” and took in the expansive views. To the north and east, we could see miles and miles past Green Mountain Reservoir, the Indian Peaks and Longs Peak. To the west and south, we had great views of the main chain of peaks in the Gore Range. Over towards the northwestern side was the remote Black Creek drainage. I spent some time studying the various valleys in this huge drainage. There was no register on Peak “N” but Jennifer and Gerry brought one so we all signed it then left in near the small cairn built on the peak. We still hadn’t decided for sure if we were going to go on to do Peak “O”. We wandered over to take a look at it and it looked quite doable, but there would definitely be some scrambling involved. George, John, Lori, and I decided to try it and Jennifer and Gerry would retrace their steps back down to the lake.
The only real problems on the ridge between these two peaks are two prominent gendarmes. The first one (going from “N” to “O”) is significantly smaller and looked to be easily passable on it’s right side. Since it was the first gendarme, we called it the “No” gendarme, the second therefore was christened the “On” gendarme. We scrambled easy 3rd class terrain down to the notch before the first gendarme. At the base, we headed down and around on the right side. “No” looked climbable on this side but we weren’t sure about the other side so we continued to traverse. You can actually go down maybe 50 feet to a prominent grassy ledge running back up to the notch between the two gendarmes. We didn’t drop quite that far and instead traversed on a 3rd class ledge directly below “No”. At the notch between the two, we looked back on the tower and it appeared to be climbable again. So, we climbed BACK over the top of the gendarme. This side was in shadow and had a decent amount of fall snow too. The climb was a bit exposed and was tough 3rd class at it’s easiest; there were a couple of 4th class moves. Once we got on the top, it looked too hard to come back down the same way so we dropped back over the back side and traversed again back to the notch.
That was a fun twenty minute little scrambling interlude. We headed on to the next gendarme. It featured a thin little ridge that was quite exposed with steep and smooth slabs on it south side. We easily downclimbed the back side of the gendarme and made our way up easy 3rd class terrain to the gentle summit of Peak “O”. Again, there was no summit register but I left mine, a little green Celestial Seasonings tin. John and Lori didn’t stay on top long at all but I wasn’t ready to head down. I wanted to take in the views as long as possible so George and I remained on top for another fifteen or twenty minutes before heading down. We strolled over the gentle grassy slopes and then made our way down the long long talus field. We had great views of Black Lake and Black Creek below it which was loaded with yellow aspens. Black Lake is on private property and there’s a giant lodge at the far end of the lake. That must be a really nice place. We also saw a small boat touring around on the lake.
The descent off Peak “O” seemed like forever. Descending is the most exhausting part of the trip for me and this was certainly a long descent. It reminded me more of an obscure side of Mount Princeton because there was so much more talus. The good news was that once we were down into the trees the lake wasn’t far away. We bushwacked our way through the forest and followed our noses back to the lake. The lake was our rendezvous point and we were the first to arrive. Ten minutes later, Gerry and Jennifer emerged out of the thick foliage. We took one last leisurely break at the lake then headed back the final three and a half miles to the trailhead. We arrived back at the trailhead exactly twelve hours after we departed. It was another successful and very enjoyable Gore Range trip.