Thursday, October 13, 2016

Lost Creek Wilderness Four Pack.

Last week my friend Dan got in touch and suggested an outing.  I was more than happy to oblige, but our look at the weather showed a bad forecast in our normal haunts- in fact, I had planned and then cancelled a two day trip to Cameron Pass due to this.  
So we passed around a few ideas, and in the end, decided on the one that would be the shortest drive as well as get us above treeline.  Lost Creek Wilderness it was!  While Dan has been more than a few times, I've only been once, though I do remember that trip quite fondly.
We met in Boulder, and started the drive down, arriving at the North Ben Tyler trail head about half an hour before dawn.  We hiked through darkness for a bit, but found ourselves greeted by a spectacular sunrise, mostly owing to the Aspen and other various species of tree and undergrowth that were in the full autumnal fire of color.
Golden slope.
We also enjoyed and talked about that sweet and distinct aroma of decay in areas where all the leaves had fallen.  For an obvious reason, this aroma always brings to mind a Sylvia Plath poem, and I'm sure high school me would be pretty impressed that I still remember this line from The Colossus:
Incense of death.  Your day approaches.
Upon reaching the intersection with the Craig Park trail, we took a left, and headed up to the saddle between Kenosha Peak and Platte Peak, affectionately referred to as Little Platosha by Gerry Roach.
From the saddle, we simply turned left (east) and headed up the slope to Platte Peak, with the climb split approximately equally below and above treeline. 
Nearing Platte Peak.
Looking across the valley to the Alphabetizer- Zephyr, Peak Z, Peak Y, and Peak X.
And north to the Mount Evans Wilderness.
We neared the first summit in good spirits, enjoying a beautiful day with just a little bit of wind. 
More Alphabetizer.
Looking ESE to our next goal, Shawnee Peak.
The summit of Platte Peak, 11941 feet, and our highest point of the day.  From here on out, it would be an easy follow the ridge to the next high point.  Well, mostly easy- there was a bit of rock to contend with here and there, but the bushwhacking wasn't ever too bad.
After some down, and some more up, we arrived at the summit of Shawnee Peak.
Looking along the ridge to the future...
And back to the near past.
Shawnee Peak, 11927 feet.
As we continued along the ridge, we dipped back below treeline and found some of that rock I'd mentioned.  The going wasn't too bad really, but a little route finding was needed to keep things on the easy side.
The next ranked peak has the unofficial name of No Payne, and it felt like it took a rather long time to get there.  Well, if you look, you'll notice that the ridge between Shawnee and No Payne is indeed longer in distance, and with more time below treeline, than the area between Platte and Shawnee.
Looking back to Shawnee.
Peak X.
The summit of No Payne, 11789 feet.
We were almost there!  Or almost almost, as we'd still have to visit Payne and then head back.
Again, we faced some rocky stuff and a bit of route finding in the area, but soon found ourselves crossing the Brookside Trail, our way down to the Craig Park Trail, which would take us back from whence we came.
Looking back on the day from the summit of Payne Benchmark, 11780 feet. 
This rock looked to be the true summit, while the benchmark lies a few feet away.
Payne Benchmark, 1944.
From here we headed back in the direction we'd come.  About half an hour after leaving the summit of Payne, we were on the trail and headed into a beautiful valley.
Trail intersection.
While I imagine this valley is incredibly green and lush in spring and summer months, at this time of the year it's all the colors of autumn one can imagine, from the light blonde of the grasses to the rich burnt umber of the brush.  Different, yes, less beautiful, no.  
The trail only gained about 600 feet for the time we were on it, and with that short gain being pretty well spread out, we were able to make quite good time.  This trail is any where from well put in to barely there at times.
Back at the Little Platosha saddle, we simply headed back down the Ben Tyler Trail, back through the Aspen.  
Heart of gold.
We finally saw the first person of the day on this trail, someone who was obviously backpacking.  We saw a few others lower down, closer to the trail head.
What a fun day!  It is certainly good to be looking elsewhere in Colorado, as there is so much beautiful scenery to see.  I will admit it- one of the things I am looking most forward to about finishing off RMNP is the idea of going elsewhere, and not feeling guilty about it.  There are, after all, only a certain number of days in a year on which one can get out for big, all day hikes.  Next year I can hopefully focus some of those efforts else where, and also hopefully complete some of the big days I've mapped in RMNP.
Link to hike map/gpx on Caltopo.
Lost Creek Wilderness Four Pack (distances as part of the hike):
Platte Peak, 11941 feet: 7.2 miles, 3680 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Shawnee Peak, 11927 feet: 8.8 miles, 3666 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
No Payne, 11789 feet: 11.3 miles, 3528 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Payne Benchmark, 11780 feet: 13.2 miles, 3519 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
As a whole, this hiked covered 26.54 miles with 6270 feet of elevation gain in up to second class terrain.  Strenuous.


  1. Did you consider returning via the Brookside Trail/McArthur Gulch? Looks like a great day!

    1. It was fun! I was just following Dan essentially, so I don't know if that was in his mind or not.