Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Ten Mile Traverse.

This wasn't something that was super on my must do list, but my wife signed up the ride the Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge, and asked if I wanted to go, so why not?  I found a few trip reports, all the way from the way faster than I can go one by Anton Krupicka to a more human pace here.  
Looking at these and others (including this one by Steve Knapp), I thought a reasonable time for me would be 6-8 hours, which happened to work out perfectly with the time Katie thought she'd be finishing up.  
My idea of completing the traverse was more in line with Anton's; thus I would start in Frisco and end in Breckenridge, rather than finishing at an arbitrary point part way down the mountain.  It should be mentioned the traverse is not named for its length, but rather the mountain range.  My total distance was 20.51 miles.
Katie took the drive out, and the range stood beautifully before us as we dropped down to Frisco.  She dropped me off at the Royal Trailhead, easy to get to.  Take exit 201, and head east into town.  It's immediately on your right.  I took a few minutes to get ready, and then started out on the paved trail at an easy run.  
I took a right onto the Royal Mountain trail, and then followed the signs.  I passed a few people on the way up, and encountered a phenomenon I'd only ever experienced while riding a bike.  I kept catching up to a guy who'd see me get close and then take off, only to slow down due to an unsustainable pace to have me catch up again.  Interesting.  
It's steep, but the trail levels out.  You need to cut back north to visit the true summit of Royal.
Royal Mountain, 10502 feet.  
Looking forward.
I decided that rather than loose the elevation back down the trail to the junction with the trail up toward Peak 1, I would bushwhack up.  That worked out pretty well as the forest was open and it didn't take me long to rejoin the trail.
There were several abandoned mines in the area, and this cabin above Royal Mountain must've housed someone who worked there. 
I finally broke tree line and was able to see the way forward.  It still looked like there was some distance to go to Peak 1.  I could see a few people ahead of me as I got closer. 
This small rocky point is Mount Victoria, 11785 feet.  It's just a small detour from the trail, and provides a good view.  Shortly after 12000 feet is broken.  You'll be above that mark for the rest of the traverse. 
Looking down to I70, nearly 4000 feet below me now.
I finally hit the top of Peak 1 and met the people I was following up.  One unknown I still had was the snow conditions ahead.  Things looked ok from the east, but the hardest parts of the traverse are on the west of the ridge.  They said they'd approached from the west and things looked good to go.
I stopped for a quick snack and a look around.
Looking back down the ridge to Dillon Reservoir. I was getting occasional whiffs of forest fire smoke, here it was quite visible.  I think it adds to the view. 
I looked ahead to Peak 2 aka Tenmile Peak.  Peaks 1 through 4 hold the technical difficulties, or so I was told, while things would get alot easier after that.
I passed the two I met on Peak 1 before Peak 2, and saw them again briefly at that summit for the last time.
Back to Peak 1 from Peak 2.
Peak 3.  The terrain would take a step up in difficulty here.
It's easiest to pass the difficulties on the right or west side.  I'd read class 3-4.  I didn't think anything exceeded class three.  And despite the advice to keep to that side, I felt like I spent more time on the left or east side of the ridge in total. 
That being said, passing the more difficult places was definitely easier on the right side of the ridge.  This rock feature is nicknamed "The Dragon" for obvious reasons. 
Honestly, the movement wasn't too bad.  I'd say second class with occasional third class moves, here approaching Peak 3. 
Looking to Peak 4 from 3.  The traverse started with some easier and faster to move on second class.  I felt the ridge from the low point to the summit was the most fun and solid climbing of the day, definitely third class on bomber rock. 
From Peak 4 back. 
And looking forward.  How the terrain changes!  Peak 5 is the highest, closest rounded bump.  I was now able to start running, and felt pretty good over all.
I met the Colorado Trail for a short stint between Peaks 5 and 6, and happened upon Dave, who was through hiking the trail with his dog Kiefer.  He said they were on day five.  We talked a bit, and I wished them well. 
One of the ski lifts near the ridge line.
I definitely felt like I was dragging up Peak 6, but felt pretty good moving on the flats and downhills.  I could see Peak 8 looming ahead of me, and was somewhat happy to know that Peak 7 was nothing more than a single closed contour loop enroute to the ranked summit. 
Looking back. 
Looking forward to Peak 9.  The run down was fun, and the climb wasn't too bad.  Rather than take a direct route to the summit, I cut right to meet the more mellow ridge, going out of the way slightly for what looked like an easier way to the top.  I didn't think it was too bad.  Many of the trip reports I've read talked about this summit being one of the least favorite.  It does mark the first foray above 13000 feet and there are a few false summits.
From Peak 9 to Peak 10.  It looked like there were a few people over there... Little did I know! 
Descending to the saddle between the two was ok, for a change there was some looser rock and talus.  Ahead of me looked like a pile of Never Summeresque talus.  I know others have contoured around and taken the old mining road up, but I decided to just go for it.  It was mostly stable with a few loose blocs here and there.
I was a little surprised to reach the summit and find a lot of people up there.  As it turns out, the snow field visible in the photo from Peak 9 is the Fourth of July Bowl, and it is a local tradition to ski or board it on the Fourth of July. 
The summit of Peak 10.
From here down, it would be easy going as I'd stay on the road the entire way.  First I had to negotiate a short stretch on slippery packed snow with the bowl on my left.  I was able to speed up once I got to solid ground. 
The Briar Rose mine, right at 13000 feet.  According to this book, silver was the primary extract.
I was able to move pretty quickly on the road, though it was rocky in places.  There were still a few skiers and snowboarders heading up the road, one of whom complimented me on having strong ankles.  A perfect epitaph for a tombstone.
I probably should've ran some of the ski runs or lift areas, but I wasn't sure where they end up, and I did know where the road ended.  It would've been shorter and likely more enjoyable. 
Down a lift to town.
All the ski runs end in town, which is where I wanted to be.  It seemed to take a long time, but I finally hit pavement and stopped my GPS track.  Now I just had to find the elementary school and go there to meet Katie.
As it turns out, I was pretty close, and it was a few more blocks of jogging to meet her.  We hung out at the race for a bit, and I made the drive home.  Katie and her friend got 8th place, and it took me 8:41:06, a bit longer than I hoped.  Ah well!
I thought this was a fun day.  It would be even more fun to extend it all the way down south through Quandary Peak.  Despite reading about the technical difficulties, I felt the maximum was third class, and the longest and best stretch is the section between Peak 3 and Peak 4.  After Peak 4, it's pretty easy movement on tundra.  I've also read cutting east/left to meet the road up to Peak 10 rather than take the direct route up the talus; I didn't feel the talus was that bad.  The only other concern might be having enough water to drink, the same with any extended ridge traverse.  I was able to mine some snow to supplement what I brought.
Link to hike map/GPX on Caltopo.
The Ten Mile Traverse:
Royal Mountain, 10502 feet: 2.15 miles, 1386 foot gain.  Segment :44, total :44.
Mount Victoria, 11785 feet: 3.6 miles, 2669 foot gain.  Segment :45, total 1:29
Peak 1, 12805 feet: 4.5 miles, 3689 foot gain.  Segment :43, total 2:12
Peak 2/Tenmile Peak, 12933 feet: 5.05 miles, 3817 foot gain.  Third class.  Segment :31, total 2:43. 
Peak 3, 12676 feet: 5.7 miles, 3560 foot gain.  Third class.  Segment :44, total 3:27.
Peak 4, 12866 feet: 6.25 miles, 3750 foot gain.  Third class.  Segment :37, total 4:04.
Peak 5, 12855 feet: 6.95 miles, 3739 foot gain.  Segment :18, total 4:24.
Peak 6, 12573 feet: 8.7 miles, 3457 foot gain.  Segment :34, total 4:58
Peak 7, 12665 feet: 10.05 miles, 3549 foot gain.  Segment :34, total 5:32.
Peak 8, 12987 feet: 10.5 miles, 3871 foot gain.  Segment :16, total 5:48.
Peak 9, 13195 feet: 12.35 miles, 4079 foot gain.  Segment :44, total 6:32.
Peak 10, 13633 feet: 13.05 miles, 4517 foot gain.  Segment :41, total 7:18
End, 9633 feet: 20.51 miles, 517 foot gain.  Segment 1:23, total 8:41.
In total this day covered 20.51 miles with 7525 feet of elevation gain.  There is some third class, but it comes early.  There are plenty of bail routes back down into Breck if bad weather strikes or you aren't feeling so hot.  Like last time, I'd say the biggest difficulty is the extended time above treeline.  Strenuous+.


  1. Hi! I'm interested in preparing to do the ten mile traverse with my wife. Any link or info about preparing for it? Trainijg and gear wise? Thanks.

    1. This is probably too late now. Water would be my biggest concern as you will likely find none on the route. My snow melting technique worked well to extend the range for a bit, but not indefinitely.
      You'll need to be comfortable route finding on and executing up to fourth class moves from peak 1-4. Most of the elevation gain comes pretty early, however the entire route is up and down and above treeline. A good weather forecast for the day is essential, however there are plenty of potential bail outs. Just make sure you go east/left to Breck and not the other way!