Last year I celebrated my birthday by climbing local Medicine Bow Peak in snow and fog and had to use my compass to get myself unlost, not something I want to repeat. I thought about doing a second annual birthday climb of MBP on Sunday, with a trip back to the Tenmile Range to finally reach the summit of Fletcher Mountain for Saturday. However, I just didn't have the energy to climb on Saturday, so I decided to skip MBP for now and climb Fletcher on Sunday.
I was expecting very good weather (big high pressure centered over Colorado) so I wasn't too worried about starting early, except that it might be windy and I wanted to get a fairly early start before the wind had a chance to pick up. However, I couldn't manage to get up before 5:30am. I took the 'short-cut' route and made pretty good time [that would be driving through Walden and Kremmling to hit I-70 in Summit County as opposed to going through Denver; this became my standard driving route from Laramie], and was happy that the dirt road up Monte Cristo Creek was clear of snow all the way to the dam which creates upper Blue Lake (11700ft).
I had twice tried to climb Fletcher Mountain in April, but I would have needed crampons the first time and snowshoes the second and didn't make it very far. Due to an set of circumstances I won't go into, I ended up trying to climb it again in August in the middle of the night without a map or route description. [If you are clever and determined, I actually do go into that set of circumstances in a trip report on this site. Hint, hint.] I made it above 13000ft on that trip and may have actually seen the mountain itself (it's hard to see except from up-close), but poor route selection and other things not related to mountaineering doomed me.
I started hiking at the late 'tourist' time of 9:17am, but this is just a Grade I route so I was figuring that even if some parts were tedious, I would still be done well before sunset (assuming I wouldn't run into any unexpected problems like last week). A trail, rough in spots, starts at the north end of the dam and runs up to some decrepit remains of a mining cabin at 12300ft. End of approach.
From here, the route takes a hard left to climb up to a ridge. This was really a lot of fun. There's probably some easier route, but the rock was terrific for scrambling so I climbed some direct Class 3 areas of cracked slabs. The rock is wonderfully solid and the only bad thing was that it wasn't very continuous with dirt patches in-between the steeper parts. There generally was 6" or less of snow on the ground (I never put on my gaiters the whole day, although there were a couple spots where I should have). My wet bootsoles did make the climbing a bit more challenging.
After this, the grade becomes quite gentle, and this was easy talus-hopping, hiking through snow when necessary. Around 13000ft, I got my first close-up view of the summit. From this angle, the summit rises abruptly and gracefully from a flat area around 13400ft. It wouldn't be hard to convince yourself that the the summit cone was actually rising several thousand feet above you.
I think the guidebook route ends up on the ridge bewteen Fletcher and Quandary Peak [that would be the Garrett and Martin guidebook; this was several years before the Roach*2 13ers book]. I didn't really intend to climb the south face, but this is what I ended up doing. Everytime I thought I might climb directly to the ridge, there would be some tricky snow below the ridge. I ended up making an ascending traverse of the whole face, on talus and moderate snow slopes; steep enough to use my ice axe for balance. It wasn't difficult, but it was interesting. After a while of this, I knew I was very near the summit, so I went about 40ft straight up the fall line and found myself pretty much at the summit, which I reached at 11:12.
Finally! And well worth the effort. The weather was beyond wishes; I didn't see a single cloud the whole day and never felt a wind gust above 15 mph even on the summit. Mountains all around, touched with snow. The summit itself is rather small with a small summit cairn of sorts.
Now what? I had been eyeing an unlabelled summit just NW of Fletcher that, according to the USGS map, rises 280ft above the connecting saddle. [This is, of course, "Drift Peak" as given in the Roach*2 13er book. However, I "discovered" this peak by myself, thankyouverymuch.] On top of this, it looks pretty jagged, even at the 40ft resolution of the map. To make a long story short, I reached a pinnacle that I couldn't traverse around, and tried to climb it directly. This was complicated by the snowcover, and I turned back after making a difficult move on top of a large, airy, knife-edge boulder. When dry I think this might go as a scramble.
I scrambled and hiked back to the saddle and headed off for the second side-trip over minor Point 13515. This is just a pimple on the landscape, but had a neat little mining cabin on it's south side that was in fairly good shape. By shortly after 2pm, I was back at the dam and the car.
To the chronological trip index
To the Fletcher Mountain page
File last modified: 21 December 2004