Atlantic Peak trip report


The unofficially named "Atlantic Peak" sits next to Pacific Peak in the Tenmile Range. I guess I'm not particularly fond of the name; it would be much better to have a Pacific/Atlantic pair associated with the Continental Divide, or at least have the peaks be east/west of each other as opposed to north/south. But, I digress. In any case, this is one of the most "official" unofficial names in the state. [OK, after I wrote this, I found out that apparently "Atlantic" is the official name now. I'm actually in favor of getting peaks named, as long as they aren't named for political reasons.] I climbed Pacific two months ago, but was not having a good day and skipped the extra 500ft of gain to get Atlantic.

I had originally planned to be in the Sawatch Range for a longer hike, but instead I found myself at the Mayflower Gulch trailhead at 0530. This is a large parking area just off Colorado 91 and represents the start of an old mining road up the valley. An important addendum to Roach's driving instructions; it is certainly possible to drive a normal car up at least part of the road. There is parking after about 0.2 miles on a side road and a car should be able to easily get there. There is also a wide spot in the road where a car can easily fit after about 0.5 miles. This is just past a spot in the road that I'm 95% sure I could safely navigate with my Saturn sedan. After that, the road is still pretty decent, but the big problem is that the road is narrow and if you get stopped by something you will have to back down the road. The routes up the many Tenmile peaks accessible from here (Crystal, Pacific, Atlantic, and "Drift") are individually short, but if you want to do multiples and are driving a real car, this is something to keep in mind. Also, I think a 2WD pickup truck with decent clearance should be able to make it to the "4WD" trailhead.

Anyway, the road grade is shallow for hiking and you can quickly cover the mile or so before you have to leave the road. It wasn't clear exactly when to do this, so I just guessed and was probably a little early. I descended about 60 vertical feet down the hillside, where I could see the target ascent gully on the other side of the valley.

Heading down to cross the creek, I ran into the willows from hell. They weren't so terrible by themselves, but they were dripping wet, and at times I was in over my head - literally. I completely soaked my gloves, shoes and socks. I was wearing my high-top trail shoes with fabric tops, so they have no water protection. My jacket and pants (both Polartec) were about half soaked. Even my hat got pretty wet. I also fell down once when my feet slipped trying to push down a slick limb. The creek crossing was trivial! Then, I had to fight some more wet willows on the other side. Then, the grassy slopes leading up into the trees were wet. Yech!! I've never been that wet at any point in a hike. I should have immediately put on my shell jacket, but didn't think things were going to be bad, and I didn't have my shell pants.

I contemplated whether I really wanted to finish the hike. But, I continued up the slope to the left of Pacific Creek which you are supposed to follow up past 12000ft. Near treeline, I crossed the creek and decided to turn right up to Atlantic's west ridge. This is earlier than the Roaches indicate. There's some steep talus, but it wasn't too bad to ascend. If you are descending this route, you probably want to stick with the guidebook. (Since I took a slightly shorter route here, and a slightly longer route on the way down on the old mining road, I kept Roaches' 6.2 mile RT distance. I added 60 feet to their vertical gain because of the descent into the valley bottom.) As much as anything else, I was trying to get to a point where I could see down into the upper valley and see if there was a place where I could avoid the willows on the way down.

When I reached the flatter area of the lower ridge at around 12500ft, I decided to assess the situation. I was a little cold, but was feeling good. (That's the whole point of wearing synthetics or wool, you can stay "warm" while wet.) I only had 1400 vertical feet to go and there wouldn't be any route-finding problems or any technical difficulties on the ridge. At that point, I was too close to the summit to seriously think about turning back.

I had been hoping for the Sun to rise up over Pacific so my clothes would dry out, but that turned out to be a mixed blessing because I did most of the ridge with the Sun right in my face. Through my clip-on sunglasses, it was hard to see exactly where I needed to step on the looser and steeper parts. But, I know that it bothers my eyes later in the day if I go without for more than brief intervals. So, I kept flipping the shades up and down as I ascended. The Sun did make pretty quick work of evaporating the water from my dark clothing. I was still squishing in my shoes, though.

I kept stopping to assess ways down that would let me avoid the willows, and at some point started thinking about descending straight down the south side of the west ridge into the valley. I was moving pretty slowly anyway due to the sun glare, but the ascent wasn't very physically demanding.

Finally, at 0824 I reached the modest summit. The register was intact, and I noticed that as the Roach guidebook says, this is a fairly popular winter ascent. There were a fair number of recent ascents but I was most likely the only successful ascent from the west on Sunday.

There was very little wind the entire morning, and just a few low puffy clouds forming from all the low level moisture that has been around. I guessed it might end up being an early t-storm day. For that reason, I only stayed on the summit for about 15 minutes. In reality, nothing got going until after noon.

I kept looking at the 40 degree slope I was thinking about descending and decided to go for it. It was the only part of the hillside that seemed to have a good mixture of grass and dirt within the talus. According to my altimeter knife, I left the ridge 790 vertical feet below the summit. Unfortunately, the slope was a little more difficult and tedious than I expected. It wasn't dangerous, but was quite slow and awkward, as I mostly moved from one section of talus to the next with slick dirt and grass in between. I ended up finishing the steep part in a small rock feature and had to do a few Class 3-4 moves to get down the last 8 feet.

After a short grassy ramp, I was on the nearly completely flat upper valley floor, and I moseyed over to an old mining road to get off the tundra. Nobody had driven this far up, but I later found out that the gate was open and the road was certainly good enough to drive a 4WD. It was maybe a half-mile from where I hit the road to that gate where people normally park 4WD, and there were two vehicles there.

Just above this parking area lie the remains of the Boston mine, including several buildings, one of which still has an intact roof. I wandered around the ruins with my camcorder for about 10 minutes before the easy 1.6 mile stroll down the road back to my car. I encountered several groups hiking up the road (which has mining ruins scattered all along its length) and there were quite a few vehicles in the parking lot. (In case you are interested, here is a short description of the hike to the Boston mine. If you are not up for a peak climb and have any interest in Colorado's mining heritage, I highly recommend this hike, and it is more or less accessible as a hike year-round. I shot some video of that view through the window they show on that page! Of course, they don't mention that there is no roof left on that cabin.)

While I'm still stuck at 37 14ers, I've now climbed 6 "Centennial 13ers" to give me 43 "Centennial Summits". I've got some vacation time coming up in a few weeks, and my goals for the rest of the year are to get up to 40 14ers and 50 Centennials. [Which, of course, I didn't even get close to reaching, although I did finally reach the halfway point of the Centennials in 2003.]

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File last modified: 30 December 2004

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