Hoosier Ridge trip report


This day didn't start out all that great as I had a bit of an upset stomach when I woke up and breakfast didn't help. But, with only a limited amount of time to spend in Colorado, I didn't feel like I could waste another day. I arrived at an empty Hoosier Pass a little after 7am. Empty except for the frequent cars coming over the pass from Park County on their commute into Summit County.

Hoosier Pass from across the road

I crossed the highway and started up an old road that is the start of a signed winter cross-country ski trail. I followed the road a bit higher than necessary, but by following a small creek bed I was able to get above the willows the populate this slope just above treeline.

The hike up to the first of many minor summits on the ridge is fairly easy on tundra, and I had done this before on my hike of Mount Silverheels back in 1999. Although there was a lot of spring snow in Colorado, the snowmelt was also much faster than normal such that there wasn't much snow on the entire route, while part of the road was snow-covered on my Silverheels climb.

There hadn't been much wind in the forecast, but the direction was just right to get funneled up the drainages and I had 20-30 mph winds on much of the ridge above 12500 feet. I stubbornly insisted on remaining under my new fancy wide-brim hiking hat and had to cinch the cord under my chin and behind my ears rather tight to keep it on. I paid for this not only with being greatly annoyed at times on the hike, but also in a neckache and headache that evening. At least it wasn't very cold (I measured 52F on the way down at around 13000 feet) and I was still comfortable in shorts the whole time. That kind of wind actually isn't all that bad if it is a bit colder and I can comfortably wear a balaclava, but trying to wear a regular hat or cap is challenging.

I avoided the minor bumps on the ridge as best I could, but you really can't help yourself all that much without sidehilling on yucky talus. The footing on this hike is mostly good, but even sticking to the ridgecrest, you will have some unstable talus on which to test your balance. The challenge here is that once you get up near 13000 feet at about the halfway mark, you are near or above that altitude until you get back. There are 14ers where you will spend much less time near or above 13000 feet than this hike.

A section of Hoosier Ridge

After much up and down hiking with variable footing, I reached the summit of Hoosier Ridge at 0936. I was not feeling very strong at all at this point, and there was no way that I was going to bother with continuing on the Divide for an out and back with the very minor Red Peak. Plus, cumulus clouds were starting to form and I still wasn't convinced that I could trust the sky past noon. But, the greater context is that I really wanted to get the other ranked 13er, Red Mountain. That would require more than 700 vertical feet round-trip, even with being able to skirt the Hoosier Ridge highpoint on the way out. I tried to ignore that fact as I continued northward toward the second 13er.

Red Mountain from Hoosier Ridge highpoint

However, this traverse isn't too bad and after a little over 5 miles of total hiking, I reached the summit of Red Mountain at 1008. By this time, a few cumulus clouds were developing, but more downstream to the east than upstream.

Other than the really annoying wind, reversing the route wasn't too eventful. It became clear that the weather wasn't going to be a problem so I had several chances to stop and photograph the plentiful wildflowers on the route.

Flowers on Hoosier Ridge

At one point I decided to get out my Kestrel weather gauge and measure the wind, and of course that had the predictable effect of causing a calming of the wind. So, I didn't actually measure the frequent 20-30 mph winds, but could make a good estimate.

The stroll down the final long slope was pleasant and with less wind. You get good views of the nearby 14ers with their last lingering snowfields, plus a look down onto Montgomery Reservoir and portions of the Hoosier Pass road. I carefully crossed the highway and finished at 1221.

Montgomery Reservoir below Mount Lincoln

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File last modified: 05 July 2007

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