TR: Gore Range (CO) Slate Creek Jul 28, 2020 7:11:01 GMT -8 MTalpine, GaliWalker, and 3 more like this
Post by cweston on Jul 28, 2020 7:11:01 GMT -8
It's another trip to the Gores, among my very favorite BPing destinations. We originally had a very ambitious, largely off-trail 5-day tour of the two forks of Slate Creek planned--that had to be altered (mostly due to weather) and will have to wait for another opportunity. But we turned it into a fine basecamp trip.
Day A (7/20): My son has arrived from Chicago the night before. We drive uneventfully to Heeney, CO with as little contact as possible, and assault the 3-mile long Brush Creek Rd. It's a 4WD road and we're in my wife's standard AWD, regular SUV-clearance Toyota Rav4, so it's a bit of a stretch. We make it to some excellent primitive camping at the trailhead (our main reason for choosing this TH.) I'm pre-hydrating like hell because my son only has time for one acclimation day.
Car camp at TH:
Day B (7/21): leisurely morning, cooked breakfast, good coffee, followed by a 6-7 mile day hike looping to Lost Lake, with minimal elevation gain (unfortunately, for acclimation purposes). NOTE: Lost Lake is more scenic than most of the other below-treeline lakes in the area. It's a legitimate destination, as opposed to Surprise and Eaglesmere Lakes, which are just buggy places to turn around while enjoying a day on the trail, IMHO. Also, for Gore Range mavens, I looked a bit for the abandoned South Fork Black Creek Trail where it meets the Lost Lake Trail at the saddle below the lake, and did not see it. This matches my past experience: you have to head over the saddle, and THEN you start to pick up the path.
By evening I was having a little trouble getting food down--clearly, I needed another acclimation day, but one was not available.
Day 1 (7/22): Brush Creek TH to Lower Slate Lake (ca 9 miles, I don't know the gain because the GRT is up and down.)
It's a beautiful day. The GRT is in excellent shape. We caught up to the trail crew about halfway between the TH and Slate Creek--we had had to navigate a small number of blowdowns before meeting them, but from this point, they had worked their magic. I really could barely eat--I did manage to keep down the tiny bit that I got down. By early afternoon when we were headed up the steep headwall to Lower Slate Lake, I was feeling pretty weak. We reached the lake just as the storm was starting at 2:30, so we hastily grabbed one of the meh camps near the outlet and rested during the mild storm. I did managed to get a bit of soup down.
The original plan was to leave the trail here (on day 2), heading up the south fork of Slate Creek, where very few people ever go (there are no summits of particular interest to climbers that are approached from this drainage.) Rather than face a tough bushwack feeling weak, we decide to change the direction of the loop and continue up the real trail to Upper Slate Lake (where the trail ends), since we have traveled that drainage before and are familiar with the routes.
Day 2 (7/23): It rained all night and is oddly gray this morning, but it kindof clears. It's about 1.5+ miles and 1,000 feet up to the end of the trail at Upper Slate Lake. The weather looks bad and I feel better but still kindof weak, so we decide to just make camp here. The rest afternoon and my continued acclimation are working: I'm starting to feel stronger and be able to eat more. This just confirms that, in addition to pre-hydration, my aging body now needs at least two acclimation days.
We enjoy the marmot show and a very intimate visit by the local mountain goat troupe. The plan is to move on to South America Lake (off trail) in the am.
(Note: goat is dead-center in the following pic.)
Day 3 (7/24): More weird weather. It rained through the night, and is drizzly this morning. Usually, in summer in the Rockies, a day that begins like this just gets worse, so we are a bit hesitant. By now, we've all but bagged our original plans of crossing the high pass between the two forks of Slate Creek. We decide to day-hike up to South America lake. By 9:00, it's still raining, the brushy bushwack is miserable, and I've broken a trekking pole. We turn around and head back to camp. We'll try SA Lake again tomorrow. I was able to successfully jury-rig the pole into being usable, using rocks for bending and bashing.
Day 4 (7/25): More weird weather. It rained through the night, and is not raining this morning but not clearing, either. We're not heading up-valley in these conditions. A few little windows of light create a brief moment of alpenglow. We're done--we're heading down today. We don't explicitly discuss it, but we both know we'll end up going all the way to the car and exiting a day early.
It rained off and on the whole day. We hike at "there is beer (hopefully still cold) in the cooler in the car" pace, getting back at about 1:30. We gingerly descended the Brush Creek Rd., stop at the Grandview Cemetery parking area to change clothes, bathe a little, and sit by the river enjoying said beer. (It was indeed still cold.) Then it's the long drive home, arriving after midnight.
The weather was screwy, and we never made it much above 11,000 feet, but we still had a great time: our 16th consecutive year of taking at least one summer BP trip together.