This Trip Report written by Jed Flint
Sunrise on top of Horseshoe Mtn
Peaks (in order of summit):
Horseshoe Mtn A - 13,898' (Cent-R:#72), Peerless Mtn - 13,348' (UnR), Mt Sheridan - 13,748' (R:#126),
Mount Sherman – 14,036 (14er ' R:#45), Gemini Peak – 13,951' (UnR), Dyer Mtn – 13,855' (Cent-R:#81),
Mt Evans B – 13,577' (R:#204), Repeater Peak – 13,548' (UnR), Mosquito Peak – 13,781' (R:#115),
Treasurevault Mtn – 13,701' (UnR), Mt Tweto – 13,672' (R:#162), Mt Buckskin – 13,865' (Cent-R:#76),
Elev Gain/Loss: 7500'/7000' (plus LOTS of small elev gain/loss on Mt. Tweto – Mt Buckskin traverse)
Weather: Sunny w/ highs around 35F but with a relentless and unmerciful 50-60mph SW-SSW wind that would occasionally gust to 70mph.
Time: 15:00 (4:30am – 7:30pm), First Summit, Horseshoe Mtn: 6:25AM, Last Summit: Mount Buckskin: 6:30PM
Technical Difficulty: Mostly Class 2, Dyer – Evans B: Short Class 3/4 w/ exposure, Tweto – Buckskin: Lots of Class 3 w/ significant snow covered knife-edge exposure. Some Class 4 on final climb to Buckskin
Technical Gear: Ice Axe (never used), Microspikes (never used), Trekking Poles
Travelers: Geojed (Jed), Matt Lemke and Matt Lavington (14W; turned back after Gemini)
Wildlife (other than the climber ): Pair of Snowy Ptarmigans that we startled and squawked at us.
Special Thanks for beta/pics: Anna, Mike (BoggyB), Aaron (Andyouseeme)
We beat you to the top of Horseshoe Mtn Mr. Sun!
I had such an awesome time on the Total Tenmile Traverse Trip that I did solo last month that I wanted to find a similar traverse where I could get high quickly, stay high all day, and get a bunch of peaks. I looked around in the Sangre de Cristo but all of the trailheads there are relatively low and getting back to the starting TH would be tough. I then investigated the Mosquito Range and it met all of the criteria for a successful “big day” as I’ve come to call these ridge traverses. Start at the winter closure near Leavick (elev. 11,100’) and finish at the Kite Lake TH (elev. 12,000’) which had been plowed several weeks ago for a mine rescue. Along the way I would get: 12 peaks, 9 ranked summits, 3 centennials, 1 14er. Sounds like my kind of day.
I posted on the forum about a week prior to the date of the traverse and Matt Lemke quickly joined on. Matt Lavington (14W) expressed interested too, with the caveat that the group would not get “too big”. I promised him that with a “big day” like this happening on a Friday, the chances of the group getting big was pretty small. I didn’t recite the statistic of a 200% increase in the group size (vs. my prev big day in the Tenmile) with him and the other Matt accompanying me this time, as that might’ve scared him away!
Entire Mosquito Traverse basked in peaceful alpenglow
I woke up at 1AM and met Matt Lemke at the PnR at 1:30AM. Our plan was to meet the other Matt at the Kite Lake TH at 3AM, and we arrived about 5min late. We switched our gear over the other Matt’s truck and set off back down the bumpy Kite Lake Rd with me squeezed in what I guess you could call “seats” in the back of his Tacoma’s cab. Cruised Main St in Alma and Fairplay, and then turned on to the Four Mile Creek Rd. We planned on having to park at the winter closure on the road but we were VERY pleasantly surprised to see that the 4 or 5 drifts across the road all had tracks busted through them. So we were able to make it all the way to the turn for the 4WD road to Leavick Tarn/Peerless Mine. This saved us 500’ elevation gain and about 1.5mi of road walking. We geared up and set off up the road around 4:30AM with the goal of making it to our first summit, 13,898’ - Horseshoe Mtn, by sunrise (@ 6:40AM).
Serene view back towards summit of Horseshoe Mtn
We made quick work of the network of 4WD roads leading to the Peerless Mine as the full moon illuminated the terrain around us. (I didn’t even get out my headlamp it was so bright out.) Occasional gusts of wind, interspersed by relative calm, only hinted at the gale winds that would blast us the rest of the day. Once we reached the ridge to Horseshoe Mtn the wind became more constant and once we were close to the summit and the hulk of Horseshoe no longer was our wind break we got our first taste of what NOAA/NWS calls a “very windy” day: SSW-SW wind 40-50mph. We summited Horseshoe Mtn. around 6:20AM, 20mins prior to sunrise. Due to the chilly breeze that continuously buffeted us on the summit we decided not to wait for the sunrise but to begin our traverse of the Mosquito Range in earnest.
Matt Lavington on the way down from Horseshoe Mtn
Holy Cross area of the Sawatch basking in the light of dawn
Finnback Knob feels the fire at first light
Diminutive Peerless Mtn is the next objective with Sheridan (L), Sherman (R), and Dyer (center back)
We cruised down towards the diminutive Peerless Mtn that if you don’t have any other peaks to compare it to in the picture frame it actually looks pretty big. Traversed the top of it and then down to the saddle with Sheridan.
Matt Lemke (R), Matt Lavington (L) on the way to Peerless Mtn
Peerless (R), Sheridan (L), and Dyer (center)
Mount Massive seen over Finnback Knob’s shoulder.
Sheridan was our first real climb of the day after Horseshoe and we were able to follow a use trail up the 600’ to the summit. The USGS map has the highest point on the east side of the summit plateau, but the wind break and summit register are more towards the west side of the summit plateau. So to cover our bases and to enjoy the protection of the wind break we went to the west side and had our first snack break of the day. From here we could see the rest of the way we had to go to reach our final peak of the day, Buckskin Mtn.
Looking north towards the rest of the Mosquito Range Traverse. Buckskin is visible in the center with the Mount Democrat’s pyramid right above it. Mt Loveland has the stripes of snow going up its slopes.
View back to Horseshoe Mtn from Sheridan’s Summit
Great view of the Sawatch across the valley
Matt Lemke enjoying the view from Sheridan while the other Matt approaches the summit.
After a quick snack break we headed down towards the pass with the 14er Mt Sherman. This pass, at a lowly 13,150’, would actually be the LOWEST elevation we would be at during the whole of our traverse!
Sherman’s South Ridge was an easy climb alternating between snow and talus and we reached the summit in short order. Well at least I did, Matt Lemke claimed to have stuck to his personal rule of not “repeating” peaks by bypassing the summit cairn area, but I think I caught a glimpse of him sneaking over there when he thought I wasn’t looking. Your secret is safe with me Matt…
Mt Sherman’s Lofty Summit
View south from Sherman’s Summit
Here the wind actually strengthened (as NOAA had actually forecasted) from the 40-50mph SW-SSW it was to a 50-60mph SW-SSW gale that would gust occasionally to 70mph. This wind would be our constant, unrelenting, unmerciful companion the rest of the day as we would sorely lack natural wind blocks to hide behind along the relatively gentle Mosquito Range crest.
Spindrift whipping across Sherman’s summit with Matt heading towards Gemini Peak.
Soft-ranked Gemini Peak 13,951’ (R). The wind was really screaming across here.
We didn’t even stop on the Sherman summit but continued across to the “soft-ranked” Gemini Peak at 13,951’. The talus was fairly treacherous on the ascent and descent of Gemini as large boulders that you think would be stable would randomly roll or slide on you. We were hoping for a natural wind block on the summit to rest and refuel behind but no luck. Gemini’s summit is just too rounded and smooth to offer up any kind of wind protection. Fortunately, for our sanity at least, a man-made wind block afforded us some kind of wind protection. So we both hunkered down in it and had a quick snack and rehydration break.
Looking back towards Sherman from Gemini Peak.
We couldn’t rest for long as we still had quite a ways to go so we started down the loose slopes of Gemini Peak to the ridge to Dyer Mtn. By now, Matt Lavington had reached Mt Sherman’s summit. He had told us not to wait up for him back at Mount Sheridan and that he would head back to his truck after Gemini Peak if he felt like he couldn’t keep up with us “young guns”. Fortunately, he had also mentioned this idea prior to the hike too which prompted me to change the car shuttle plans to have him park at Leavick and I park at Kite Lake. This was a key decision as I’m not sure what we would have done if I had parked at Leavick. I guess he could’ve driven my car back to Kite Lake…
Since Matt Lemke had already climbed Dyer Mtn on a previous climb, and he wanted to adhere to his rule of not repeating peaks I soloed up to Dyer’s centennial 13,855’ summit while Matt rested behind the comfy wind block that the Gemini-Dyer Saddle afforded him. Climbing Dyer was a BEAR! Now I was crossways to the wind direction and it slammed me with its full force! It knocked me about as I tried to piece my way safely up to the top, stopping occasionally to brace against a 70mph gust. Fortunately, the snow had a nice crust to it so I was able to kick small steps and sidehill easily up to the summit w/o need of ice axe or traction. I spent almost no time on the summit as I retreated north down to where Matt was waiting for me.
Hero shot atop Dyer Mtn with Evans B (behind). Man that wind was gnarly!
The ridge to Mount Evans B (13,577’) presented us with some really fun Class 3 scrambling with one Class 4 move to circumvent a large tower via a 6in wide ledge. What wasn’t as much fun was the ice crystals that stung our faces as we were scrambling. I had to stop a couple times just to turn my face away from the wind and protect myself from getting blown off the narrow ridge.
Rugged ridge to Mt Evans B with Dyer Mtn behind.
As we ascended up to Evans we gawked and gaped at the remarkable NE face of Dyer and how the blowing spindrift swirled up its incredibly rugged face.
Spindrift gives a ethereal flavor to the incredibly rugged NW face of Dyer Mtn.
Mount Evans mocked us with nary a wind block in sight so we decided to continue on w/o stopping for a snack and water break. As we descended along the gentle ridge we came upon the tracks of a Snow Cat that someone had driven up there from the Mosquito Pass Rd. We followed these tracks down to some small, old abandoned radio communication buildings where we were able to sort-of hide from the wind for awhile and refuel. The eddies of the wind whipping around the building taunted us with the grim fact that we would have to face them again soon.
We rested for maybe 10mins or so and ventured forth back into the teeth of the furious wind and trekked across the gentle tundra to 13,186’ Mosquito Pass. From here there was a road we followed up to the summit of 13,548’ Repeater Peak. Once there, I re-christened Repeater Peak “Lemke Peak” in honor of the “Master of Repeating Peaks”, Matt Lemke! He felt honored and then smacked me upside the head for even suggesting such a thing. We hid behind the large building here and rested for awhile as this would be our last chance to get out of the wind for the rest of the traverse. As we sat there it sounded like we were sitting behind the engine of a jet airplane as the wind roared through the radio towers above us and around the building. I wish I would’ve taken a video I could share with you so you could get a sense of that roaring sound. The closest analogy I can think of would be to put your ear right by a “box fan” that is turned on High. Now multiply the sound you are hearing 2X to get a sense of the magnitude of the roaring sound we experienced!
Look back south at Repeater Peak from summit of Mosquito Peak
After another 10-15min rest we ventured out once again into the angry 50-60mph wind. I could tell that after Repeater Peak my lungs were getting tired of: 1. Being above 13K feet for so long and 2. Having the air stolen from my mouth by the wind as it whipped by me. My legs felt just fine and weren’t really tired at all but I had to stop more often to catch my breath (occasionally on the downhill even!). 13,781’ Mosquito Peak was a frustratingly long climb to the summit and then we had to immediately lose ~400ft down to the saddle with 13,701’ Treasurevault Mtn. which was another 300’ climb. I didn’t even stop for the signature “hot dog stand” picture that everyone takes at the Mosquito-Treasurevault saddle. I just wanted to get over Treasurevault and onto Tweto.
View from Mosquito Peak to Treasurevault Mtn (L), Mt Arkansas (C), and Tweto (R). Quandary Peak looms in background right
We hid behind Treasurevault’s summit cairn for 5mins or so and then started down the 500’ gentle tundra descent to the base of 13,672’ Mt Tweto, our second to last climb of the day, and our last easy talus/tundra portion. Fortunately, Tweto didn’t have any false summits otherwise some choice words would’ve spontaneously sallied forth from my mouth.
Tweto (L) and Buckskin (R), Democrat/Cameraon/Lincoln (C).
View back toward where we came from. Horseshoe Mtn is the broad curve in the extreme background center framed by Sherman and Gemini (L) and the pointy summit of Dyer (R).
From Tweto’s summit we scouted out the Class 3/4 traverse to Buckskin. Here we would be crossways from the wind which would be serious bummer. Also, that final ascent to Buckskin’s western summit was looking mighty steep! My strategy was to get below the rock towers on the ridge proper and traverse the crusty snow slopes as much as possible and avoid the up and down of the ridge and the VERY loose talus along the ridge. Matt’s boots didn’t have as much purchase in the crusty snow so he had to stay on the ridge more than I did. The snowy slopes were quite steep and didn’t have much of a run-out at their base, so I should’ve taken out my ice axe for protection but I didn’t want to stop. I did test the snow condition each time I transitioned from rock to snow and luckily I never slipped.
Starting on the ridge from Tweto to Buckskin.
We had to traverse right on the ridge crest for several portions. Here the ridge was maybe 3ft wide but had a knife-edge crown of snow we had to walk with our feet on either side of. Matt said along one of these snowy knife-edges a strong 70mph gust of wind caught him off-guards and knocked him over. Luckily he was able to stop himself quickly by shoving his arm as deep as he could in the snow. Phew! We finally made it to the base of the very steep scramble up to Buckskin’s western summit. Here we stuck closer together to assist in route finding and safeguard from rockfall. Several Class 3+ moves were mixed in with very steep talus climbing as we avoided the snowfield on Buckskin’s SW face.
Steep climb to Buckskin’s west summit (above).
We FINALLY made it up our last major climb of the day to the western summit of Buckskin around 6:15pm, 1:45 from the summit of Tweto. Here we could see the last, easy, 200yd traverse to Bucksin’s 6’ higher eastern summit which we reached 15mins later at 6:30pm.
Matt makes the final climb to Buckskin’s eastern summit.
Looking back at Buckskin’s western summit and Mt Tweto in the distance.
We started waaaaaaaaayyyyyy back there. Horseshoe Mtn is smack dab in the center in the very back.
Another “big day” just about in the books!
We celebrated on the summit for 10mins or so and began the steep talus descent down to my waiting car. Fortunately, unlike the final 4,000’ descent I had for my Tenmile Traverse, we only had ~1,900’ to descend, albeit on VERY loose talus. A nice touch was that we could see my car pretty much the whole way down. I reached the car around 7:30pm and Matt arrived about 10mins later.
Alpenglow on Cameron and Bross on the descent to Kite Lake
We quickly loaded up our gear and headed down to the South Park Bowl and Grill in Fairplay for some delicious pork and green chile smothered chorizo breakfast burritos. Oh that food tasted sooooooooooooo good after such a long day. We chilled there for about an hour and a half and then headed back to Denver.
Wow what an awesome big day! Man that wind sucked! Fortunately, it wasn’t as cold as the wind on the Spread Eagle Peak climb. It would’ve been pure hell if we had done this hike N-S and had that wind at our faces the whole day. It was hard enough as a partial tailwind!!
Thanks to the Matt’s for coming along with me on this “big day”. Especially because if I had to do it solo, I was planning on locking my bike up at Kite Lake and then riding it back to my car at Leavick! That would’ve really sucked after such a tiring day….
So what’s going to be my next “big day”? Hmmmmmm…… We’ll see! :smile:
Thanks for reading!
Elevation Profile for the Mosquito Range Traverse
Here is a link to a picture gallery that has more pictures that I haven’t shown here.