Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mount Geneva to Mount Santa Fe Traverse

On June 29, 2008 Sean and I planned to ascend Mount Geneva, Mount Santa Fe and Mount Decatur. We felt this would be a good tune up for the summer hiking season. It is always fun to climb some 13ers since there are far fewer people: providing a more pure alpine experience.

To get there you take Guanella Pass Road, then make a right at FR 119 and take it to the gate. From the gate hike up the road past a nice cabin. We weren't sure exactly where to leave the road, so we decided to start bushwhacking just past the first Y. It turns out we ascended a very steep section of Mount Landslide. In hindsight we should have continued up the road further before leaving it. No matter, it was a good quad burner. Once atop Landslide we followed the ridge crest over to Geneva. This section is a pleasant high altitude hike with the usual stunning Colorado views (photo 1 atop Geneva). The descent from Geneva offered the only scramble section for the day, but you must work to make it happen. It is worth it since following the trail is quite uninteresting.

The ascent of Santa Fe is again steep and by now the legs were feeling weaker. Once atop Santa Fe we felt like conquerors so we chose to descend the steep ridge heading straight for the road far below (photo 2). This meant we wouldn't bag Mount Decatur, but from this apex it looked like a long way over there with much altitude loss and gain.

About half way down the face of Mount Santa Fe we found a wonderful snow field. I failed to bring an ice axe, but Sean had his. The run out seemed safe and the angle wasn't extreme, so I felt comfortable doing a glissade sans axe. It was quite fun! We found another steeper glissade heading down to lake. This one was a bit more challenging, and I started thinking I should never leave the truck without an ice axe. You never know when you will encounter good snow even in the dog days of summer. Check out the third photo.

Once down to the lake we plunge stepped the rest of the snow past the beautiful waterfall in this last photo. Our goal was to avoid the quagmire in the basin, but it pursued us no matter our course. We light-footed it across the swamp and were fortunate to find the road home.

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