Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturday, 12/05/09 Cameron Cone

Cameron Cone (10,707ft.)
Englemann Canyon/Southeast Slopes Route
~8 miles
4,000 vertical
Jeff and Allison Valliere, Dave Hale, Dave “Hoot” Gibson, Gerry and Jennifer Roach, Sierra, Shep, Kiefer and Sophie
~9 hours RT

We have been talking about getting together for a trip up Cameron Cone for a few years and it finally came together on Saturday. We carpooled to the Barr Trailhead and met Dave and Hoot a little after 7:00am and were on the trail by 7:30am. We pretty much followed this route for the most part except for a few variations. The first variation was, instead of climbing the initial section of Barr Trail as described, we descended from the parking lot down to Ruxton, then took a right up the hill (this saves a bit of distance/elevation gain/loss). At the double gate, we took the right fork then ~5-10 minutes of walking gets you to the natural bridge beyond the fence as described.

After we crossed the creek and the tracks, we went up the very steep hillside for ~50 or so vertical feet until we intersected a narrow and seldom used trail (as indicated on the SP page). We followed the trail above the tracks for a ways and eventually (after some routefinding and swichbacking) intersected with a wider, much more frequently traveled trail that eventually brought us to Magog Rock. The trail was coated with a dusting to a few inches of newish snow which made things a little slick for those without Microspikes. Near Magog Rock, a short scramble is required and was a little tricky in the snowy conditions. Dave, Hoot, Gerry and the dogs scampered up the slippery rocks, while I led Allison and Jennifer through a low angle chimney to ascenders left with some nice bush belays. Neither option was very difficult, but can be a little tricky when snowy.

Once past Magog rock, the views opened up nicely along the ridge, high above town and way below Pikes. Gog rock was interesting and the going was easy along the snow covered dirt road beyond Gog rock. Before long, we started up the trail to Cameron Cone proper and this is where the real fun began. The snow got ever deeper, knee deep at times and following the trail was not always guaranteed. The North facing slope steepened considerably and the route seemed trail like at times where our route finding was aided by surveyors tape. We eventually lost the ribbons and due to the snow, it was hard to tell where the trail was, so we headed straight up the fall line to the ridge. This included some very steep trail breaking over rocky terrain littered with deadfall and progress was slow and tedious, inspiring a bit of language.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally gained the Eastern summit ridge, ~600 or so feet below the summit which was more open terrain with less snow. It was after ~12:40pm and there was some hesitation about whether or not we would have time to get to the summit and back to the trailhead before dark. We eventually decided to go for it since we were so close and were ultimately very glad that we had made that choice. I topped out at 1:00pm and the others trickled in shortly after, where we enjoyed the views, took some pictures and Jennifer left a new register, as the old one was a bit tattered.

We started down a few minutes after 1:30pm. Instead of following our tracks exactly, we descended the East ridge to a few hundred feet below where we gained it and found the proper trail which quickly led us to our ascent tracks, bypassing the most difficult section. Once on our ascent track, we were able to cruise on auto pilot and made quick progress on the descent.

As we descended and got closer to the tracks, we decided to continue down the wider, more well worn path and see where it lead us. The trail dumped us out on the tracks a few hundred lateral feet below where we had crossed in the morning and if I were to do this hike again, I would certainly make the correction of ascending our descent route exact. With a ~2 hour drive on each end and very little daylight, it seemed like a bit of a long day, but we had an awesome time with great friends and we were thankful that we could join. All in all a satisfying and rewarding day.


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