South Tarryall Peak, 11,206′, Lost Creek Wilderness, October 27th, 2007

Our hikes are now getting longer as the days are getting shorter! After a couple of easy hikes in the last 3 weeks, Tom and I decided we needed to stretch it out a bit more and he wanted to pick the next objective.  During the week he researched The Lost Creek Wilderness and selected South Tarryall Peak.  The route he chose was the North Slope Classic route, involving 8.2 RT and 2,766’ elevation gain.  As you can tell from the route map on the Google Earth overlay we almost practically circled the mountain from the Spruce Grove trailhead.  The final .75 to the summit was trail less and involved bush whacking up a steep wooded slope with about 6” of snow.

Our route

Once we knew what our objective was earlier in the week, we invited Don to join us and he readily accepted. Tom just had to shake a nasty cold to give us the green light which he did on Thursday. We did not get a mountaineer’s start Saturday as there was no reason to with settled weather after a cold front had swept through Friday afternoon.  Picking Don up in Woodland Park at 0830, we continued to the trailhead north of Lake George and to the edge of the Lost Creek Wilderness.  I had lived in Colorado a combined 5 years and had never been to the closest wilderness area to my home, so this was a new experience.

Interesting way to start a hike!

Starting out from the trailhead, we crossed a stream, walked through a rock tunnel and ascended the gentle slopes below South Tarryall Peak on the Lizard Rock Trail.  All three of us had Rhino GPS/ 2 Way radios now and we naturally spread out along the trail with Tom leading the way occasionally joking or carrying on short conversations via the radios. We all had camera and I would subjectively rate me as the worst photographer, Tom as an excellent photographer, and Don as a professional with a very large camera.

* Take a moment to look at all three galleries at SMUGMUG:

Bob’s Smugmug

Tom’s Smugmug

Don’s Smugmug

We hiked to a saddle near Lizard Rock and reached the wilderness boundary, marked by a beautiful sign. At this point we took a right on Hankins Pass trail and traversed along the north side of the mountain on snow covered trails.  Don had recently passed his amateur radio “HAM” licensing test and had brought along his radio on the hike to play with and show me how it worked.  He used a repeater on Badger Mountain by Wilkerson Pass to talk with his friends in Woodland Park and other places during the hike.  I am currently studying for my test.

Don and Tom

Don w/ new radio

Reaching Hankin’s Pass was easy enough and we stopped to have a bite to eat and determine the best route to the summit as there was no trail. It looked as though if we went farther east, then south, to reach the ridgeline, the door to the summit would open.  Tom led up into the wooded, snow covered slopes and he picked a most excellent route, zigging and zagging up the slope. About a third of the way up, he handed off duties to Don who came across some elk tracks to follow up the slope.  Don said since animals have a knack for avoiding deadfall and impassible thickets, he would just follow the track.  After all, I offered, they do it for living, literally so must be pretty good at it.

Don following the elk hoof prints

We followed those elk tracks up to within 200’ of the summit until Don turned right to gain the final ridge to the summit itself.  We were surprised to find that the Hayman Fire has also touched this mountain, burning all the way up to the summit from the east.  Spread out a bit, we picked our way up through the rocks, each taking a different path to the summit block ,which was marked with a wooden cross and a small rock cairn.  Tom found the summit register in a glass bell jar and there was also a surveyor’s marker at the very top.  We snacked, took some pictures, and Don patched a call through to his wife and Debbie through the repeater when it was obvious there was no cell coverage.

Summit shots

Summit marker

After about 30 mins we started down, easily following our tracks in the snow down the steep slope.  Back at Hankins Pass, we regeared and started down the trail. After traversing the north side of the peak, we broke out of the shadows to the sunshine and temperatures rose.  The rest of the hike was just the slog back to the trailhead, where we arrived about an hour later, completing a tour of South Tarryall Peak.

Coming down the trail on the north side…

The guidebook by Gerry Roach had said the round trip was 8.2 miles. My GPS recorded 9.38 and Tom’s was 10.2.  Not exactly sure which was right but we all knew it was longer than 8.2! We got back to Colorado Springs for the start of World Series and watching the Rockies play the Red Socks in game 3.  South Tarryall Peak provides some stunning scenery, nice trail to within .75 of the summit and 360 degree views of the area from the top.  It certainly was a nice way to spend a day with friends.

Beta:   8.2 – 9.38 – 10.2 miles RT, Spruce Grove Campground TH, Lost Creek Wilderness 2766’ elevation gain 5.5 hours