Had decided to do Mt Huron Saturday again solo, but then my office mate, Tom mentioned he still wanted to go on a 14er, so I invited him and along he came to join me on a memorable day. We started up the trail at 5:15am and walked up the easy road/trail as the sun highlighted either valley wall along on path. We were soon greeted with a marvelous view of the three apostles; a series a peaks that look quite challenging. We never did see Huron as we hiked through the forest and open fields. I considered this area while we were hiking in as even a better approach than Mt Lindsey. I think I had a slightly dimmer view by the time the day was over.
The maps/books had indicated 8 miles and 3700 elevation gain. I thought this seemed easy enough, but was dismayed to see the first 2 miles were nearly flat as we wound our way of the valley and beside the beaver ponds. I knew this meant a steep climb at the end on Huron. We made it to tree line in good time and just when we thought we would be getting to the top early, the trail switch backed on itself and went out on a talus slope. The guidebook had described a hanging grassy area at 12,300 then a long talus slope climb to the summit.
Never saw the grassy area; instead we were immediately thrust into steep boulder hopping for 3,000′ Tom began to feel the altitude at 11000 and slowed down a bit. I was not convinced we were climbing Mt Huron from the right basin and thought we were instead ascending Browns Peak. There were some good cairns on the steep slope, but as this was not what I had pictured, I felt we had somehow done gone down the valley far enough. I sped ahead to a false summit at 13,300 and looked up and saw a summit about 400 feet straight up.
I still thought this to be Browns peak. I shouted some encouragement to Tom who was about 200 feet below and he slowly worked his way to my perch. I knew we needed some new options with how Tom was feeling, the confused sense as to where we were, and the time we had lost. Tom made the first decision for me when he arrived and said that he had summited his peak right there at 13,300″
That was a very smart decision on his part and he got comfortable and drank some water and snacked on some food. He immediately said he felt better after stopping the exertion from going up. He suggested that I continue to the summit and return. We talked over all of the options (i.e.: bad weather, escape routes off etc.) and I agreed to dash for the summit (wherever it was) and return to him in 90 minutes. (The sky was clear and it 9:00am by this point.
I left my pack with Tom , grabbed some water and a banana and set up the slope at a traversing angle as I thought the peak above was Browns peak and I wanted to skirt it. When I got to the top of the ridge I could see no peak higher than the one straight above so I quickly ran up the last 75′ and arrived on the summit of Mt Huron much to my surprise. There was a college student from Aspen who had just arrived via a different route also on the summit.
Now I was really perplexed – the route we ascended was the right one? If it was it was considerably harder than what the guidebook led one to believe! I signed the register and now headed directly down the steep ridge to where I could see Tom sitting. I called out to him couple of times and got no reply. Then I saw him move when he heard the rockslide I set off in the loose talus – he was just catching some zzzz’s! We decided to down climb a gully to our left rather than retrace our steps down the talus slope. BTW, different folks still coming up were as perplexed as we about the route and they were none too happy. 😉
We went down and down and down – about 3,000′ to timberline slipping and sliding the whole way down. We crossed the creek as we ran into no trail and found a faint game trail that followed the creek. We followed this for about 3/4 mile until we came back across the creek and picked up our trail that we ascended. Made it back to the car by 1:15pm sort of beat, but not beaten. Tom was tired, but felt fine and can be very proud of his accomplishment on his first 14er. 13,300 is nothing to scoff at! The hike left me still pondering if we were on the route or off of it? Perhaps a reader can make it all clear to me if they have done this hike and experienced the same situation. I now know that we were nowhere close to Browns Peak. OH WELL, a nice but tiring day and #22 done.
8.4 miles, 3,750′, 8 hours (ugg)