Due to a less than ideal weather forecast for a long ridge run in the Gores, J and I decided to go on an even longer hike in our backyard. No scrambling, no technical climbing, just a good ole lengthy day hike. Despite being more mileage than the ridge run we had planned in the Gores, many of the miles were below treeline, so if weather did move in as expected we could descend to cover pretty fast. The big 13er in our backyard that we have been meaning to hike the last decade we have lived here, but just never have: Mt. Jackson. We’ve looked at it a thousand times from other peaks and Highway 6 en route from Wolcott back to Edwards after rock climbing. Perhaps the best view is from the summit of our favorite Red & White Mountain (11,200′) to Jackson’s north.
It was time go for a hike. We parked at the Beaver Creek parking garage and began hiking up the road around 5:15am this past Saturday morning. We walked past all of the familiar chair lifts and buildings and cruised the 3 miles to Beaver Lake. We were the only ones on the trail this early, but suspected there would be many tourists at beaver lake upon our return. It was then another 4 miles from Beaver Lake to Lower Turqoise Lake on a good trail for the most part, though definitely a bit damp and muddy in places. We hiked the first 7 miles in about 2.5 hours, which we were pleased about since we were worried with building thunderstorms after noon. We took a left onto the Grouse Creek trail and climbed to treeline and then left the trail for the saddle between Grouse Mountain and Mt. Jackson in order to access Mt. Jackson’s northeast ridge.
Despite being relatively close to the Vail Valley and a ski resort, Jackson is deep. Deep back in the northern Sawatch Range with remote ridges and basins all around that we have long wanted to view from above. We moved pretty fast all morning always cognizant of when the storms may start building strength. However, the weather remained very nice and the mellow slopes of Jackson’s north east ridge allowed for some pretty speedy progress not to mention we were moving with ski and/or climbing gear, which was a welcome reprieve from the several previous outings.
Mt. of the Holy Cross’ west face came into view towering above the Cross Creek valley. We had never seen this view of Holy Cross up close before. Not as dramatic as the Cross Couloir and its east face, but impressive all the same. Familiar peaks we have climbed to the west came into view as well such as Fools Peak, Finnegans, and Gold Dust Peak. The final, narrowing ridge up to Jackson’s summit was pretty spectacular with gorgeous views all around.
We topped out on Jackson’s might summit at 9:45am about 4.5 hours after we left the parking garage. Clouds were definitely forming all around, but we believed the weather to hold for at least another few hours (fingers crossed). Pictures were taken all around and the views savored in every direction.
We only probably stayed 15 minutes up top and then began our descent. We quickly made progress chatting and telling stories (yes, even after so many years together in the mountains, we still have plenty to talk about) back down to the saddle with Grouse Mountain and considered our options. It was now 11am and the last thing we wanted to do was to take a chance with the weather, but we believed it would hold long enough for us to go check out the 12er Grouse Mountain as well. So, we motored up the 800′ to Grouse Mountain’s summit ridge and beelined for its summit.
Grouse Lake came into view far away down to the northeast and Beaver Creek ski mountain’s “Bald Spot” was much closer now. Jackson seemed far away. We saw a herd of elk on the saddle below, which was an awesome sight my dad would have truly appreciated.
We then began our second descent of the day back to treeline and the Grouse Creek trail. We timed it just about perfect as it began to rain once we were in the trees. The rain didn’t last long and suprisingly we never heard thunder or saw lightning all day. Maybe we could have done the long Gore traverse we had planned. Nevertheless, this long high up behind Beaver Creek was a great way to spend a day.
We finally reached my truck in the Beaver Creek parking garage at 3:15pm after 10 hours on our feet. Other than some sore pads on my feet (I need some Hokas for these 20+ mile days), I felt great as J did even after a 22 mile day with around 6,600′ of vertical gain. All in all, a solid day in our backyard.