Sunday, June 23, 2013

St Vrain Mountain from Peaceful Valley

The Buchanon Pass Trail rises just less than 1000' in 4 miles from the Middle St Vrain Trail Head in Peaceful Valley. The melt water makes for some muddy patches but it is completely runnable and in the early morning sunshine it is extremely pleasant. The Middle St Vrain creek is swollen and the noise of the water is deafening in places. Livvy and I made reasonable, but not exactly quick progress to the junction with the Coney Flats trail and we then headed north west up the St Vrain Glacier trail.
Meadow below Sawtooth on the Buchanon Pass trail

We met no one and the solitude was bliss. We picked our way across the meadow as we left the noisy river and the wildflowers were coming into bloom. I really like the upper reaches of this valley and we began to gain altitude more quickly as we climbed east up the St Vrain Mountain trail. This route is the long way up the mountain. Many times I have taken the shorter approach from Allenstown, but today I wanted to get a good view of the snow conditions from  Mount Audubon up to Longs Peak to help decide when and where to run in the high country.
Elk Tooth and Ogalalla Peak from the St Vrain trail

It was a stiff ascent. This isn't a popular trail and the evidence for this comes in the form of overgrown trees and bushes and sections of trail swept away by winter snow slides. Hard work brought great views and in several places the trees opened up to provide high level views of adjacent peaks.
Spectacular view of Sawtooth just across the valley
It's not a particularly long ascent but in about a mile there is a 1,100' gain in altitude and it is hard work. We crested the rim of the valley and tracked through some dense woodland. The trail was blocked in several places by fallen trees so after another half mile we struck directly up a steep stream gully in a direct route to the summit. It was definitely the best route choice. It was exhausting but also good fun.
Livvy taking a break on the final climb below the summit

As is typical of all mountain summits the ground is extremely rocky and when we emerged onto the summit plateau we picked our way carefully across to the high point. It was cool in the breeze and we rested a few minutes and enjoyed the panorama.
On the summit with Longs Peak in the background

Rather than descend the steep route up the gully I took a line due west aiming to avoid the large snowfields. I knew that this would lead to some bushwhacking once we reached treeline, but is was a more natural line and, as it turned out, a very pleasant one.
A refreshing break on the descent

It was a reasonably quick descent back to the trailhead. We me no one at all on St Vrain mountain, but once back on the Buchanon Pass trail we met many walkers. I am happy we spent most of the day avoiding them.

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