Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Eccles Pass

Distance: 10.4 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,150 to 11,917 ft
Elevation gain: 2,760 ft (net), 2,920 ft (cumulative)
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Dogs: Off leash until the Wilderness boundary
Date Hiked: 25 August 2007

Looking at Red Buffalo Pass from Eccles Pass near Frisco Colorado. 
The trail to Eccles Pass near Frisco,  Colorado is a grueling climb to one of the most spectacular passes in the Gore Range. Mostly in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, the trail is wild and rocky with little improvements. The majority of the route is through a dense forest with only the final approach to the pass being open and airy.  The destination is worth the suffering, however. The views from Eccles Pass are mythical in scope.

The Meadow Creek Trailhead
A typical rocky trail segment. This shot is close to the trailhead where Aspens dominate. 
The trail starts at the Meadow Creek Trailhead, located at the first Frisco Exit (coming from Silverthorne). This trailhead also serves Lilly Pad Lake, which splits off at 0.56 miles.  For the next 3.0 miles, the route is rather monotonous. Trees block out the sun, and rocks cover the trail. 0.6 miles further on is a the second of three meadows. This one is the first to provide any views of the surrounding peaks and is a welcome break to the relentless climbing.

Junction with the Lilly Pad Lake Trail. Meadow Creek stays left. 
The first of several meadows that provide a welcome break to the dark forest. 
The junction with the Gore Range Trail occurs at 4.45 miles (2,272 ft elevation gain) in the middle of a large meadow. It is here that the first views of the pass appear. Having already completed most of the distance and elevation gain by this point, the pass looked trivial to ascend.  Like most vistas in Colorado, however, looks can be deceiving, and last bit was steeper than expected.

Eccles Pass comes into view. 
The trails through the meadows are less rocky. That is Chief Mountain in the distance. 
The view from the pass looks down upon an idyllic bowl with Red Mountain Pass forming the western wall, Buffalo Mountain the eastern wall, and the Willow Creek drainage cutting through it. Small tarns dot the valley, which on this trip was verdant under late summer skies. With no thunderstorms in sight, we were able to lounge on the pass and wallow in the sunshine. For the uber energetic, it is only another 1.5 miles across to Red Buffalo Pass.

Final approach to the pass. This last segment was harder than it looked. 
Looking down the South Willow drainage on the eastern side of the bowl. 
While other passes are easier to get to,  Eccles Pass has the advantage of being close to civilization yet free of the teaming hordes. Not only will you experience superlative views, you will be able to eat anything you want by the time you return! Just bring along a chatty friend so you don't die of ennui on the long slog through the forest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love it!