Friday, December 12, 2008

Squaw Mountain Snowshoe (Sort of)

Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 10,230-11,430 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft

Mt. Evans (14,264 ft) Massif viewed from the summit of Squaw Mountain

When the wind is blowing at Brainard Lake and when the traffic to Summit County is just unbearable, check out the trails near Mt. Evans. Several of these, including Squaw Mountain (11,430 ft), are located up Highway 103 out of Evergreen. Squaw Mountain is not a pristine wilderness experience. Its three summits are filled with radio antennas, buildings, and propane tanks. Still, given the conditions I mentioned in my first sentence, these detractors can be easily overlooked.

The start of the trail

Squaw Mountain from the trail

The trail up Squaw Mountain is a wide service road. On this trip it was a hike and not a snowshoe. We brought snowshoes but started out in Yak Traks instead. Halfway up, we took these off too because there was not a stitch of snow on the ground.

First switchback

From Highway 103, the trail heads moderately upwards. A view of the summit is briefly visible with the first half mile. At 0.4 miles, the trail crosses Old Squaw Pass Road, another good snowshoe in the area. Another third of a mile beyond this and you reach the first switch back. Once you have that pattern in your mind, you have the essence of the Squaw Pass trail…long stretch, then switchback, long stretch, then switchback. The pattern breaks down near the top when the fire watchtower comes into view.

Looking up at the watchtower

Antennas on the summit

The watchtower is a small rock shelter located on the right-most summit. A road leads directly to this area. There is not much shelter there though, and a luncheon next to its wall can be brisk if the wind is blowing.

Road to the watchtower

Wider view

Squaw Mountain three summits are all sharp piles of nearly vertical skree. The exception is the tower upon which the watchtower is built. It is a little broader. On this trip I climbed up near the top of the middle pile. The actual top of this summit is an angled knife-edge that would probably be easy in summer but was not worth the effort in winter.

Propane tanks between the left-most summits. Chief Mountain (11,709 ft) is to the left.

Between the left-most summits (when viewed coming up the road), is another building and a large set of towers. We ate lunch here on this trip. There are stellar views of the Mt. Evan’s Massif from this location and it is slightly more sheltered.

Heading towards the summit

The one note of caution I have about this trail is that parking is very limited and is primarily tucked in next to the Hwy 103 itself. It is also difficult to identify. There are no named signs, just a small forest service sign that says 1921 on it. You can’t see this sign coming from Evergreen. Our guidebook says the trailhead is 12.8 miles from the junction of Hwy 103 and Hwy 74 (Evergreen Parkway), but our odometer read less than 12 miles.

Standing in between the rock piles on the middle summit. The watchtower is visible in the distance.

On this trip we ended up running over a sharp object in the snow along the road, which ripped out our tire. Fortunately, there is cell service there where it is otherwise lacking lower down in the canyon.


Shellmo said...

So beautiful - too bad there wasn't enough snow to go snow shoeing! Sorry to hear about your flat tire too!

Tina said...

Well once again you've captured some awesome shots Sylvia, and I'm so glad that you had cell service when your tire blew..whew, that would have been a long cold wait!! Thanks for sharing.