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Ascent of Mount Powell on 2012-08-17

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad
Date:Friday, August 17, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Powell
    Location:USA-Colorado
    Elevation:13560 ft / 4133 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was the last peak of our four week trip, climbed the day after Greenhorn. A fine finale. We leave Denver just before 6 and are at the trailhead in 2 hours.

To reach the Piney Lake Ranch trailhead we leave the I-70 at j176 (Vail). Continuing W on the service road N side of the interstate, we turn R at mile 1.0 (measuring from j176 traffic circle) onto Red Sandstone Road (N39.64361 W106.39516). To stay on this road it's necessary to keep L at mile 1.6at a sharp bend onto a dirt road, at N39.64819 W106.39294 (the paved road soon ends in housing). The dirt road is suitable for normal cars although quite rough and slow with many small potholes especially in the latter stages. At mile 4.3 we turn L onto Piney Lake Road; at mile 8.0 we keep R then at 8.1 we keep R again (N39.69732 W106.43567) on road 701, following Piney Lake signs. At mile 10.6 we cross the creek (bridge) and immediately turn R for Piney Lake. Piney Lake Ranch is reached at mile 12.0 with a trailhead car park (N39.72023 W106.40516, 2851m) just outside the gates. Note that the Google Maps directions we have with us are rather confused: the Delorme atlas helps a lot.

We leave the trailhead at 0800, initially hiking uphill L of the gates to follow the clear trail which bypasses L (N) of the ranch (which itself has visitor facilities including tepees and boating). We follow the Piney Creek Trail for about 3 miles as it follows the N bank of Piney River, climbing up through aspen trees until about 100m above the river before descending a little to meet it at N39.73640 W106.36160. Here we find a few tents pitched.

We find the next stretch puzzling as we are expecting to turn L off the main trail onto a smaller trail which leads up a side valley to Kneeknocker Pass. Instead, the trail to the Pass seems to be the main trail: TR1885 Piney Creek Trail seems to disappear completely. There are a few trail forks in the woodland, several of them blocked off to indicate the intended route (eg L at N39.73690 W106.36059). A more obscure fork is reached at N39.74126 W106.35867 at the start of a scrubby meadow area. On the way up we keep L on the clearer trail: this involves pushing through some willows; on the way down we find ourselves on the lower trail, which involves quite a few fallen trees. Either way works: neither is difficult.

Above the scrubby meadow area the trail follows the L side of the creek, climbing steeply then emerging onto a lovely green meadow surrounded by rugged mountains: Peak C (according to the Gore Range naming system!) is dominant to the R; our immediate goal Kneeknocker Pass is straight ahead. The trail continues to the Pass, initially through grass, finally through loose scree, generally steep but straightforward. On the way up we pass a father and son who are heading over the pass to fish a small lake some way down on the far side, maybe a tougher day hike than ours. Also it turns out that the father (Stan Gill) and Petter have a common acquaintance in one Bill Briggs of Boulder, a well known climber and hill runner, with whom Petter has climbed in the Gores.

From Kneeknocker(N39.75217 W106.34045, 3727m), our route continues with a short descent, L to pick up a rather loose and exposed traverse path (Yds 2+) which follows the foot of a small cliff, then we descend a short scree slope then cross an easy boulder field. Beyond, steep grassy slopes lead directly up to the upper saddle which is below the summit. Peak C, now an imposing spire directly behind us, provides a welcome photo and rest stop. Above the grass there's a choice between cutting R onto scree (the way we later descend) or keeping L until the grass meets rock just below the saddle. We keep L: bad decision: I'm following Petter when he suddenly slides a metre back down a small gully accompanied by some large rocks. I'm on a safe stance and grab his arm while the dust settles. Head wound (apparently minor) and a badly bruised leg. Could have been a lot worse, but worried about getting down from a fairly remote location with a stiff leg.

We climb the little gully then cross a short scree slope (surprisingly there's a small stream, presumably due to the small snow patch) to gain the upper saddle, then climb a short blocky boulder slope to the summit, which has a couple of boulders vying for highpoint honours (N39.76031 W106.34062, 4126m). I wander round the small summit area getting the most out of the views and taking a few photos. There's a summit register in a jar which we complete.

We're at the summit in 4h10, spend 30 mins on top and descend in 3h10. I make a small detour to the little top on the far side of the upper saddle - a fine viewpoint, with the highest boulder at N39.75932 W106.34341.

A young local climber called Scott summits just before us and we descend together, keeping towards the L on the way down- reasonable scree. Scott takes a lower line at the foot of the slope, going below the buttress; we take the same line as before, ascending the scree slope and the traverse path, saving a couple of minutes on Scott's less direct route.

The descent is pretty uneventful: Petter's leg is stiff but functional; at the meadow I filter drinking water for the descent; we once again fail to find where the Piney Creek Trail 1885 goes upstream. We're back at the trailhead just before 1600 and head back to Denver. We fly back to Europe the next day, very satisfied with our Rockies trip.

Mt Powell photo album
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:4730 ft / 1440 m
    Extra Gain:262 ft / 79 m
    Distance:10.9 mi / 17.6 km
    Route:Kneeknocker Pass
    Trailhead:Piney Lake Ranch  9354 ft / 2851 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 2+
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:4 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:3 Hours 10 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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