Ascent of Rio Blanco County High Point on 2018-07-22

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Others in Party:William Musser -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, July 22, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Rio Blanco County High Point
    Elevation:12027 ft / 3665 m

Ascent Trip Report

I don't usually climb county highpoints without a name, but I have recently decided to try for all the Colorado county highpoints, plus with Orno Peak only 2 miles of ridge walking away, I figured I could bag a named summit on this outing also. I was glad to have William Musser join me on this climb. Like many highpointers who live in communities with no other individuals who share the same passion or who simply haven't retired yet, like myself, I am usually forced to climb alone, so I welcomed the company of Bill, who despite our 15-year age difference, made a great climbing companion. Bill is an extremely strong hiker and he made up for my slower pace by bagging an "extra credit" summit (as Bill called it) en route to the Rio Banco county HP. Even so, I only beat him to our primary goal by just 12 minutes. The rest of the time we did hike together and enjoyed sharing a wealth of stories on many topics. We began our climb at the Mandall Lake Trail #1121. There are no restrooms at this trailhead like there was for the Flat Top Mountain Trailhead, but if you are in need, it is only a couple of miles up the road to nice, clean vault toilets which even had paper when I was there. The trail is well maintained, but it has had a detour that forces an uncomfortable 400-foot gain then loss in order to avoid an apparent lower trail washout. Bill and I returned on this lower trail on our descent and found there is only one short section that required some caution in order to avoid a nasty slip on loose pebbles, but nothing really technical. It can be hard to find the lower trail's path, but it is blocked with a scattering of logs. There was no signage indicating this trail was closed, so if you don't mind a short section of scrambling on tiny scree, you can save yourself a 400-foot gain and loss by choosing the lower trail. At the trailhead there is an information sign warning of sheep and sheep dog etiquette. I have never seen a sign like this before in a wilderness area and we actually came upon a large sheep herd complete with a large, white, very protective dog who followed us over half a mile during our ascent. He made it quite clear to leave the sheep alone! The trail grade is quite gentle for the most part until the rise below the Orno Peak plateau's saddle. There is nothing beyond Class 2 climbing here, but it is a big change from the pleasant hiking earlier in the trip. Once on top the saddle (Mandall Pass), the Rio Blanco County HP is visible less than a mile to the north. There is an intermittent trail across the tundra to the top of Rio Banco County where there is a ring of rocks surrounding a register in a glass jar that was completely soaked and useless to sign. There is a great vista in all directions here and Orno Peak 2 miles to the southeast looked like a fairly easy stroll, but with questionable weather we wisely decided to descend and be satisfied with just the county highpoint. We reached the summit in 3 hours and 36 minutes after covering 6.75 miles and made our descent in 2 hours and 42 minutes and only having to cover 5.9 miles by using the lower trail in order to avoid the extra 400-foot gain and loss. This was a great climb and we only saw 2 or 3 people during the entire hike, unlike the Garfield County HP (Flat Top Mountain), only a short distance away, where we saw dozens of people.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles

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