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Ascent of Mount Zirkel on 2018-07-23

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Monday, July 23, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Zirkel
    Location:USA-Colorado
    Elevation:12180 ft / 3712 m

Ascent Trip Report

I was greeted at the trailhead with a nice vault toilet that I greatly appreciated, even though it did not have any paper, but with a round trip distance of over 17 miles I was worried I might have "bit off more than I could chew." I got an early start before 6:00 AM and enjoyed the mild ascent on the Gold Creek Trail #1150, although I did have one mishap crossing a river on a wet log. I was 3/4 the way across when I had a little stumble. Instead of shuffling my feet on the slippery log and chancing an uncontrolled fall into the rocky water below, I braved a controlled jump into the shallow water 5 feet below. Fortunately, my nearly 70 year old body took the impact like a child and I had no ill effects except a damaged pride and the discomfort of having to hike the rest of the day in soaking wet boots and socks. The mild grade of the trail ends just below Red Dirt Pass, but a very good series of switchbacks makes the ascent bearable. At the top of the Pass, however, the climbing really begins. The grade is much greater and there is no longer an established trail. A few rock cairns provide some guidance, but it's basically a sustained grind up to the Mount Zirkel plateau where you get your first view of the summit still over 3/4 mile away with some ups and downs yet to conquer. As you get closer to the steep, rocky summit, you will begin to have doubts about your ability to ascend this highpoint without a rope, but once on the summit mass, you will find easy Class 3 climbing with no exposure on the best route. Needless to say, the view is great in all directions and you will most likely have the summit all to yourself, since this is such a remote peak. For myself this was not the case, but I had a great deal of fun when a solo climber joined me on the summit 10 minutes after I had arrived. I had noticed the name Dave Hoy on the register at the trailhead and, even though I never passed anyone, I thought this might be the same climber. When he arrived I said,"Is your name Dave?" The rely was a surprising,"Yes, how do you know my name?" To which I said,"Are you kidding me? You're the famous Dave Hoy. Everyone knows you!" The climber was completely stunned and I had a fun few moments playing my little joke on him. I reached the summit in 5 hours and 50 minutes after covering 9.28 miles according to my GPS, but with clouds beginning to build I decided to descend to a lower elevation for my lunch. I found a nice spot to lie on the grass and finally made it back to Red Dirt Pass just after 1:00pm when I realized I could not find my phone. It is just a cheap, old flip phone, but I hated to lose contact with my family for the rest of the trip. With improved weather, I left my pack and made the mile climb and hike back to my lunch spot only to find my phone was not there! I was really confused. I had remembered setting it on a large rock and I could not imagine why it wasn't there. I began to think some rodent must have carried it off to chew into bits for his nest. With great disappointment I made the long hike back to Red Dirt Pass. I arrived there at 2:07pm and thought I might look in my pack in case I put my phone in there during my haste to beat the approaching menacing looking weather, instead of in my fanny pack where I usually keep it. Pesto, I found my phone! I should have been really upset at my extra 2 miles of travel, but I was just so happy to have my phone back and I vowed to always check my pack first in the future if I ever have a similar incidence. Now it was time for my very long hike back to my car. I took it slower than I probably would have, but I was getting tired and I did not want to risk a bout with leg cramps from too much excursion. I arrived back at my car at 5:39pm after covering a total of over 20 miles. My Fitbit recorded over 57,000 steps today and I was able to call my wife on my old flip phone and tell her all about my adventure!
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles



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