Returning to Colorado from the Pacific Northwest, a trip Brian and I had been planning since January, officially marked the end of ski season for me. Going from skiing powder in a complete whiteout in the Cascades to hundred degree temperatures in Denver in a matter of twelve hours was a stark contrast indeed. Colorado has been HOT lately, too hot in fact. Days of high temps and zero rainfall has created some impressive and devastating fires along the Front Range, and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of mother nature relenting in the near future. Hopefully the monsoon season brings us some moisture, that’s all I can say about that.
Looking to get out for some summer summits, I cracked open the 13ers book and landed on the French Group near Mt. Elbert. This group features three Centennials (two ranked) and a relatively short day numbers wise to get them. Joining me on the trip would be Jon and Jason, two hiking/skiing buddies whom I had not seen in awhile. We set off from just south of the North Halfmoon Creek TH around 7am on June 23rd. A short and sweet jaunt up a dirt road had us at the old mining ruins below Casco in two hours.
I’m always amazed at the simplicity of hiking in summer compared to winter/spring travel. There is definitely something to be said about having nice, warm weather, a small ten pound pack on your back, and next to nothing to worry about. I usually welcome the change of pace with open arms.
We made our way up a dirt slope to the ridge crest, then over to Frasco Benchmark, summiting around 10am.
From Frasco it’s a thirty minute round trip to French and back. Still in Elbert’s shadow, we ran the ridge from Frasco to Casco in under thirty minutes. The terrain goes quickly despite being relatively untrundled.
The section near the summit of Casco offered the most fun scrambling of the day; a hundred feet or so of class 3/4 leading straight to the top. The scree descent had me missing my skis, but like I said, change is a good thing. We arrived back at the car for a round trip of just over seven hours.
We were the only group on the peaks on this day, compared to Elbert’s several hundred (we guestimated based on the number of cars in the parking lot). It will never cease to amaze me how a few hundred feet of elevation and the arbitrary threshold of 14,000′ can make the difference between a conga line and a day of total solitude. That said, I had 14ers syndrome once upon a time, so I guess I can’t really talk.
After doing some research I’m not sure this group would be very accessible in winter, nor are there many interesting ski options from what I could tell. I’d say get em in summer as a training hike. The views and position won’t disappoint.