This past weekend Anna-Lisa, several of her friends from work, myself and Brian camped near Twin Lakes for two nights, the primary focus being to hang out around the fire, toss bean bags through some wooden planks with holes in them, and enjoy a variety of hoppy libations. No camping trip is complete though without attempting a morning hike, especially with a good weather forecast, and with Anna-Lisa and her friend Melina intent on trying Mt. Elbert, Brian and I were left looking for a good 13er option in the area.
Mt. Blaurock (13,616′) and Ervin Peak (13,531′) sit two miles southeast of fourteener La Plata peak on the southern border of the Mt. Elbert quadrangle. This pair of peaks were officially named in 2004 in honor of William Ervin and Carl Blaurock, the two men perhaps best known for being the first to complete the Colorado fourteeners in 1923 (although they contributed much more to Colorado mountaineering history). Though non-technical, these peaks don’t see much traffic and are tough to access, the two options being a long approach up Little Willis Gulch from the north, or an almost entirely trail-less and very steep jaunt from the Winfield Townsite. Ultimately we decided on the Winfield approach, although in hindsight I’m not sure it was the better of the two options.
After driving around Twin Lakes and bouncing along the potholed and washboarded Road 390 up to Winfield, Brian and I started the hike around 6am. Within three minutes of leaving the road we found ourselves immersed in the thickest, wettest aspen tree/willow bushwhack hell I’ve personally ever encountered (that is not an exaggeration, just ask Brian). By the time we found the trail (that of course heads straight towards Ervin from Road 390) we were soaked head to toe and had wasted about twenty minutes. Finally back on track, we followed the trial for maybe a quarter of a mile before breaking off of it and headed up along the east side of Ervin’s massive south gully.
The next part of the hike entailed nothing but 3,000′ of steep talus slogging. We were surprised by how loose certain sections were, particularly a field of fridge sized boulders around 13k that all seemed to want to shift as we hopped across them. Slowly but surely though we stuck it out and eventually came upon the summit ridge just south of the true summit, topping out a few minutes later.
From the summit of Ervin we headed over to Blaurock, which only entailed a few class 3 moves. I was hoping for a larger quantity of interesting scrambling than we actually encountered, but on the other hand it was nice to make good time across the mostly easy terrain.
We hit Blaurock’s summit and noted a few indentations in the sand/rock with burnt rock and wood around them. Lightning strike marks perhaps. A good reminder of how intense the storms have been this summer so far.
Once we had our fill of looking at stuff from Blaurock’s summit, we began what we knew was going to be a long knee-bashing descent. It’s always comical to me to see Brian plodding down loose talus and dirt with a scowl on his face only two months after ski season is over.
We worked our way down the Blackbear Creek drainage before hopping over into Grey Copper Creek, where we found a faint climber’s trail contouring out of the drainage to the east. After losing the trail a few times and aggravating several large ant colonies we found in the woods, we finally hit an old mining road which took us back to Road 390. From there it was a mile or two walk back to Winfield and the end of our outing. We spent a few minutes talking to some people touring the Winfield Townsite, but then with the amount of vehicles parked at the Missouri Gulch TH (estimating 75 to 100), we figured we had better vacate the area as soon as possible.
Back at camp I was super excited to hear that Anna-Lisa and Melina were successful on Mt. Elbert, along with Jax (our dog) and Simba (Melina’s dog). It was their second attempt in two summers and a huge accomplishment, particularly for Melina as it was her first fourteener and hike above 13k. Congrats again Melina!
Stats for me and Brian’s day wound up being around 5.5 miles and 3,700′ in 8.5 hours, though it really felt like a lot more with the amount of off-trail hiking and bushwhacking we did. If I were to for some reason hit these peaks again, I’d probably go in from Little Willis Gulch as there is a defined trail all the way to the lake and a visible route to the tops of the peaks from there. Still a fun hike though.