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Colorado Trail m374.2: Spring Creek Pass - Wager Gulch s(u)

The vast majority of this section of the Colorado Trail is above treeline, and it also contains the highest point of the entire Colorado Trail. This section follows an alpine escarpment of the San Juan Mountains on the southern end of the Molas Caldera.

The profile contains at least three additonal separate summit points, ie points that can be approached separately with a minimum of 500ft elevation gain on both sides.

01.(mile00.0,8910ft)START-END EAST-1: Lake City, jct Co149 - CR30
02.(mile08.2,11560ft)Slumgullion Summit
03.(mile13.0610430,ft)Co149 crosses Rambouillet Creek
04.(mile14.9,10898ft)profile starts single track trail on Spring Creek Pass
05.(18.2mile,12040ft)Colorado Trail m363.1 s(u) on Jarosa Mesa
06.(23.0mile,12200ft)Colorado Trail mxxx s(u)
07.(31.2mile,13220ft)TOP: Colorado Trail m374.1 s(u) Sring Creek - Wager Gulch s(u)
08.(32.6mile,1360ft)profile turns right down Wager Gulch Rd
09.(34.2mile,11580ft)turnoff to Carson
10.(37.3mile,9510)profile turns down CR30 from Engineer Pass
11.(46.7mile,8910mi_pix[47])START-END EAST-2: Lake City, same as point1


Approaches

From East.
Many rides to this point start in Lake City. So that is where the profile starts too. The most direct way to this summit would go up BLM3323. For my ride I decided to climb as much as possible on pavement. That meant first crossing Slumgullion Pass and then riding to the summit of Spring Creek Pass, and that is what the profile shows.

From the trailhead at the top of the pass a nicely rideable dirt road heads south. Then a single track with lots of rocks carves a way through willows and brush, following the La Garita Stock driveway. The top of the first mesa is a summit in its own right ( page Colorado Trail: m363.1 Spring Creek Pass - BLM3323 s(u) ). The trail cuts across the flat Jarosa Mesa in a straight line, a faint track connecting cairns, that would still show up in large snow drifts. There are no trees here whatsoever. So the cairns have nothing to compete for to get attention, except for the horizon, which is a formidable competition. Uncompahgre Peak is many miles away. But its curious shape, stands out over the landscape like a small curious vase on a table top.

The descend from Jarosa Mesa to a four way junction is much smoother and fun to ride than the previous section. This is where the approach form BLM3323 meets the profile. Another nearby right option leads to the plainly visible transmission facility on the hill. The left option does not show up clearly on my maps. And the Colorado Trail continues straight, climbing on an old ranching track, that is more quickly rideable than the miles on Jarosa Mesa. The trail heads for the edge of the escarpment ahead. At this low point the CT virtually touches the edge of the cliffs and gives the best view up the lower valley of the Lake Fork towards Cinnmon Pass. For the remainder of the way to the top, the CT stays well away from the edge of the escarpment. Just past this point, the CT turns back onto the escarpment for a short rocky climb that has to be walked. At the top waits a second possible summit point at m366.0.

From the top of the summit point at m366.0 the plateau ahead can be seen as a series of large monolithic steps upward, that hint at the energy that is going to be necessary to climb them. The vista does not corroborate the fact that the trail will climb to the top of each one. The trail is not easily visible from here. So you could assume, that it skirts around the tops. But in reality it does get close to the top of each of these steps in a roundabout way. At the next low point a ranching track appears to offer another way to connect with the trail from the south. Again this option does not show up on my map.

The impression of the landscape now is a vast flowing tundra plain, curving away to the distant high peaks of the Eastern San Juan Mountains. But next comes is a rare remaining section, comprised of a single track through dense forest. This next step in the landscape after that would take most of my energy. It is the steepest and rockiest part, to what I hoped would be the top. Pushing my bike up this steep rocky slope, a hail storm was starting to make, what felt like dents on my head. It was not the top. After that, the two remaining  intermediate high points look very impressive in photographs and in real nature. They carve a traverse across stark bowls of tundra. But effort wise they not very steep, and are separated by less than a 200ft in elevation drop. From the second traverse you can finally see the way down into Wager Gulch, even it is still many calories away.

The last final climb is a little bigger again and aims for a hardly discernible saddle on a gentle flat bread loaf. At the top a sign marks the highest point on the Colorado Trail. A huge viewshed to the north opens up.


cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow


From West. (described downwards). This is the steep and short side. The escarpment takes a break and every direction seems to be down. The trail makes a zig zag to a point directly above the valley, apparently in an attempt to offer the best vantage point on all the surrounding peaks and their steep flanks. The CT now follows down an extremely steep dirt track, that has few rocks and is ridable with overheating breakpads. Again there seem to be several additional tracks in this area, that don't show up on my maps.

As a profusion of signs direct the traveler to turn left and stay on the CT on yet another jeep track, this profile elects to stay on the unsigned road down into the valley. Branter Gulch is a steep, except for the bottom not-too-rocky jeep track. At about treeline a handfull of decaying wood houses on a pond are in reality the old mining camp Capitol. All in all, this road would be a tough slog on the way up.

Dayride with this point as highest summit:

PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED

( < Engineer Pass | Dallas Trail: section Dallas Rd - West Dallas Rd s(u) > )

Colorado Trail m374.2 s(u) : Spring Creek Pass - Wager Gulch , Colorado Trail m366.0 s(u) , Colorado Trail m363.1 s(u) :Spring Creek Pass - BLM3323 , Slumgullion Pass : jct FR788, 1.4 mile north of Slumgullion Pass > Slumgullion Pass > Spring Creek Pas(shp) > Colorado Trail west > Colorado Trail m363.1 s(u) > Colorado Trail m366.0 s(u) > Colorado Trail m374.2 s(u) > down Wager Gulch Rd > Cinnamon Pass Rd east > Co149 south back to starting point: 47.0miles with 7120ft of climbing in 8:02hrs (garmin etrex30 m5:18.7.8)
Notes: only 2 other mountain bikers on the trail today - hot temperaturs to start, followed by hailstorm on the highest section, followed by pleasant filtered sunshine and temperatures in the late afternoon.