Start time: 5:30 AM
Summit time (Huron): 9 AM
Summit time (Browns): 11 AM
Finish time: 1:20 PM
Mileage up: 3.6
Mileage down: 4.2
Total mileage: 7.8
Huron Peak Elevation: 14,003 ft.
Browns Peak Elevation: 13,523 ft.
Total elevation gain: 3,900 ft.
Total photos taken: 219
GPS map of our route (ascent in red, descent in blue):
This trip report begins with an interesting back story. I had a new member join my site in May from South Dakota. This member eventually messaged me on Facebook and asked if he could join me on some of my climbs this year. After learning about my plans to attempt Huron that very weekend, he decided to join me. Mike Vetter drove all the way down from Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Saturday, June 5th to climb with me. Mike is the CEO of DataSync - a successful start-up software company. Our route to reach the trail-head was very simple: we drove west on Highway 24 to Buena Vista and turned left on Chaffee County Road 390 heading west. After driving about 14 miles on a dirt road, we turned left at the old mining town of Winfield and continued west another 2 miles to our campsite near the trail-head. We left my house at about 6:30 PM and reached our campsite near the Huron trail-head at approximately 10 PM.
On the way to Buena Vista, we were able to get some great views of the sun setting over the Northern Sangre de Cristo Mountain range:
We set-up our tents in the dark and set our alarms for 4 AM and hit the sack. A few cars drove past during the night, presumably looking for camp spots. Fortunately, the vehicles did not disturb my sleep too badly and I was able to get some quality rest. The alarm sounded at 4 AM and I hurried to get dressed and tear down my tent. As we were getting camp taken down, a skiier passed us, informing us that he was going to ski down Ice Mountain. I'm pretty sure this person was "benners" from 14ers.com. We were able to quickly break down our campsite and cook some oatmeal for breakfast before debarking for Huron's trail-head at 5:30 AM.
Mike and I were able to make quick work up to the trail-head and soon there-after, the sun broke through to light up the tips of the surrounding peaks in Silver Basin, including Virginia Peak and Granite Mountain:
Silver Basin illuminates a small lake
A closer look at the sunrise
Virginia Peak (right of center)
Sunrise hitting Granite Mountain
Sunrise hits Granite Mountain and Virginia Peak
Mike and I were energized by the great views of the valley across from us and made excellent time up the steep trail. Mike kept up with me as we blazed the trail. He did amazing considering he lives at 1,442 ft. and was not acclimated to the high elevation of Colorado yet.
Mike Vetter proves he's got what it takes to climb mountains in Colorado
Matt Payne (author) hiking up Huron
An hour and 15 minutes after we started hiking from our camp, the first view of the Three Apostles came into view. The Three Apostles are a group of 13ers located up the valley from Huron, and contain two of the highest 100 in Colorado, Ice Mountain (13,951 ft.) and North Apostle (13,860 ft.). West Apostle is also respectable at 13,568 ft.
The Three Apostles come into view for the first time
Soon thereafter, one of our objectives for the day came into view as well: Huron. Huron appeared above us like a giant pyramid, as if it were guarding some ancient treasure within its rocky shell.
Huron Peak comes into view for the first time
The moon sits over Huron Peak
Huron Peak in the early light
Huron, the Three Apostles, and Granite Mountain greet the rising sun
Now that we could see the beginnings of the amazing views, Mike became more and more awestruck by the Colorado Rockies. It was a real pleasure hiking with someone that shared the same level of appreciation for Colorado's awesome peaks. Mike and I exchanged photos of each other.
Mike Vetter looking excited in front of the Three Apostles
Matt Payne with the Three Apostles in the background
As we gained more elevation, views across the valley were getting even better. I noticed a long waterfall snaking down the side of Granite Mountain and decided that I wanted to try to capture a zoomed-in view of that waterfall. I took about 10 photos of the side of the mountain at 200mm and combined them into this photo:
Snow forms a waterfall down the side of Granite Mountain
I also wanted to get a zoomed in shot of the Three Apostles using the same method. Here are the results (click on the photo to see the super-hi-res version):
The Three Apostles in high detail
We continued to climb past treeline and up to Huron's base. I took some opportunities to take multiple photos of the views and stitched some photos together for a panoramic view.
Looking South and West, Huron casts a shadow over Granite Mountain
We quickly made our way up into the basin below Huron and were greeted by a giant snowfield. Normally, I welcome the sight of snow; however, the snow we encountered was very soft, with marshy streams and pools of water beneath. It was very much like crossing a field filled with 7-11 Slushies.
We made it through the slush and continued up the basin beneath Huron. The terrain was solid and only mildly wet from snowmelt. At this point, the sun had crested Browns Peak and began to heat the surrounding area.
Mike Vetter squinting into the sun on our approach of Huron
We continued to climb up towards Huron, following the trail through and around large snow fields. At this point, it was clear that snowshoes or other assistive devices would be fairly useless and I was glad I brought neither. As we gained elevation, the views of Browns Peak as well as the Elk Mountains began to get better and better.
Browns Peak sits to the North of Huron Peak
We made really great time up Huron, despite its relative steepness and other aforementioned challenges (did I mention Mike lives 13,000 ft. lower than Huron). Huron's summit block loomed over us, making us feel pretty small compared to this giant choss pile. The trail up this section of Huron was clearly maintained and the efforts of Colorado Fourteeners Initative to improve the trail were apparent.
Huron Peak's summit block
Matt Payne (author) hiking up Huron's Peak
We finally reached the ridge between Browns Peak and Huron Peak and were warmly welcomed by a giant cornice sitting at the top of the ridge.
A giant cornice on Huron's ridge
The final push to the top of Huron took exactly 10 more minutes. The views from Huron Peak were absolutely outstanding. Being somewhat more isolated than most of the other 14'ers in the Sawatch Range, Huron Peak offers excellent views of the rest of the Sawatch Range and the Elk Mountains as well. Mike and I were the first to summit that day, and spent an hour on top celebrating, eating, and taking large amounts of photographs.
Hero shot of Matt Payne on top of Huron Peak
Matt Payne gazes South towards the Three Apostles
360 Degree View from the top of Huron Peak (click for full resolution version)
A 180 Degree View from North to South from Hurons Peak. The Three Apostles at center.
The Elk Mountains loom in the distance, covered in snow.This photo is zoomed in at 200mm. Pyramid Peak, Maroon Peak, Snowmass Mountain, and Capitol Peak can all be seen from this vantage. Click on the image for the super hi-resoltution version.
Taylor Reservoir can be seen in the distance, reflecting the surrounding mountains (click for full resolution version)
A zoomed in view of the Southern Sawatch mountains
Shavano and Tabeguache (high pointed peak and flat snowed peak respectively)
North Apostle and Ice Mountain zoomed in. If you click on the image you can see the full resolution version (and the climber atop North Apostle. I've confirmed that this climber is "Mad Mike" from 14ers.com
La Plata Peak seen to the North of Huron across the valley
A great view of the Three Apostles from Huron
A 90 degree view looking Northeast, North, and Northwest from Huron
A vertically-oriented panoramic view of the Three Apostles
Matt Payne leaning to allow for a better view of the Three Apostles
Matt Payne and Mike Vetter on top of Huron Peak
At this point we decided that after an hour of being on the summit we should head down to the ridge and make an attempt on Browns. Once down-climbing to the ridge, we were able to get a view of what we just climbed, decorated with a fair amount of snow still.
Still a lot of snow on Huron's eastern face
We took a look at our route - a straight ridge scramble to PT 13,518 and then to Browns.
PT 13,518 and Browns were a straight shot from Huron's ridge. Mount Hope seen in the background.
We quickly scrambled up PT 13,518 without any problems and looked back at Huron. The further away we got from Huron, the more we could appreciate just how steep it was.
Huron rises high above PT 13,518 to the Northwest
A zoomed in view of Huron from PT 13,518
A wider view of Huron and the surrounding terrain
After reaching PT 13,518, we took a look over to our next and final objective: Browns Peak.
Browns Peak looked fairly easy with La Plata Peak behind it
On the way over to Browns, we were able to get a really awesome view of a nasty cornice, which looked more like a frozen tidal wave.
A huge cornice sitting in the saddle between PT 13,518 and Browns
A closer view of the cornice
A super-zoomed in view of the cornice
After a bit of mild scrambling, Mike and I reached the summit of Browns in quick order. The clouds were looking to get worse and worse, so we decided that after Browns that we would go ahead and head back down to the trail below us, making our own route down off of Browns and connecting with the Huron trail.
Mike Vetter celebrating on the summit of Browns
Matt Payne points back to Huron from Browns
We dropped off the north face of Browns just a few hundred feet and went straight down a scree gully. The dirt was quite loose but manageable. Soon after reaching the basin for Huron again, we were greeted by another large snow-field, which presented some pretty awful post-holing up to our wastes. Fortunately, my boots and gaiters kept my feet completely dry!
Matt Payne descending from Browns
After reaching the trail again, we headed back down the way we came and crossed the insane snow-field at the base of Huron. After a days worth of sunlight, the snow-field was quite soft and presented us with some unique and 'wet' hiking challenges.
Matt Payne crossing the slushy on Huron
Once we reached the bottom of the snow-field, the way down was pretty quick to treeline and below to the trailhead and eventually my vehicle.
All-in-all, this was an amazing trip filled with great views. And I must say, I could not have hiked with a better guy. Thanks for driving down and climbing with me Mike!
To complete the trip report, here are three HDR photos I combined. I am new to HDR but I do like how it can enhance the light.
Until next time, enjoy Colorado's summits!