Huron Peak (14,003’)
Browns Peak (13,523’)
Point 13,462 A
Middle Mountain (13,060’)
via the South Winfield 2WD TH
12.2 miles/4,500 feet of vertical gain
Ahhhh, Colorado ridge running. There is literally nothing more I love in this world than pouring over maps, planning out a route, and solo running rolling terrain above thirteen thousand feet. I had one mountain left to complete the Colorado Sawatch Range 14ers and that was the majestic Huron Peak. For real though, this is my favorite 14er in the Sawatch range (Holy Cross and Yale are close behind). He is really tucked wayyyyy out of the way. Fun fact, out of the fifteen Sawatch 14ers, Huron is the farthest from a paved road. I can attest to this as Lola, my Honda Civic Sport got bounced around on a rough dirt road for 12 miles. Good thing she’s a seasoned vet.
I arrived at the lower 2WD trailhead with plenty of light, made myself some dinner, and enjoyed the five star amenities, like the outhouse that smelled like the other side of death.
After dinner I set out to explore the ghost town of Winfield. A little history:
Winfield, initially called Florence and then Lucknow, was founded in 1881. Two prospectors looking for a shortcut to the Gunnison country camped one night at the confluence of the North and South Forks of Clear Creek. During the night their mules strayed from camp. The next morning the men found the mules beside the creek. They looked down and saw gold flecks in the stream bed. Winfield was founded at this spot. However, copper and silver, not gold, were the primary ores removed from the area. The last ore was hauled out by stage in 1918. In its heyday in 1890 the estimated population was 1500 people.
I had the place all to myself as I explored the small town rich in history. I mostly wondered what it would be like to have no heat, no electricity, and withstand such long harsh winters with barely any comforts. Technology has softened our species.
I retired to my trunk, thoughts of vertical gain, mountain summits, and wild running dancing through my head. I woke up in the middle of the night to relieve my bladder and there was a deer staring in my car. Initially, it was terrifying.
I can’t remember what time I started but it was later than I wanted. I began down the 4WD road and immediately ran past a group of dudes smoking cigarettes. Yum. I blasted by Subarus, Jeeps, and pick-up trucks thinking, “high clearance 4WD is for pansies, real men use their legs.” Ya, take that. But really, I was moving faster than a lot of them, the road is rough. It did not take long to make it to the standard Mount Huron trail (northwest slopes route).
The trail goes up, shocker. The trail eventually leaves the trees, double shocker. The sun came up, triple shocker.
Eventually a high alpine basin is reached, it was exceptionally cold and windy but I liked the green tundra so that distracted me as I lost feeling in my limbs.
I saw my shadow, so I waved and took a picture.
Suddenly and without warning, the trail angles south and goes straight up. If you are on it you have no idea but this is what it looks like (I took this from Browns Peak).
It’s a grunt but I made the summit feeling great.
I had a great view of Huron’s the North Ridge aka the route ahead.
Now that I got that summit out of the way it was time for the real fun. It was time for the ridge run. Off I trawlopped (I made up this word, pronounced trawlll-upp-edd, it is a cross between trolling and frolicking, it is in no way a real word and should be used sparingly.) In this case, I was in fact trawlopping north towards PT 13,518. I stayed on ridge proper to avoid loose junk.
I made the summit and looked back at Huron.
And that dastardly trail once again. (Fun fact, up until this moment right now I thought that word was ghastardly; mind BLOWN). Ghastardly is not a word, luckily I am good at math.
Onward I ran to Browns Peak where I discovered how it got its name.
I could also see my eventual way out.
I looked ahead.
I looked behind.
And onward I ran to PT 13,462 A.
It was right about here that I started crying for seemingly no reason whatsoever. I was so happy. It was the end of the best summer of my life and this ridge was so pretty and the sun was shining down on my skin and one of my favorite songs came on and I was doing exactly what I love doing more than anything else in this entire world. And that is the best I could do to reenact the dramatics of the moment. I also took this ten second video.
The only place I have ever cried tears of joy is in the mountains. This was not the first time, I also had a good sob fest when I summited Longs Peak.
Anyway, PT 13,462 A.
Coming off PT 13,462 A.
Looking forward, here is where I give some advice.
That faint trail cutting down the left side of Middle Mountain looks enticing, and perhaps it leads somewhere good. I believe this is the route Gerry Roach uses in Colorado’s Fourteeners. But what fun would it be to not summit that epic looking washed out by the sun bump ahead? Go summit Middle Mountain and run it out to PT 12,622 (not Cross Mountain which is northeast of Middle Mountain). There is an old beat up torturous mining road that can be used to get down from PT 12,622 (northwest off of Middle Mountain).
I did not spot this descent until I was on Browns Peak. It was steep and unfortunately loose but it felt like the more environmentally friendly option. I did not want to trample the obviously healthy tundra when there was an already destroyed portion of mountain.
There is a cairn on Point 12,622 signifying the end.
Some more advice. From this summit everything below looks uniform, it is nearly impossible to see the road that is SO obvious from Browns Peak. I started descending into the abyss at least three times before locating the old road. Take the time to find it, this is rock slide territory.
It drops right down into Lulu Gulch and onto a good jeep road that can be followed back to the 4WD road that leads back to the South Winfield trailhead.
When I got back to my car I was greeted by three llamas, so, totally normal.
Winfield is the halfway turnaround point of the classic Leadville 100 (mile) running race. On a Saturday every August more than a thousand people will visit Winfield, including runners, their pacers and crews, supporters, and race volunteers and officials. The Leadville 100 runners will approach an aid station here, where they can get refueled and pick up an optional pacer to run with them on part or all of the return trip to the finish line. I don’t know if the llamas were tied to this silly ultra race but I have my suspicions.
On my way into Winfield I had noticed an older man sitting next to a beautiful beaver pond. He was still there on my way out so I pulled over and sat with him. He offered me a beer and I (of course) accepted. We talked for an hour about the beavers. He told me he comes every summer and watches them on the weekends. He had names for them and told me about the juveniles and how hard it is for them to survive. I love meeting interesting mountain characters. He also told me about how he backpacked the entire Colorado trail but now he just likes to watch beavers. When I retire from mountains I want to become the beaver whisperer just like Don.
“I felt more at home in these mountains than I had anywhere in my life, and I didn’t want to leave.”