Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Five Tener's Tour: Tenney Crags, Mt. Arthur, Mt. Garfield, Tuckaway Mountain, Cameron Cone.

I can’t remember where I first heard about the five 10k ft peaks between Bear Creek and Ruxton Creek: Tenney Crags, Mt. Arthur, Mt. Garfield, Tuckaway Mountain, and Cameron Cone that's between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. It may have been the Nolan’s 14 Facebook. For the past year I periodically studied the topo map to try to figure out the easiest way to do this. One way involve starting at High Drive/Lower Gold Camp road trailhead, do a big loop through Jones Park then descending Cameron Cone the standard route into Manitou Springs then back over Intermann trail. That seems to be really long. Plus I have never done Cameron Cone’s standard route and will have to do that first to check it. Finally I decided on an sort of out and back route from Seven Bridges trailhead that’s significantly shorter but have a bit more bushwacking then the big loop route. Part of the research was based on a trip report found here from 2008 from KentonB on Tenney Crags, Arthur and Garfield. Another source was a GPS track from Alyson Kirk (the lady who did all 12ers, 13ers and 14ers in Colorado) from Garfield to Tuckaway on LoJ website.

I did part of it on December 31st last year, hitting Arthur, Garfield, and Tuckaway in a day. It wasn’t bad except from Garfield to Tuckaway which took almost two hours. The flat saddles between Garfield and Tuckaway were amazingly difficult to navigate since there are no far reaching views to help nail down directions. I also stepped on what I thought maybe a bear hibernating den which scared the crap out of me. The 12 miles trip took 6 hours.

I had my mind set on this past weekend to get this done. With family out of town, I have no obligations and have all weekend to myself so I can be totally lazy on Sunday. Leaving Seven Bridges parking at around 7 am, I made it to the Jones Park trail split at 8 am, then took the old decommissioned 667 trail north for a bit to find Tenney Crags trailhead. About ¾ way up that trail, it started turning away from the summit. I got a bit suspicious and figured it may not be going to the summit after all or taking a long way, so I turned left off the trail. It was a mistake. Scrambling along boulders and down trees and bushes for 10 minutes and I end up rejoining the cairn marked path again. I climbed what I thought was the summit only to find a higher crag just east of it. End up on the true summit a few minutes later around 9:15 AM. The view was pretty cool, and I can see Mt. Arthur to the west and Cameron Cone to the northwest. I stopped for about 10 minutes to admire the view and eat a bit of beef jerky, granola bar and chocolate covered almond.

Mt. Arthur in the left center, seems higher than Mt. Garfield to its left but that's due to Garfield is a bit further back.  Cameron Cone is teasing on the right.  
The first part after leaving Tenney Crags was nice. Flat saddle that was mostly wide open with a few
campsites here and there. Then the trees and bushes and rock appeared and it wasn’t so easy anymore. I took multiple bearings with the compass and occasionally checked the GaiaGPS app to make sure I’m still heading the correct way. I came up Mt. Arthur from the southeast side and there were some cool crags that required all hands on climbing. Made to the summit on Arthur at around 10:30 AM. I didn’t stay on the summit at all, knowing Garfield is close. Descending Arthur I weaved a bit too far to the south and had to regain the saddle and the clearing. I remember from the last trip climbing directly to Garfield summit was steep, so I aimed for the north side of the summit and sure enough there were some cairns there. The route was much easier this way and I met another hiker on the summit at around 11 AM. We chatted a bit and he went back down while I enjoyed my second snack consisted of PBJ and delicious water. Beer would have been even more delicious! The weather was perfect with blue sky and almost no wind at all.

I remembered that descending the northwest ridge of Garfield was a pain and there were some rocky
points that I bypassed on the east side in steep talus fields. This time I stay on the west side of the
points and though steep it wasn’t nearly as unstable as the talus on the east side. After the saddle, I
veered further north before climbing the first part of Tuckaway and found it wasn’t any easier than the direct path. On the final climb of Tuckaway I once again found some cairns that marked a fairly open path to the summit which I arrived around 12:30 PM. On my first trip here back in December I searched but couldn’t find the USGS marker or summit register. This time I didn’t bother since I had a long way to go. I did once again enjoyed a snack of my remaining beef jerkies and almond. The view from the top was pretty good, especially from the south end of the summit ridge where I had a great view of Jones Park and my eventual path down. Cameron Cone looked amazingly far from here.

From summit of Tuckaway Mt. looking at Cameron Cone.  It's only about 2 miles away but so many trees between here and there.  
Tuckaway Mt. summit had a nice view of Jones Park.  Mt. Garfield is on the left.

I had mapped out two paths to Cameron Cone. The low route descend north from a saddle at 10,500 ft down a drainage and crosses Willow Creek just above where it drains into Big Tooth Reservoir, then climb east up the west ridge of Cameron Cone. The advantage of this route is I can refill water from either Willow Creek or the reservoir if the creek is dry. However this route go down to 9400 ft. The high route go from the saddle between Tuckaway and Garfield, and curves around the ridge that’s between Garfield and Cameron Cone at 10,000 ft. It also crosses Willow Creek but near its source so there is a chance it is dry.

I checked my water and saw I still had a good bit left in the bladder so I decided to save my legs from the extra climbing and take the high route. Coming down Tuckaway toward the saddle I decided to try another way, heading directly east over a small hump and I think this turned out to be the easiest way to the saddle at 10,150 ft. Next time I will take this way for sure. I got confused for a while trying to follow the contour of the ridge then eventually found the way and crossed Willow Creek which was pretty much a trickle. Initially I was making good progress, the terrain fairly open. As I got closer to the point of the ridge, the slope got steeper and I was mostly scrambling among boulders and dodging downed trees. The progress became painfully slow before I finally made to the saddle south of Cameron Cone.  From there, it was a fairly straight forward climbing the southern slope to the summit. Though I did get too close to the south ridge and climbed some crags that I was able to avoid on the way back down.Made to the summit at around 2:15 PM. The summit wasn’t what I had imagined, it was fairly long. I somehow thought it would more of a point. I found a nice shady spot on the east side and ate my sandwich with a great view of the city below, with Tenney Crags, Arthur and Garfield to the south.

Tenney Crags, Mt. Arthur and Mt. Garfield all lined up for this photo, but Mt. Rosa photobombed it.  
At this point I turned my phone’s airplane mode off to update my wife and immediately received a
bunch texts from my wife and my co-worker looking for me. Turned out some urgent crap had come up at work and I may be needed that day. I texted my co-worker back that I would get on it as soon as I get back to my car. Well, nothing I can do about it at that moment.

As soon as I stepped off the summit, I realized I was out of water. Turned out some of the stuff in the
hydration pack was pushing the bladder up a bit making it looked like I had more water when I checked earlier. Coming back following the 10,000 ft contour line was even slower on tired legs and finally I made to Willow Creek. Fairly thirsty now and not thinking clearly, I dipped my mouth into the largest puddle I could find (about the size of my face) and lapped it up like my dog. Later in the evening I realized I could have used my Sawyer Mini filter to drink directly from that puddle. Tired and dehydrated brain doesn’t work that well.

A final steep but short climb over many downed treed took me back to the saddle between Tuckaway
and Garfield. If I ever learned to backpack, this saddle would be a great campsite. A short easy downhill jog from the saddle took me down to Bear Creek. Finally a stream big enough to fill the Sawyer Mini’s 16 oz bladder to filter water. I sat down and happily drank directly from the bladder through the filter three bags worth before satisfy the thirst enough to fill my water bottles. From there it an easy jog down to Seven Bridges trail and back to the car shortly before 5:30 pm.

There I found out the work issue had been resolved!

Total mileage is 17.8. According to my Garmin, net gain is 6,050 ft. My legs feel far more tired
comparing to a round trip to Pikes Peak via Barr Trail. That two and half miles of traversing the 10k
contour to and back from Cameron Cone probably had far more up and downs than the Garmin recorded.

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