Second Time’s the Charm for Hagerman Peak
Second time was the charm for Hagerman Peak last Sunday. A week before, Chad and I were turned back barely two miles into the approach as a ‘20% chance of showers’ developed into a sustained and drenching sheet of rain. This weekend, with an identical weather forecast, the rain held off and we successfully reached the summit of one of Colorado’s centennial peaks. At 13,841 feet Hagerman feels like a fourteener but without the crowds. In fact we barely saw anyone all day apart from our cohort Mike Steele who we suckered into joining us for a ‘nice little hike.’ Truth be told at days end, annihilating was a more accurate description of our days exertions. Plans started to go awry right from the start when I decided to lead us on an unmapped shortcut trail which was rumored to reduce the vertical of our route by 1,000 feet. Ha! After quite some time traveling cross country, up hill and down dale, in search of the cairns and game trails which would lead us through cliffy terrain to the promised land, it was evident that this was going to be a long day.
Smiles early in the day as a distant Hagerman comes into view.
When we finally reached the base of Hagerman Peak, 6 miles, 3,500 feet and several hours later, it was debatable if we would rally for the summit. Mike wisely decided to keep some gas in reserve for the return journey and found a sheltered rock to rest up. As is typical, Chad and I were committed to continue. It was unthinkable we could come so far and not bag the summit. So up we went, scrambling hand over foot for 1,500 feet.
The south face of Hagerman Peak.
We followed a rib of somewhat solid rock directly up the south face, solid being a relative word in Colorado’s mountains. Relative to the scree, talus or crumbly face that one usually ascends. Although I frequently tested my hand and footholds they held good, made for enjoyable climbing and reached the summit within the hour.
Hagerman's summit ridge, Maroon Bells in the background and Snowmass lake to the left.
Always spectacular, the views from this summit were also a little thrilling as the north side of Hagerman sheered away into the Snowmass bowl hundreds of feet below. We did not loiter long, aware of the long trip back and Mike waiting for us below. Quickly descending a gully of scree, we plowed through small rocks as we attempted to slide and run at the same time. After emptying our hiking boots of pebbles and debris we lumbered back towards the trailhead, stopping only a few times to fill up on water and take photos of bear tracks and marmots. It was a bit of a slog and as Mike accurately remarked “towards the end my Up and my Down weren’t working much anymore”. In the final analysis we made it, and the 12 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing left us beaten, but not down. Far from it. After many years of absence from summer mountaineering, I’m inspired to jump right back in. So what’s next?