Mt. Rosa via Frosty Park hike photos

Mt. Rosa via Frosty Park hike photos

Photos taken on the Frosty Park trail to Mt. Rosa west of Colorado Springs, July 21, 2011.

Copyright (c) 2011, Sandra J. Loosemore. Photos are provided for personal viewing only; no other use is permitted without prior written consent.

Mt. Rosa is easily visible from the southern part of Colorado Springs. It's the pointy peak on the left, above Cheyenne Canyon. Although it appears to have twin summits from this angle, that's an optical illusion due to the apparent summit on the right being closer.

You can get to Mt. Rosa by continuing on the trail past St. Mary's Falls, which are actually faintly visible in this photo (in the notch in the ridge directly in front of the peak; Stove Mountain is the rocky peak on the left side). But, for this hike, I'm going to drive around to the back side via Old Stage/Gold Camp road, the old railroad grade to Cripple Creek.

Access to Frosty Park is via FS 379, a well-marked jeep road that branches north off Gold Camp road. You definitely need a high-clearance vehicle to drive up this road as there are big bumps, mud holes, a ford to cross a stream, etc. There's an obvious parking area right across from this intersection, so I left my car there and started walking up the jeep road instead.

The jeep trail starts out climbing quickly through the trees as it follows the stream, but it soon levels out as the valley opens up into Frosty Park.

Shrubby potentilla was growing all over along the sides of the jeep road.

These pink flowers are fireweed, growing in a damp area on the side of the road.

These look like Rocky Mountain goldenrods, growing on the sunny roadbank.

There were also big patches of Parry's Bellflower growing in sunny areas.

Low-growing cinquefoil.

These are some kind of fleabane or daisy. (There are so many species in the aster family that I never feel comfortable identifying them.)

Pretty wildflowers growing along the side of the road; mostly blue bellflowers and yellow cinquefoil, but also some of the fleabane/daisies and white yarrow.

In a shadier patch, here are some blue columbines, the state flower of Colorado. This is the first time I've seen any on my hikes this year; they seem comparatively rare in this area.

More columbines from the same patch.

Er, some kind of sunflower? These were growing about 18" tall.

Here's a view across the meadow. It's fenced off because in the past it has obviously been badly torn up by 4WD and off-road vehicles.

The "real" trailhead is at the far end of the meadow, where there is a large parking area on the jeep road. The trail is unmarked but it's very obvious. This is about a mile and a half from the intersection at Gold Camp road, so if you can get here by jeep it shaves a total of 3 miles off the hike. From here it's 2 miles to the summit. Even if you walk the jeep road like I did, it's still a lot shorter than the hike up from the other side via St. Mary's Falls, and with much less elevation gain -- the turnoff on FS 379 is just below 10,000 feet versus 7500 for the North Cheyenne Canyon trailhead. The topo map marks the summit as 11,499.

Looking down the meadow. The slope on the right is the shoulder of Mt. Big Chief. Mt. Rosa is off on the left; looking over my photos after the hike, I realized I didn't really take any of Mt. Rosa from the lower part of the approach.

Soon you come to a trail intersection, where you enter the trees and start the uphill grind. This is a north-facing slope, and as usual in such places there is not much growing under the trees.

As you climb, Almagre Mountain comes into view to the northwest. This is the only other mountain in this area besides Pikes Peak whose summit is above treeline, so sometimes it's referred to as "Mt. Baldy" as well.

Still going uphill. This section of trail is open to motorbikes and was very badly eroded and torn-up in places. On my way down I encountered a couple of trail workers who were attempting to repair some of the damage. BTW, these guys were the only folks I saw on the trail (on foot or otherwise) when hiking on a weekday morning.

Here's some kind of wintergreen growing along the trail.

Finally getting high enough that Pikes Peak is clearly visible beyond Almagre's north slope. This photo has somewhat of a surreal quality to it because of the sunlight and shadow patterns, but it hasn't been retouched in any way out of the camera except for being shrunk down.

The trees get thinner and more stunted as you approach the ridge line. Just a little bit past this point, there's an intersection where you meet the trail from St. Mary's Falls coming up from the left; the summit is up the ridge on the right.

As I continued up the ridge line to the right, I was pretty concerned about this large dark cloud hovering directly overhead. However, it seemed to be moving away, so I pressed onward.

The trail continued up onto a very open area on the ridge, with the summit visible beyond. Since the sun was coming out again, I took some time to look around here.

Here's a zoom view looking westward at Almagre. Note the jeep trail and small blip of a microwave tower on the skyline. There's a hiking trail up there from the opposite side of Frosty Park but the jeep trail actually comes down in the canyon on the other side of the ridge.

This is looking northwest from the ridge, with Almagre on the left and Pikes Peak beyond. You can see that Almagre has two summits -- there's a lake hidden in the notch between them.

It is said that Zebulon Pike ended up on Mt. Rosa when trying to climb the "real" Pikes Peak in November 1806. It's really hard to see how he could have confused the two (since Rosa is covered with trees and the real peak clearly is not) so perhaps he was just trying to search out a route. Apparently he came up from the drainage on the east side rather than from the west or north where the current trails are, so he wouldn't have seen where he was in relation to the real peak until he got to this point on top of the ridge. In any case, Pike gave up when he saw he was nowhere near his goal and already getting bogged down in deep snow. He never did make it to the peak that now bears his name.

Looking northwards. It's hard for me to judge how far way the peaks on the horizon in the far distance are, or what they might be.

This is looking northeast, in the general direction of the city. It's impossible for me to pick out any landmarks through the trees and haze, though.

Looking east and slightly south at the "back side" of Cheyenne Mountain, home to a large antenna farm. If I've oriented myself properly, the body of water is Big Johnson Reservoir.

There were also wildflowers growing in the rocky soil on the ridge top. This is Fendler Sandwort, a member of the chickweed family.

These very similar flowers belong to Alpine Sandwort, which grows in moss-like mats instead of grassy-looking clumps.

Closeup of the Alpine Sandwort flowers.

A dwarf goldenrod.

Looks like some kind of penstemon? In this harsh environment, all the flowers grow low to the ground.

More penstemon.

These pink flowers have me stumped. Both the leaves and flowers look like they ought to be pretty distinctive, but I haven't seen anything that matches in the online wildflower guides yet.

Another shot of the mysterious pink flowers.

Remember that big black cloud? Here I was at the final uphill push to cover the last half mile to the summit when I started hearing rumbles of thunder. The exposed ridge I was on was surely a terrible place to be in a thunderstorm, and the summit was definitely even worse. So I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and that I'd better turn around at this point. It was not quite noon yet, BTW; afternoon thunderstorms are common here at this time of year, but they arrived early on this particular day. :-(

For a time it seemed like I might have been over-hasty in abandoning the summit, but by the time I got halfway down to Frosty Park, the thunder clouds were building up and I could hear rumbling all around.

Somewhat farther down, and it's clearly raining across the way on Almagre now. By this time I just wanted to get off the mountain. I put my camera away so I could concentrate on getting down the last rough section of trail as quickly as possible. Pretty soon it started raining on me anyway, so this is the last of my photos.

So, what happened next? It was raining hard by the time I got back down to the meadow, plus there was lightning all around, and then it started to hail. After jogging down the jeep road a short way I decided I was better off taking shelter under some of the smaller trees at the edge of the forest than being out in the open, so I found a reasonably dry spot and sat down to wait out the worst of the storm. (I was already soaking wet but it was good to escape being pelted by hail, at least.) While I was sitting there I saw lightning hitting the summit of Mt. Rosa over and over.

Not long after I started down the road again, the guys I'd passed on my way down who were working on the trail caught up with me in their jeep and offered me a ride, and I was glad to take them up on it. It was only a mile or so down to where I'd parked my car on Gold Camp road, but I was still happy to get out of the rain sooner rather than later!

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