Estes Cone -- 11,006ft
Around 6 miles Round Trip
August 5th, 1995
Class 2 hiking
I had wanted to climb Estes Cone for a bit, but have always put it off in favor of "higher" mountains. But, something strange had happened to me hiking in the past few weeks -- I had started to cherish the lesser known (and shorter) peaks as opposed to the ever-popular 13-ers and 14-ers. Plus, hiking to Estes Cone meant making a side trip to Eugenia Mine, which I had wanted to see for some time (I'm a Colorado history buff and love stuff like this). To make things more interesting, I decided to climb alone, which I seem to enjoy more. Off I went, starting the climb at something like 5:45am.
The trailhead is Longs Peak Trailhead, but I was only on the Longs Peak trail for about 1/2 mile. After that, it was onto the Storm Pass Trail. The trail has lots of ups and downs to Eugenia Mine, 1.5 miles from the trailhead. The mine is nothing more than the ruins of a cabin, and some mining equipment stashed upstream. The mine itself isn't a cavern, but rather a trench dug out of the mountain (you wouldn't notice it unless you knew what to look for). I snapped some pictures, and off I went.
The trail crosses Moore Park, and one of the prettiest mountain meadows I've been in. The views of Battle Mountain and Estes Cone were good from this point. Also worthy of mention was the feline tracks (read: mountain lion) I found in the trail. They were obviously a day or two old, but still a rare find. From the meadow, the trail headed uphill to Storm Pass.
Storm pass is marked by a cairn and a sign. It was a convenient spot to put on some sunblock and eat a bit. Estes Cone was only 1/2 mile from here, but it looked like a long way -- and a steep journey.
And it was! The trail starts steep and never relents. After a bit, the trail becomes a cairn-marked trail through some surprisingly boulderous terrain (with a few trees to shade the place. The sun hadn't risen over Estes Cone, so it was still pretty cool out). After a while, the terrain leveled a bit, and cairns led me to a neat looking rocky gully that I needed to climb. The gully was only 30 or 40 feet long, but was pretty fun. For some reason, I kept thinking about leading some cub scout troop up here. I'd think they'd like it.
The top of the gully is a false summit. I had to climb down the opposite side for about 10 feet, then up about 15 feet to the true summit. The true summit has a huge cairn on it. The view is spectacular from this point. You can see Estes Park, the Twin Sisters, Meadow and St Vrain Mountains (in wild basin), Longs and its neighbors, Otis, Hallett, etc, Forest Canyon, and the Mummies. Definitely a photogenic point.
I had plenty of time, so I climbed along the summit to a ridge just southeast of the summit. I figured I could get some great pictures there. I spent around 45 minutes climbing in the area (some of it was class 3 and easy class 4, with only a little bit of exposure). I found this neat "arch" rock that created a window below the ridge. After a bit, I returned to the summit, and ate an early lunch.
I spent over an hour on top, all alone. After a bit I headed down, passing around 4 groups of hikers. By this time, the sun had risen over Estes Cone, and the forest was hot. I'm glad I went up early!
The trip back was pretty uneventful. I spent some more time around Eugenia Mine, more or less to finish off my roll of film. I got back to the trailhead around 11am or noon sometime. On my way back home, I drove up to Cedar Park, trying to scout a route up Palisade Mountain (across the Big Thompson Canyon from Sheep Mountain, which is just past the Narrows). Unfortunately, the mountain was surrounded by private property. It's a real shame, because the mountain looks like a wonderful climb. Maybe someday I'll track down a house owner up there and get permission.