Huron is a shapely, shy peak hidden in the heart of the Sawatch Range about halfway between Buena Vista and Independence Pass in Colorado. Huron Peak just barely rises above 14000 feet but compensates by being the Sawatch fourteener that is farthest away from a paved road.
My alarm clock started to make an awful noise already at 05:30, because my original plan was to climb Mount Belford, Oxford and Missouri in one long day. But I was simply too tired to wake up this early, so I continued my heavy and dreamless sleep. A few hours later at 08:00, I finally managed to crawl out of my tent. I had a quick breakfast and started to pack all my stuff at the campground in Buena Vista. It was getting really late in the morning, and because of the stupid desire of sleeping late, I knew that I had to alter my original plan. But I had no idea what else to do, and lazy as I was, I even considered to take a rest day. But thanks to my guidebook I soon figured out that there was a much shorter climb in the area, Huron Peak, which would perfectly suit my limited timeframe. Thanks God!
I hastily checked out of the campground in Buena Vista and drove 24 kilometers north on US 24. Here I turned west onto CC 390 (dirt road) and continued 19 km to Winfield. From the center of Winfield, I turned left and crossed to the south side of Clear Creek on a bridge. Then I turned right and followed the road for an additional 0,5 km, just before the road became dramatically rougher. This was the South Winfield Trailhead and there was parking on both sides of the road. I could actually have continued further on the 4WD road but I opted to start here.
It was 9:40am when I finally started to hike on the 4WD road. I had noticed that another hiker started only 5 minutes before me, and I expected to pass him after a kilometer or so. I had not paid so much attention to the trail description, but I got suspicious when the road started to climb the hill on the left hand side. I initially thought that the road would continue along the creek, but I didn't care to check my guidebook so I continued to walk. Further up, approx 40 minutes after the start, I got increasingly suspicious because I had not seen anything of the hiker in front of me. I sat down and picked up my guidebook, and to my big disappointment, I found out that I had been walking on the wrong road for a pretty long time already. I had not seen the important junction 0,7km after the trailhead. How could I possibly have failed to see that junction? I must have been very tired indeed.
According to my guidebook, I was far off the normal route. But after I had studied the map and the other routes to Huron Peak, I found out that I was in a perfect position to climb the North-Ridge Route instead. This was supposed to be a scenic alternative to the normal route and it would also allow me to bag another peak enroute. It would be a few kilometers longer than the normal route, and the additional gain of elevation would be 50 metres or so, but I considered that as trivial matters. The most important thing was that I didn’t have to turn around.
I continued on the 4WD road and soon I reached a new junction where I turned left into Lulu Gulch. When I reached the upper part of the gulch, I left the road aiming for the saddle between Browns Peak (on my right hand side) and Point 13.462 (left). I found no trail there, so I was entirely free to choose my own track. From the saddle it was easy going along the north ridge to Browns Peak, a Colorado 13’er at 4122m. This peak is not a ranked one, because the prominence is less than 300 feet. I had a 10 minutes rest at the summit before I continued down to the saddle between Browns Peak and Huron Peak. Here I measured the actual prominence of Browns Peak to approx 50 metres, e.g. far less than the 300 feet rule in Colorado.
From the saddle one can either continue on the ridge (class 2) or traverse well below it on the right side (class 1). I opted for the more interesting route along the ridge. At the end of the traverse I reached the normal trail to Huron Peak, which I followed to the summit. It was rather steep in the upper part and some people struggled because of breathlessness. But technically it was no more than class 2.
I enjoyed the summit views from Huron Peak (4268m), which views is supposed to be one of the best in the Sawatch Range. After 15 minutes I had seen enough from Huron and continued down again. Well below the summit I met the hiker who started 5 minutes in front of me. He seemed to be very exhausted and asked me if the summit was far away. In order to keep his spirit high, I said that he was only 10-15 minutes away from the summit. What I didn’t tell him was that this estimate was based on my pace, and not his. I always find it difficult to answer such questions, because it’s very much depending on how fast they move compared to my pace.
I descended the normal route (Northwest Slopes), in order to get more variation and less uphill. The CFI (Colorado Fourteener Initiative) have done a great job on this trail thereby preventing environmental damage and erosion. I met several people in the basin between Browns Peak and Huron Peak still on their way up, even though it was getting fairly late in the afternoon (jugged by Colorado standards). But I could not see any signs of an electric storm, so I guess it was still wise of them to climb higher even though it was getting “late”.
The trail eventually ended at the 4WD parking in upper Clear Creak, where I continued my hike on the pleasant road. There were some rocky obstacles on the road where my Jeep Grand Cherokee probably would have got into troubles. Thus I was glad that I had left my car safely at the lower trailhead. After a while I also reached the junction, which I foolishly had missed earlier in the day. First then I understood why. One cannot easily see that there is a junction, if walking on the left side of the road. It looks more like a broad shoulder and the other road is kind of hidden beyond this shoulder.
I reached the trailhead at 14:15, and the entire hike had taken me approx 4,5 hours. I decided that Huron Peak was going to be my last fourteener in the Sawatch Range this year. I was looking forward to the much more demanding peaks in the Elk Range over the next few days. So without further hesitation or delays I sat into my Jeep and drove to Aspen via Independence Pass.
(I’m referring to the YDS class rating system throughout this article)