From Monte Cristo Road.
Fletcher is a centennial peak (one of the 100 highest in Colorado) located due west of Quandry Peak in the TenMile Range. It’s separated from Wheeler Mountain to the south and Atlantic Peak to the north by a impressive serrated ridge. We began this hike from the Monte Cristo Road snow closure, which was very near to the turnoff to the trailhead of Quandry Peak. So, we had a fairly long trek up to the Monte Cristo resevoir. However, the road is very good and we were able to zoom up the road to the resevoir. This was another trip with the CMC.
This picture is a view of the valley looking towards Monte Cristo Resevoir and Wheeler Mountain. In the right of the picture, you can see the road we hiked up. Along the road we passed some cars that apparently had been there since the first winter snows came; they were completely buried except for parts of the roof.
Upon reaching the resevoir, we took one of our numerous, long, classic CMC breaks then traversed along the slopes north of the resevoir. There’s a decent trail here although it was sometimes hard to see because of the snow and talus. After a few minutes, we could see the small ridge that led northwestwardly up to a large basin beneath Fletcher Mountain. I felt really good the whole time during this trip and getting up to the ridge was really easy.
From about halfway up the ridge, we could finally see Fletcher Mountain in the far distance.
We had to hike the length of Quandry Peak on it’s south side. We had great veiws of it the whole time.
Here’s a picture of the group at the knob at the top of the initial ridge taking another break. In the distance is the long ridge that leads to North Star Mountain, which is southwest of Quandry Peak. It was a pleasure to hike along this ridge towards the base of Fletcher Mountain. The ridge was very wide and we had outstanding views of the ridge between Wheeler and Fletcher Mountains.
The ridge was probably around a mile long and led to a huge flat basin underneath the peak. From this basin, Quandry Peak looks sustantially different from it’s usual mundane appearance. It’s also quite a different climb from the west side. The standard route is the east side and is very easy.
Here’s a view of Fletcher Mountain below the large basin southeast of the peak. From the basin, the leader asked me and two other guys, Ken and Kirk, to lead the route up the peak. I started out first then was told to take out my ice axe instead of using ski poles. This was annoying example of how the leader micromanaged the trip. I can understand that he felt he had a responsibility to protect everyone but still, it was kind of ridiculous to continually correct our route choices. That’s what I don’t like about these types of leaders. He also chose the initial route even though the three of use were leading. He made us hike directly up the lower face instead of heading for the right-hand ridge. The ridge is/was a much safer and easier option. Go figure.
Anyway, everyone passed me as I secured my ski poles. When I finally was ready, I headed back up and was able to catch up and pass everyone else pretty quickly to get back with my friends in the front. I took this picture of the group hiking up with Quandry Peak in the background. At this point we were about 100 feet below the summit. Ken was leading. When we finally hit the ridge, we noticed how steep it was over the north side. Ahead of us, the ridge converted to a thin snow ridge that was fairly steep on both sides. Ken offered for me to lead and I took over. Instead of traversing underneath the steep slope, I headed up and straddled the ridge all the way to the summit.
This route, in my opinion, was much safer than traversing beneath a steep snow slope. For one thing, avalanche danger is much lower, but more importantly it’s easier to straddle a ridge (or at least hike along within a foot or less of the ridge) than it is to traverse a steep slope. You’re more likely to slip on a slope. Also, if you indeed slip here, you’ll most likely fall directly on to the ridge, which you can use to hold your fall. It’s much harder to stop your fall on a slope. This ridge made the leader really nervous though.
Here’s a photo of the final ridge leading to the summit. I turned around real quick and snapped this picture. The leader (in the red jacket in the rear) nearly freaked out when the group stopped. He was getting really annoyed with me. After taking the picture, I turned around and finished the 15 or 20 feet to the summit. When the leader got to the top, he began sarcastically criticizing the route I had chosen. Anyway, the leader was quite rude actually but I found out from the other hikers that he was just like that. From that moment on, I decided that I would just ignore him and never hike with him again. He also acted totally terrified by that route. Apparently, he was not very experienced. Everyone else seemed pretty excited about the final 50 feet of the route and enjoyed it.
The route doesn’t look to scary in this photo. It indeed looked more extreme from the bottom. The only thing bad that I can see in this photo is that everyone is too close together, perhaps putting too much stress on the ridge in one place. I was way up in front and didn’t really have any control over this. This is really not that big a deal, but if there’s any criticism, I suppose that would be it. Again, it felt exposed but it was safe. It would be pretty hard to slip there. You just have to be careful of your footing and securely plant your ice axe as you move.
Here’s a picture of Kirk and I on the top. In the background is Mounts Lincoln and Bross. We had great views from here in every direction. After staying on the summit for about fifteen minutes, we headed back down the opposite side of the mountain to avoid the “Ridge of Death”. I would have preferred that we headed back that way because the other side was a slog down talus.
I was ready to head back down the mountain though because I was dressed very light for this trip and was starting to shiver a bit. I had no long underwear on and only had my GoreTex pants over my legs. Underneath my GoreTex jacket, I had a midweight bergelene top on with a polypropelene tee-shirt on top of that. It was a good choice though because, even though it felt a bit nippy from time to time, I never got too hot.
After taking about 5 other breaks (arrrr!), we finally made it back to the cars. In spite of the sorry leadership, I really enjoyed this trip.