Square Top, Henry, and Fossil Mountains – Fossil Ridge Wilderness (30 Aug2014)

(Last Updated On: September 4, 2014)

Continuation of “Backpacking in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness“…..

I awoke with the first light that struck through the walls of our tent. The light seemed dim, and I feared that clouds hovered above us – especially after being hailed on for hours the previous evening. I sank deeper into my sleeping bag thinking it was just going to be another rainy day.

Finally, when motivation got the better of us, we emerged from the tent to find blue skies. The sun was still hiding behind nearby Broncho Peak, but the sky was a clear blue and the stillness of morning hung in the air.
Lamphier Lake in  the morning with Fossil Mountain

Fossil looks like it would have some good skiing when snow-covered.
Fossil Mountain in Fossil Ridge Wilderness

Frost-crusted plants lined the lake. But, where we camped a bit higher up, there was no trace of frost.
Frost covered King's Crown

We enjoyed a breakfast of good camp coffee and a Mountain House Breakfast Skillet. Amazingly delicious, especially for a backcountry meal.
Mountain House Wraps Breakfast Skillet

Mountain House breakfast wrap

With the clear skies we decided to go for our goal for the day – to summit Sqaure Top Mountain, Henry Mountain, and Fossil Mountain. We made our way to the western side of the lake and found a well-defined trail that made its way out of the valley. Lamphier Lake, Broncho Mountain behind, and Gunsight Pass on the left.
Lamphier Lake and Gunsight Pass

A closer look at Gunsight Pass.
Gunsight Pass in Fossil Ridge Wilderness

After climbing steeply for a ways, the trail leveled out as it reached the summit block of Square Top. Me hiking with Fossil Mountain behind.
Fossil Mountain

The final push the to summit of Square Top was fun.
Square Top climb in Fossil Ridge Wilderness

climbing Square Top Mountain in Fossil Ridge Wilderness

When we reached the summit, we peered over the edge and gazed upon a herd of mountain goats.
Mountain goats in Fossil Ridge Wilderness

The view to the southwest was particularly amazing.
view from Square Top Mountain

Us on the summit of Square Top.
Frank and Brittany Konsella on the summit of Square Top Mountain

Next up, Henry Mountain.
Henry Mountain in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness

The hike between the two peaks was fairly mellow, following along an alpine tundra ridge.
Hiking to Henry with Square Top behind

The ridge dropped off sharply to the north, revealing this beautiful valley below.
Fossil Ridge Wilderness

Frank approaching the rocky summit of Henry Mountain.
Henry Mountain summit in Fossil Ridge Wilderness

Standing at 13,254′, Henry Mountain is the tallest peak in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness, and the highest point for miles. The views are particularly amazing. We could see the West Elks, the Elks, the Ruby Range…. and the entire length of the Sawatch Range. I can’t think of many places were I can see the entire length of the Sawatch Range! Henry Lake below and most of the Sawatch Range in the distance.
Henry Lake in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness

La Plata had some white on it – likely leftover hail from yesterday’s storm bursts.
La Plata

The Elk Range.
Elk Range seen from Henry Mountain

Ruby Range and Cement Mountain in front.
Ruby Range and Cement Mountain

We could even see downtown Gunnison.
Gunnison seen from the top of Henry Mountain

The summit register on Henry Mountain dated back to 2008, and showed that not many people climb this peak, despite a fairly well-defined trail. Of particular interest, were our friends Jeremy Wegner and Sean Crossen who skied Henry Mountain from the summit in January, 2009 – shown at the top of this page.
summit register on Henry Mountain in Fossil Ridge Wilderness

To the south west was the Fossil Ridge, which this Wilderness area was named after.
Fossil Ridge in Fossil Ridge Wilderness

Next, we headed over to Fossil. Being on the other side of Square Top, we retraced our tracks down Henry where another mountain goat greeted us.
mountain goat in fossil ridge wilderness

Mountain Goat in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness

We veered left around the summit of Square Top, and headed toward the longer ridge that was just south of Square Top’s peak. This had some fun scrambling.
Ridge between Square Top and Fossil Mountains

Ridge between Square top and Fossil MOuntains

We got another great view of Lamphier Lake and Broncho Mountain which towers behind it.
Lamphier Lake and Broncho while climbing Square Top, Henry, and Fossil Mountains

The Crystal Creek valley that housed the Summerville Trail looked particularly enticing.
valley in Fossil Ridge Wilderness

Storm clouds swirled around us and rain fell to our north. So, we didn’t spend much time on the summit of Fossil Mountain. Frank on the summit.
Frank on summit of Fossil Mountain in Fossil Ridge Wilderness

From the summit, we could see Mill Lake below.
Mill Lake in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness

We descended down Fossil’s eastern ridge, and then dropping north into the Lamphier Lake basin. It was a scree filled mess. But, at the bottom of the basin, we gazed up on an old cabin that had been hidden from us before

Once back at Lamphier Lake, we packed up camp, and walked back to the trailhead… Glad that we’d had the opportunity to climb Square Top, Henry and Fossil mountains while checking out this cool little piece of Wilderness!

Want to do this hike yourself?

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Other Ideas for Backpacking in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness

The Fossil Ridge Wilderness is really kind of a tiny chunk of land. But, it’s got some priceless geography and wonderfully lush forests. Spotted with lakes and streams, this area is great for backpacking. There are several backpacking trips possible in the area. Henry Lake makes a great backpacking destination also. A through-hike could be arranged between the Lottis Creek trailhead at the north and the Gold Creek trailhead to the south. But, the drive to do the shuttle would take hours and that’s a bit of a problem. Hiring someone (or knowing someone) who’s willing to drop off or pick up on one end would be the most ideal.

However, another trip could involve U-“loop”, starting at the Summerville trailhead and ending at Lottis Creek. This would involve taking the Summerville trail the the Fossil Ridge Trail, and then the Lottis Creek trail. I’m also fairly certain that a short cut could be made to avoid the Fossil Ridge Trail if desired. I believe it would be fairly easy to veer off the Summerville trail to Crystal Lake, then ascend on mostly grassy terrain to just north of Square Top to find the climbers trail back to Lamphier Lake. However, good knowledge of mountains, a good map, and possibly a good GPS would be needed for this.

Whatever your desire, there’s lots of options for backpacking in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness!

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things,Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate 🙂 Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

Latest posts by Brittany Walker Konsella (see all)

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things, Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate :) Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

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