(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.
Fossil looks like it would have some good skiing when snow-covered.
Frost-crusted plants lined the lake. But, where we camped a bit higher up, there was no trace of frost.
We enjoyed a breakfast of good camp coffee and a Mountain House Breakfast Skillet. Amazingly delicious, especially for a backcountry meal.
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.
A closer look at Gunsight Pass.
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.
The final push the to summit of Square Top was fun.
When we reached the summit, we peered over the edge and gazed upon a herd of mountain goats.
The view to the southwest was particularly amazing.
Us on the summit of Square Top.
Next up, Henry Mountain.
The hike between the two peaks was fairly mellow, following along an alpine tundra ridge.
The ridge dropped off sharply to the north, revealing this beautiful valley below.
Frank approaching the rocky summit of Henry Mountain.
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.
La Plata had some white on it – likely leftover hail from yesterday’s storm bursts.
The Elk Range.
Ruby Range and Cement Mountain in front.
We could even see downtown Gunnison.
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.
To the south west was the Fossil Ridge, which this Wilderness area was named after.
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.
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.
We got another great view of Lamphier Lake and Broncho Mountain which towers behind it.
The Crystal Creek valley that housed the Summerville Trail looked particularly enticing.
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.
From the summit, we could see Mill Lake below.
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?
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!