Pika Peak and Gold Dust Peak

13-15 Jun 2003 - by T Colorado

We left Denver at about 3:00 p.m. on Friday and, due to the lane closures near Vail, did not arrive at the trailhead for Lake Charles until 8:00 p.m. We donned our packs and backpacked in about 2 miles until the trail (even with headlamps) became difficult to follow due to snow. After finding a secluded campsite on the hill to the left above the trail, we fell asleep to a light drizzle. The weather the next morning was beautiful. We left camp on Saturday at 6:30 a.m. and hiked on up the trail to Lake Charles. Though we lost the trail a couple of times, it was easy to follow the roaring (and very full) Brush Creek to the lake. Our first objective was Pika Peak, a 13'er above Lake Charles. My husband suggested we make a "direct ascent", which we did, and arrived on the summit 12:30 p.m. There was a jar with paper entries.

We sat for a few moments eyeballing Gold Dust Peak. Though the description, in Guide to the Colorado Mountains, stated the connecting ridge was only .7 of a mile in length, it appeared longer. Ormes stated it is an "interesting ridge" which always leaves much to the climber's imagination. We descended off of Pika in our effort to lose more than 500 feet of elevation to get to the low point of the ridge. At times, it is best to stay on the ridge proper ... at other times, it is best to drop off to the left side (when heading towards Gold Dust Peak). The challenges of this ridge do not end when you reach the low point and, with snow still abundant, it was more fun that we thought it would be. The final ridge finish on Gold Dust Peak was reminiscent of the finish on Eldorado Peak in the Cascades ... stupendous! Steep corniced snow with thousand foot drop-offs on either side and views that are unending. We made the summit of Gold Dust at 3:30 p.m. Three hours on the ridge. There is a grey canister and summit register on Gold Dust ... we were the first this year to summit both peaks.

After a quick snack and some water, we descended directly down the face of Gold Dust Peak aiming for a pond that is located downstream from Lake Charles. After avoiding cliffs on the way down, we found a high patch of snow and had delightful glissades down towards the pond. We found that following the creek in Negro Basin worked well though route finding (due to cliffs) can be an issue for inexperienced individuals. We hit the trail at 7:15 p.m. and were back to our camp by 8:00 p.m. What a great "tour de Pika/Gold Dust". Happy trails!

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