London, Kuss, Mosquito, Treasurevault Loop
Another fall alpine start courtesy of a bluebird day in Colorado made this a weekend win before a weak cold front moved in Saturday night. The weather was perfect and afforded us a mostly clear day despite the late start. The winds were also minimal most of the day until they picked up in the afternoon ushering in the storm.
The road is a mellow 4WD road and relatively snow and ice free with the exception of a few spots. The GPS pin on google maps stops short of the marker on the road before you turn left to a small parking lot with the road continuing up to the upper mine and mountain pass.
We arrived around 9:20 am (I said casual alpine start) and to our surprise two other vehicles were already there. A sheet of ice covered the road past the lot leading up to the London Mine.
The thickest snow was above the upper mine along the wind drifted road that winds around the rock rib of London Mountain. We kept right for most of the walk up and avoided most of the postholing through thick snow other than a few crossover moves from side to side.
Topping the saddle of the pass between London and Kuss we found much dryer conditions on those aspects. We turned left and headed up the initial obstructions to gain the ridge to London Mountain. Contouring lower than the ridge proper was ok, but loose in sections. We took the ridge proper on descent to add a little more spice and avoided the steep screen traverse on loose rock below. I would recommend taking the ridge directly.
On the summit of London around 12:30 we took a quick snack break and photos before descending the ridge. Back at the saddle we continued straight up the slope directly to Kuss peak. On the summit around 1:30 pm we admired the tower and structure on top admiring the solar panels.
We took a longer break here enjoying a wind reprieve behind the shelter while snacking and drinking water before we collected to continue to Mosquito peak.
After the descent to the saddle between Kuss and Mosquito we were working toward gaining the ridge directly after avoiding a snowfield when we had a surprise goat encounter. A big burly guy startled us as much as we did him. Luckily we were a good distance away but he seemed agitated after being surprised. We decided to contour lower than the ridge to give him space.
The traverse wasn’t favorable with loose scree and talus from all the mine debri, but we were happy with our decision to not provoke the giant goat. We did take some funny photos and videos of the majestic creature, though. Eventually he was satisfied with us not being a threat after kicking rocks down, mind you, and he laid down on the ridge to sunbathe and nap.
We gained the ridge in his blindspot and continued on. Soon we were on the summit admiring him from above. The wind was picking up on Mosquito peak so our stay was short. The descent from Mosquito to Treasurevault saddle was the loosest and most difficult of the day. The steep slope was filled with loose scree and fresh layers of snow and ice which did help stabilize some of the loose dirt. It was still a slow process making way to the saddle.
At the saddle we photographed the mine equipment and trailer with generator left behind from the road that winds down to Leadville. We were on Mosquito around 2:30 pm averaging around an hour between each summit. Ricky and I wagered bets on our timing to the next high point and back to the car. We were almost guaranteed to lose light on the road.
I won the first bet with the leg to Treasurevault summiting at 3:29 pm. We took quick photos, refueled with food and water as the winds picked up again. The ridge back to the saddle that crossed the saddle to Tweto was really mellow so we sprinted along the ridge taking a few photos along the way.
The corni were starting to develop on the ridges as we crossed several drifted areas holding snow. Ricky drew a lovely corni character in the back of one and I snapped pics. Once at the saddle it’s a straight shot down the slope but we ended up a little right of the trail on the left. Once we spotted it we made our way across soft tundra through willows back to meet the road.
The road was mostly dry with the exception of a few spots holding snow. An easy walk, we chatted about urban legends in El Salvador as we walked back to the car. Luckily our voices were loud as we thought we were the only ones left in the basin. That is until we were startled by two people walking up the road.
They were there to shoot rounds when they heard our voices. Luckily they did as we were not digging the vibe and just glad we didn’t stumble into gunshot range. Little unnerving passing strangers out in the wilderness as one grabs their rifle and scope just as you pass. But hey, I watched too many horror films and was on edge for Halloween. It’s hunting season, wear your bright colors folks!
Ricky won the final bet of when we would get back to the car arriving at 5:36 pm. The sun had already ducked behind the mountains but we did have a little remaining light. The weather was perfect for this casual day and we had a blast on this easy scenic mine loop!