French Mountain/Frasco Benchmark/Casco Peak


Statistics

  • Date - 07/13/2019
  • Elevation - 13,940'/13,876'/13,908'
  • Route - South Slopes/East Ridge/North Ridge
  • Miles - 9.7
  • Elevation Gain - 4,044'
  • ACME Mapper - Link
  • CalTopo - Link
  • Partners - Brian Kooienga

Description

Brian and I hadn't been out together since our trip to Canada in April for some ice climbing.  This was a peak-bagging hike to two Colorado Centennial Peaks and an unranked 13er also.  We left Denver, Colorado, at 4:00 and were hiking from the upper four-wheel-drive South Halfmoon Creek Trailhead at 6:30.  We crossed Halfmoon Creek with Brian's 4 Runner and then made out way up the wet and challenging road one mile to the second creek crossing of South Halfmoon Creek.  Although the road from here to Iron Mike Mine didn't appear to be difficult, crossing South Halfmoon Creek doesn't look possible without a highly modified vehicle.

We had to scramble up the creek a bit before finding a suitable log crossing on foot, and then we were hiking up the road next to South Halfmoon Creek.  The upper basin near Iron Mike Mine is surrounded by Mount Elbert to the east, Bull Hill to the south, Casco Peak to the west, and French Mountain to the north.  From Iron Mike Mine, we simply scrambled up the south slopes of French Mountain to the saddle between it and Frasco Benchmark.  We tagged French Mountain, returned to the saddle, and then hiked the east ridge of Frasco Benchmark to it's summit.  From the top of Frasco Benchmark, we dropped off the south ridge to the saddle between Frasco and Casco and then scrambled up the north ridge of Casco Peak for our final summit of the day.

We caught a couple of weak glissades on the southeast face of Casco Peak on our descent.  We also crossed paths with an Outward Bound group at the Frasco/Casco saddle and then saw some backpackers lower in the basin on our hike out, but otherwise had the day to ourselves.  There were several snow patches we had to cross on French Mountain, Frasco Benchmark, and in the basin.  We post-holed on occasion and got a bit wet on the trail and over water crossing, but overall had good weather and an enjoyable day.  We left the trailhead at 6:30, made the summit of French Mountain at 9:50, made the summit of Frasco Benchmark at 10:30, made the summit of Casco Peak at 11:45, and were back at the trailhead at 2:00 for a 7 hour and 30 minute car-to-car day.

Photos

French MountainThe approach in the basin below Casco Peak.Casco Peak from Iron Mike MineCasco Peak from the south slopes of French Mountain.Mount Elbert from French MountainBrian on the summit of French Mountain with Mount Massive in the background.James on the summit of Frasco Benchmark with French Mountain in the background.Casco Peak from Frasco BenchmarkBrian hiking up the north ridge of Casco Peak.Frasco Benchmark and French Mountain from Casco PeakThe basin we hiked up and Mount Elbert from Casco Peak.James and Brian on the summit of Casco Peak.