Mosquito Peak & Treasurevault Mountain
December 18, 2011 - Via Southeast Ridge & Cooney Lake Descent
The weather report called for a bluebird day, day temps as high as 48 and little wind. That forecast spread like a virus through our group and within no time, every principal player was on board for a Sunday outing to the Mosquito range. We'd all been up most of the upper portion of the Mosquito/Tenmile range but Mosquito Gulch offered a couple of peaks that none of us had previosly ventured upon.
We left Cheyenne at 5 a.m. and picked Ed up in Thornton at a bit before 6:30. On to the usual stop outside of Lakewood on I-70 and then down 285 to Fairplay. The lack of snow in this part of the state was obvious and by that time we were in South Park, it was obvious that while some gullies were holding snow, most of the peaks were wind blown and relatively bare. We exited the hard road just shy of Alma and made our way up the Mosquito Gulch Road. Bob opted to drive so were were in his Honda Accord, in mid December, on a road that should have been snowed in for the winter about six weeks earlier. Not the case, we drove all the way to the summer trailhead and parked.
The more folks you have the longer it takes to quit lollygagging and get the gear on to start the climb. We left the car at about 9:30 and headed up the road toward Mosquito Pass. The lower slopes were well covered by willows, which appeared to have caught what snow there was and were well drifted in. We hiked up the first leg of the road toward the pass and then cut off to gain the sort of southeast ridge at about the 12,200 foot mark. We willow busted for a bit and then mounted the ridge proper which was above the willow line. We headed generally northwest and caught a segment of road before taking a direct route up the slopes that would lead not quite to the summit but get us to a point on the ridge between Mosquito and Repeater Peaks, but only a hundred or so vertical feet shy of the Mosquito summit.
The snow was often wind hammered but as we got higher we did find soft areas, each offering a good chance to skin a shin, one of the true rewards of early snow season climbing. We also encountered not quite frozen scree that gave the 3 up and 1 back down slog that is the bane of summer climbing. We eventually cut the ridge and after taking a short water break, we all trudged to the summit proper, perhaps 15 minutes further on. The time was 12:15, we'd been out for about 3 hours to which we added another 15 minutes to eat lunch and debate the trek over to Treasurevault Mountain, a subsidiary peak. The decision was unanimous as to the connection to Treasurevault, so off we went.
Treasurevault is a subsidiary peak, not having sufficient drop to the intermediate saddle to qualify as a true neighbor to Mosquito Peak. The traverse was quick and interrupted only by a brief glance at the pair of antique air compressors located in the saddle proper. This area of the Mosquito range, has seen heavy mining activity and the slopes bear evidence in the form of road cuts, prospect holes and the assorted items of mining debris that litter the slopes. Soon we were atop Treasurevault and, with but a minute or two of pause, we were heading down the opposite ridge a short distance before cutting down to the valley below.
The route to Cooney Lake was a mellow scree descent but for a steeper slope above the lake proper that yielded standing glissades for all takers. The lake was frozen, every bit of six or more inches thick and slick as the green stuff geese leave on the sidewalk. We slid and slipped across the lake surface before dropping down again on the other side to arrive at the top of the slopes overlooking the first segment of the Mosquito pass road and the car located but a few yards back from the start of the 4 WD portion of the road to the pass.
Our two summit route consumed six hours of one of the most pleasant winter days I've had in the mountains in a long time. best of all, we all four got to to climb together and scheme for the next winter outing.