John Guilford's Hikes
Gothic Basin on 1991-06-09
People: (including myself): Jay Wardle
Start (Road): 12:15 elev ~ 2300
Trail Head: 12:40
End Lunch: 2:30
Rim: 4:15 elev ~ 5400
Leave top: 4:45
Down : 7:00
This was an exploratory hike in preparation for an ascent of Del Campo.
The weather was fine, we ended up wearing t-shirts the whole way. I had
siliconed my boots to try and keep the water out (which didn't work).
The trail starts at Barlow pass and goes out the road towards Monte Cristo.
This is all flat (good mountain bike terrain). At a bit less than a mile,
you come to the bridge over the river. Immediately before that, find the
Weden Creek trail head on the right. This skirts the river and
parallels it until the *real* trail starts (the original trail left the
road further on and involved crossing the river). In a ways, the trail
turns right and starts climbing. It is a fairly consistent grind up for a
ways. Later on it flattens out a bit and does a rising traverse along the
valley before it hooks around a little peak and into the basin. One of the
first big landmarks you come across is a series of three tributaries that
run down slide areas. This time, they were all snow covered, but the big
gap of trees with the creek in the middle will be obvious any time.
We stopped for lunch here. Jay went digging through his pack, only to
discover that he had left his lunch in my trunk. Thus, we ended up
splitting my one tuna sandwich and one carrot, and each had a small
handfull of chocolate teddy grahams (we were pretty hungry by the time we
got down). After the three creeks we hit full time snow (but still in the
trees). Once in the snow, it became impossible to find the old trail.
Instead we followed the foot prints from the people in front of us. They
seemed to (in general) to traverse while climbing. A couple times Jay
suggested that instead of traversing around, that it might be easier to
climb straight up and over the rim. I thought it sounded better to
continue following the footsteps around. A couple times we pulled out
compasses to get bearings on Silvertip Peak (across the valley) to try and
figure out where we were. Eventually you across a good sized waterfall
(which I think the guide book called King Kong's Shower or something like
that). At this point Jay thought about going up one last time, but we
decided to keep following the footsteps. Jay commented that we'd go all
the way around now, since (judging from the map) it didn't look like the
terrain was real promising after this last creek. Ironically, shortly
thereafter, the footsteps turned uphill and proceeded to climb straight up
the hillside (which we still followed). About 4:00 we broke out above the
tree line. We originally decided 4:00 was the turn around time, but
thought that we could make it to the top by 4:15. The slope up was mostly
30 degrees with a couple of steep (up to 65 deg) stretches. Jay was
feeling the lack of lunch here. We then proceeded to climb up. The
weather was great, nice sun, warm but not hot. The views of the sun off
the snow in the valley and surrounding peaks was real pretty. It was a far
cry from the last time I had been to the basin (overcast and drizzle). The
steepest stretch was pretty impressive. It was real steep and about 1 1/2
telephone poles high. There were a good set of steps kicked in. I found
that when taking a step, my knees hit the snow. I was glad that I had the
ice axe going up there. About 3/4 the way up, Jay yelled up for me to
throw my camera down in that it would make a good picture. I said, "No
way!" There was a short distance beyond here before you could see into the
basin itself (which was completely snow covered and flat). The tracks that
we had been following continued up to the top of Del Campo (at 6610 ) (but
we weren't going that far). Up on the rim, I found a little piece of land
that stuck out of the snow and we went there. We spent about 1/2 an hour
doing a little hiking around checking out the views before deciding that we
really should be heading back.
Coming down, of course, was immensely easier (and quicker) than going up,
since you can loose lots of altitude very quickly doing a sitting glissade
(which was fun and controllable due to the soft snow that we had). When we
got to the real steep pitch, it looked even steeper from the top. Jay went
first (I figured that it wouldn't do the go down on top of him, in case I
slipped). We decided that it made more sense to turn around and go down
face toward the snow. Half way down, Jay decided to just slide the rest of
the way. He yelled up to me to just slide down the whole way, but I didn't
have the guts. I ended up down climbing to the level where he started
sliding and then went for it. It was a fun ride. I should have started
higher up (in hind sight). We made good progress coming down, alternating
sitting glissades with large down strides. It felt like we were wearing
seven-league boots. We passed a couple guys coming up (they didn't have
gators or ice-axes - I was glad for mine on the snow). I tried an arrest
on one hill. It turns out that on the soft snow I could stop faster
digging my feet in than by digging the pick of the ice axe in. I guess the
axe is more useful on hard crusty icy stuff (where you can't dig your feet
Eventually, we got down to the more horizontal section and had to start
trudging. In some ways it is depressing how fast you can lose altitude
that you so painfully acquired. On the other hand, I like climbing snow.
I don't think it is *that* much harder than climbing terrain, and it is a
whole lot easier and faster (and easier on the knees) coming back down
(although waterproof boots would be *real* nice).
After we got back to the mostly snow free trail, I stopped and wrung out my
socks (which were well saturated). I don't know how much this helped.
Surprisingly, I didn't get any blisters from walking out with wet feet. The
polypropylene socks probably helped. I think I'm going to have to get a
good pair of boots (groan - this is going to be expensive). When we got
down near the river and the road, we noted that it was actually quite balmy
out. It was a nice summer evening. It was an uneventful stroll back to the
pass and the car. The other thing I need to get is a pack with ice-axe
hoops, so that I don't have to carry the axe all the time.
I have to remember to put sun screen on before I think I need it. The sun
is deceptive on the snow (particularly if it is cloudy).
Jay on way up to basin.
Upper end of valley before making the turn into Gothic Basin.
Gothic Basin from ridge.
John and Jay at Gothic Basin.
Please send comments or corrections to
Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015