Sawatch Mountains
Peaks Climbed: Casco Peak (13,908'), French Mountain (13,940) & Frasco Benchmark (13,876)
Start/End: Echo Canyon TH (9,970')
RT Stats: 11 miles & 5,740 feet
Date: January 19, 2014

Casco Peak & French Mountain are two of Colorado's highest 100 peaks and are situated just a couple of miles west of Mount Elbert. Summer access is from the northeast via Halfmoon Creek but this is rarely the best option in winter as the road to the trailhead is not plowed. In the past Ken has successfully approached from the west via Lackawanna Gulch but Jamie layed a track up Echo Creek a few weeks ago so his proposed route from the south seems well worth a try today.

We're fortunate to find a dryish, windblown line leading from the upper basin to Casco's southeast ridge. With a little more snow there is likely no such avy safe path. The downside of our route is that in order to climb French as well we have to run the long and tedious ridge out and back from Casco, climbing over pesky Frasco Benchmark both ways. Being up high at sunset pays off and we enjoy an incredible show of colors. I love winter sunsets.

The day in pictures

Echo Creek is home to some cool mining relics. Once we pop out of the trees our objective quickly comes into view.

Ascending the steep slope under the Casco-Bull Hill saddle.

With a little more snow this would not be a good slope to be on.

Casco's pointy summit. I'd forgotten how interesting Casco is for a Sawatch peak.

Massive Lackawanna serves as a nice backdrop for the grind to the saddle.

Jamie near the start of Casco's southeast ridge.

Mount Elbert is our companion for the next several hours. Bull Hill is on the right.

We keep snowshoes on all the way to the summit.

Looking back as Casco as we begin the traverse to French Mountain. A cold wind blows.

I'd forgotten how much character this ridge has. The going is a bit slow.

Mount Elbert, the site of yesterday's grand celebration, as seen from French Mountain.

Casco looks far away. The ridge between Casco and French is about 1.3 miles long and took us about 2 hours each way.

Jamie & Dom returning over Frasco Benchmark.

Frasco Benchmark and French Mountain.

The grind back up Casco.

The sun sets as we descend Casco's southeast ridge.

Mount Elbert has never looked so good.

French Mountain above Halfmoon Creek.

La Plata stands out amongst the crowd.

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