Garfield County Highpoint Trip Report
Flat Top Mountain (12,354 ft)
Date: June 26, 2005
Author: Kevin Baker
route via North Derby trail
Overnight, at Bear Lake campground, a storm blew through that kept me awake most
of the night as the wind was blowing pretty hard. I did not have high hopes of
summitting Flat Top but I awoke to clear skies. I could already see clouds to
the west, so I knew the weather would be unsettled this day. I drove the 4
miles or so down FR-900 to its end at Stillwater Reservoir and was off at 6:20 am.
One couple was in front of me, while it appeared that others had headed
down the more popular Devil's Causeway trail. From a distance, it appeared that
I could get by without snowshoes and I guessed right this time. The trail was
muddy but not as bad as the south facing slopes from the previous day. I only
encountered one drift that was problematic as it was too steep to cross, so I
just went straight up the slope and found the trail again. Within an hour,
I was at the base of a short snow climb to the saddle. I followed what I think
was bear tracks up the snow, as he kicked some nice steps in the snow for me.
Luckily the tracks were not fresh.
At this point, the weather was looking iffy but from what clouds I could see
they did not appear to be lightning-producing. I did hear a couple rumbles
coming up, so when I gained the saddle I decided to wait it out in the trees for
a weather window. The cloud ceiling ended up dropping below me, reducing
visibility, but it was short-lived. After a 55 minute delay, I was heading up
the long summit ridge. For the most part, I stayed on the crest of the ridge
enjoying the views below. There was one small snowfield at a mini-saddle.
The terrain is easy going on Flattop but the distances are a little deceiving as it
took longer than I thought. I made it to the highest cairn at 9:37 am just as
it was beginning to sleet a little. I signed the register, took a couple
pictures, and headed right back down. On the way down, I stayed below the ridge
to reduce my exposure to lightning but I never heard or saw anything. After a
short glissade off the saddle, I was back in the woods. On the way back,
I tried kicking steps in the steep drift across the trail but ended up wiping out
and sliding down 20 feet or so. No blood, no foul. Intermittent graupel began
to fall and it intensified as I neared the trailhead but it never got too bad.
I signed out at the register at 11:15 am.
All in all, it was a great weekend in the beautiful Flattops.
Climb statistics: 8.6 miles round trip with 2,064 feet of elevation gain.