Rio Blanco County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: September 15, 2007
Author: Walt OíNeil

This was a real curve ball. I picked this one because it was a challenge but not too difficult. I left home at 2:30 am and left the trailhead at 6:55. The board had a notice that, due to a mud slide by one of the lakes, there would be a detour on the way. Thinking there would be a short by-opass, I proceeded and was shocked when I lost 700-800 feet descending and going in the wrong direction toward the Garfield County highpoint (FlatTop Mountain), which was very visible. The trail, however, was in great shape and had a cairn where it turned in the right direction, I thought I had missed the real trail but donít remember seeing any other turn-offs. Finally, I saw a sign where the trail turned left. The sign said "Randall Creek Trail 1121".

I knew this was right and proceeded upward and reached Mandall Pass. What a great view! This was the first time I saw the lakes, which were below me, and had a view of the highpoint area.

I headed first to point 12,005 and got a good view of Orno Peak and the Rio Blanco highpoint. I headed to the highpoint and signed the registers. I was surprised how close it is to the steep cliff. Time up was 5 hours, 44 minutes.

On the descent, I thought Iíd take the left fork at the sign, thinking that might be the right trail and ended at a lake and campsite. It was then that I realized this was the short trail to Black Mandall Lake. Only wasted 20 minutes of ro. I retreated to the sign and went back the way I came, then slogged up the 700-800 feet, about a mile from the parking lot. I did see 2 areas where the trail was blocked but the trails were faint. Time down was 4 hours, 15 minutes.

The weather was great, except for 40 mile/hour wind at and above the pass. I arrived home at around 8:45 pm. Am I glad I left early to get there or I would have had second thoughts about doing the highpoint.

It wasnít until I was mostly down that I knew I was on the right trail and it wasnít a mistake in the book, omitting the big descent on the ascent. On the new trail are about 6 stream crossings, 3 of which are a little tricky.

Elevation gain is estimated at about 3,000 to 3,500 feet using the detour. So much for easy.