Mount Oklahoma (13,845′) | CO Rank: 85/637
Sawatch Range | Mount Massive Wilderness | Leadville, CO
07/18/20 | 8.23 miles | 3,405′ | Class 2
Finally our schedules all aligned and Allie, Tori, and I set out to climb a 13er together (instead of me hiking with each of them separately). Allie picked Mount Oklahoma, a Centennial (one of the 100 highest peaks in Colorado). We borrowed a Jeep that could make it to the 4wd trailhead and we set out bright and early from Denver. We were on the North Halfmoon Lakes Trail by 7am. This is also the start of the southern route up 14er Mount Massive so the trail and trailhead were plenty busy.
The North Halfmoon Lakes Trail follows North Halfmoon Creek through a beautiful forest. But don’t be fooled, the lush understory hid swarms of blood sucking, DEET resistant mosquitos. Never in my life have I seen so many mosquitos in Colorado. The trail was well traveled and a moderate incline so it made for a nice warmup. At 11,600′ and about 1.75 miles in, we turned off the trail and began bushwhacking through the forest.
The bushwhack wasn’t as bad as we expected. There were some trail fragments here and there and the understory was pretty open and easy to travel through. The main difficulty was the creek crossing. North Halfmoon Creek is a good-sized creek that definitely fell into the “raging” category during our visit. We used our map to figure out where others had safely crossed and came upon a partially washed out “bridge”. The remaining logs were wet and extremely slippery so we collected a few new logs to add to the pile. This worked pretty well and we made it across without major incident.
Once we passed treeline, route-finding became significantly easier. Much of our remaining route was visible. We hiked up a small drainage, aiming for a loose slope that would provide access to the upper reaches of Oklahoma.
From afar the slope didn’t look too bad but it was nothing but steep dirt and loose rock. It is not nearly as grassy as it looks.
The slope was only about 400′ and while I made it up pretty easily, I knew I’d have some more trouble going down. This type of terrain makes me incredibly nervous. From the top of the slope all that remained was an easy talus hop to the summit. The views here were incredible.
As we approached the summit our bright blue skies turned gray. We stopped to assess the situation. We were totally exposed. Lightning would not be a good thing right now. But almost as quick as it came in, the gray cloud moved on and we had blue skies once again. We were only about 100′ from the summit so we quickly ran up to tag it, fully expecting to have to run back down right away.
Thankfully the weather held out for us and we were able to relax a bit. After a few minutes we decided we’d better get moving before the real storms moved in. I was also anxious about that darn slope and just wanted to get it over with. Allie taught me how to scree ski and I practiced that a bit on some of the looser areas.
Our bushwhack back to the trail was straightforward. We ended up crossing North Halfmoon Creek a bit further north this time, but still found a “bridge” made by other hikers. Once we got back to the trail, we cruised back to the car. It felt good to tune out and just walk. I don’t think I’ll jump at climbing Oklahoma again, but I’m glad we were all able to summit it together.