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By Jason Himick
From: Boulder, CO
Jan 24, 2014
While the information provided under 'Getting There' will in fact get you there, some additional information may be helpful in route finding. This page and a couple of guidebooks refer to the trailhead on Last Dollar Road as 'Sheep Creek', perhaps this was the former name, but according to FS maps and the sign at the trailhead, it's called Deep Creek. From the trailhead, you will follow trail #418.1b, this is an old road grade that heads north. Finding the actual trail through an open snow covered field can be challenging, so just be sure to head northeasterly up the hill from the trailhead until you're on the road grade. After about 1-1/4 miles, the road grade will intersect with Deep Creek Trail (#418) just after crossing Sheep Creek. From this intersection, follow Deep Creek Trail to the west (also a road grade) for approximately 1-1/4 miles where you run into an unnamed creek. According to the maps, this is where Iron Mountain Trail (#418.1c) heads north into the valley just west of Iron Mountain. In winter conditions, it's unlikely you will find the trail, if any remnants of the trail even exist here at all, so just head north into the valley along the creek following the path of least resistance. Once your view opens up into the valley, you will likely see the climb called Deep Creek Staircase. It's probably at least 1 mile from the Deep Creek Trail intersection with the creek to the base of any particular climb.
Estimates of the approach time to this area can be very misleading as it's entirely dependent on conditions, fitness, method of travel, etc. One source suggests a ludicrous approach time of 20 minutes. While this could be achieved using a snowmobile, motors are prohibited in the area, so dismiss that altogether. Even an approach time of 1 hour on skis is ambitious. Boot-packing the hike in and out is likely to be slow, arduous, and a test of your ability to suffer. Snowshoes are recommended as a minimum, and skis will certainly make the approach and return something enjoyable as opposed to something dreaded. The approximate distance to the climbs from the trailhead is about 3.5 miles (7 mile round trip), so you do the math.
You can certainly climb in the area throughout the season (not just early or late season), but the information to heed avalanche danger is legitimate. A couple of the climbs are clearly part of avalanche chutes and should be avoided unless conditions indicate good snow stability. The open snow slopes below these climbs also have the potential to avalanche, so be avy savvy with route finding and with the go/no-go decision in marginal conditions.
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