Helmet Peak: La Plata Mountains outlier

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Helmet Peak: La Plata Mountains outlier

Snow still on mountains, but Helmet Peak is prime
Debra Van Winegarden heads north toward Rush Basin in mid-Jun. After an unusually active winter, the snow was too deep to complete the trek
Forester Tesche glissades down the Helmet Peak summit cornice. Hesperus Mountain is on the left and Rush Basin is nestled under Spiller Peak.
Two hikers ascend the south ridge of Helmet Peak, elevation 11,969 feet.
The town of Mancos is 4,000 feet below the parking platform. The wide-open westward view includes Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park and Sleeping Ute Mountain.
Mark Ott of Mancos Hill has climbed Helmet Peak 47 times and has placed twelve peak registers on the mountain since 1970.
From the parking platform at 10,960 feet, ascend southeast to Saddle 11,580’. Climb the south ridge to Helmet Peak and return as you came. For the optional walk to Rush Basin, head northeast from the summit and pass over three numbered points. Return on a prominent bench before regaining the ridge.

Helmet Peak: La Plata Mountains outlier

Debra Van Winegarden heads north toward Rush Basin in mid-Jun. After an unusually active winter, the snow was too deep to complete the trek
Forester Tesche glissades down the Helmet Peak summit cornice. Hesperus Mountain is on the left and Rush Basin is nestled under Spiller Peak.
Two hikers ascend the south ridge of Helmet Peak, elevation 11,969 feet.
The town of Mancos is 4,000 feet below the parking platform. The wide-open westward view includes Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park and Sleeping Ute Mountain.
Mark Ott of Mancos Hill has climbed Helmet Peak 47 times and has placed twelve peak registers on the mountain since 1970.
From the parking platform at 10,960 feet, ascend southeast to Saddle 11,580’. Climb the south ridge to Helmet Peak and return as you came. For the optional walk to Rush Basin, head northeast from the summit and pass over three numbered points. Return on a prominent bench before regaining the ridge.
Travel Basics

Travel: From the U.S. Highway 550/160 intersection in Durango, travel west on U.S. 160 for 24.7 miles to the signed Echo Basin Road and turn right/north on MC 44. Zero out your trip meter. Stay on the main road, passing old homesteads and hay meadows. In 2.4 miles, pavement turns to gravel and transitions to FSR 566. The roadbed deteriorates at 3.8 miles where winter plowing stops. The track climbs steadily through scrub oak to a cattle guard at 6.4 miles. Directly east is The Hogback. Grazing ceases and on the other side of the guard are acres of mule ears in early summer. At 6.8 miles take the right fork, staying on FSR 566. Climbing, the road passes through an aspen forest, the floor covered in wildflowers. At 8.0 miles, the road forks again; turn right. Four-wheel-drive with moderate clearance and sturdy tires are needed on the choppy track. Turn right/south on FSR 322 at 10.3 miles and cross a talus field at 11 miles. Go over a little pass – elevation 10,951 feet – between The Hogback and Helmet Peak. Park on a rocky platform at 11.5 miles. Allow 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes from Durango. Note: On June 17, deep snow drifts covered the road, and we parked 500 vertical feet below the pass at 10.7 miles.
Distance and Elevation Gain: Helmet Peak: 2.0 miles round trip with 1,020 feet of climbing. Total for the peak and Rush Basin: 6.8 miles with 2,770 feet of vertical.
Total Time: Two to three hours for Helmet, five hours for a leisurely walk to Rush Basin
Difficulty: Off-trail; moderate navigation; no exposure.
Maps: Rampart Hills; La Plata, Colorado 7.5 USGS Quads

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