Trip Report    

Winter Scramble - Copper Mountain

A gorgeous (and very strenuous) ‘threading the needle’ traverse to Copper Mountain by way of Rampart Ridge, Indian Henry’s, and the Kautz Creek Trail, with just enough daylight and almost too much snow. Probably the last non-snowshoe visit before next spring. This 15 mile and just under 5000’ gain winter scramble was a memorable and pristine closing to our fall 2021 season.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The snow free trail was limited to the portions under 4000’ (under the trees), but as the day wore on snow arrived at lower elevations (the Kautz Creek parking area was snow free in the morning, but with our cars covered upon our return).  We left our snowshoes at home (would not have used them had we brought them), with ~18” of snow depth at the summit of Copper Mountain.  We brought but did not use micro-spikes, crampons, and helmets.  I have always avoided this traverse as a mid-winter loop due to the avalanche hazard just below the Copper Mountain brush gulley at ~6000’, as well as several avalanche prone spots along the Kautz Creek trail.  Although we had originally considered doing Iron, Copper, and Ararat, heavy snowfall forced us to only do Copper Mountain.

The key to this counter clockwise traverse (especially with scarce daylight hours) was to begin and end at the Kautz Creek trailhead (to avoid a car shuttle and the associated time to required to set it up, particularly during a pandemic).  This was made possible by some very reasonable cross country travel between the Kautz Creek Trailhead and the Rampart Ridge trail at ~3800’:


In this section it is very important to use the road’s bridge to quickly cross the main channel of Kautz Creek, then postpone the ascent of Rampart Ridge until well past the small stream that drains a world class devil’s club swamp.

We left our cars at 7:30AM and after a quick cross country ascent of Rampart Ridge to Point 4100 started to boogie on the Rampart Ridge trail (allowed us to cross Kautz Creek at 10:30am near 3600’, the middle peak in the photo is Satulick):


After two more hours (at 12:30pm) we had views of Squaw Lakes as well as the the southern aspect of Iron Mountain (the spot where we decided to skip Iron and ascend Copper via Indian Henry’s):


After a brief lunch on the porch of Indian Henry’s Ranger Cabin we started our ascent of Copper Mountain and were on the summit by 2:30pm:

F2EB2786-6A84-4AC0-ACEC-24E707E8D8D9.jpeg(By Nina Crampton)

The snow was getting heavy as we descended the Copper Mountain gulley at 6000’:



After another quick break on the porch of Indian Henry’s cabin (3:30pm), we contemplated the marginally discernible Kautz Creek Trail and its 5.7 miles back to the cars.  With only 2 hours of daylight remaining the obvious choice was to head for the barn and skip Ararat (barely visible and just right of the trees below the sun):


As we crossed the ridge between Ararat and Satulick we got a glimpse of Point 4100 on Rampart Ridge (our location just 6.5 short hours ago).  Point 4100 is the gentle ridge just below and right of Satulick (the main summit on the left side of this photo):

6C187024-CC1F-47DC-A681-227B3C472869.jpeg(By Nina Crampton)

The snow depth became much less after entering continuously treed terrain near 5000’, and we made good time before running out of daylight near 3400’ with another hour of headlamp trail hiking back to the cars.  A great day in the mountains with a very strong party.  Our total time was 11 hours, with 7 hours for the ascent of Copper Mountain and 4 hours for the descent back to the cars.  Photos from this and other trips to this venue can be seen here.