A few of us took a quick trip up to Radiobeacon Mountain for a dryland survey of the area. There was once a radio tower on top prior to the wilderness designation, hence the name. Now all that remains is a 10′ square concrete foundation where it once stood. There are some epic ski and snowboard descents in this area, so it was hard not to resist exploring with winter at our doorstep.
Snow was in the forecast for the evening after we were here, and the area has since received quite a bit of snow. Radiotower Mountain 12072′ sits just north of Frosty Mountain. It lies between the two better known giants James Peak to the south, and Skyscraper Peak to the north. The area is in James Peak Wilderness proper. There are several epic runs off of Radiotower, some of which are described in the book Front Range Descents. There are few different approaches depending on the time of year. Rollins Pass Road has a few possibilities depending how far up you are able to get. The furthest out is the rock cut at 10024′ roughly 5.5 miles up the road — usually the road is open late spring to this point. Further up the road at 10457′ at the junction to Jenny Creek is the next option (shown as the secondary trailhead). Lastly, if you are able to get there, the Forest Lakes Trailhead is the final and closest option. The road is usually not open to this point until mid-summer as this is the final leg of the [closed] Needle’s Eye Tunnel above. Rollins Pass Road has not been maintained in years, and you will need a high clearance 4WD.
You can also approach from the west when the Rollins Pass Road is open on the other side.
Another entry to this cirque is via the East Portal, a total distance of about 3.5 miles to the Upper Forest Lake. You start by following South Boulder Creek up a mile or so, and then break off to the north where the Arapahoe Creek junction meets. This is the Forest Lakes Trail. As you get higher up on this trail there are small blue dots roughly 8′ high in the trees in both directions, it’s not an official placard, but they mark out the winter route well. This will carry you to the Lower Forest Lake. From there you can see and make your route to the Upper Forest Lake and the base of Radiobeacon.
Depending on the time of year there are a few different possibilities to ascend from Upper Forest Lake. The best approach is to the north gaining the ridge. During couloir season one could boot pack directly up the couloir routes.
There is a small unnamed lake above the Upper Forest Lake at the apron base in the bowls, likely a tarn, so I have named it for my own reference as ‘Forest Lakes Tarn’. The couloir shown on the far left of the routes is rated expert+. It’s 800′ vertical feet and pretty serious business. The drops to the right of the route (north side of the cirque) are a bit tamer. Be vigilant or cornices, even with the little early season snow, transporting is already occurring.
Critters: We saw several moose in the area. Be warned, it can be unfun to startle one unannounced. Likewise a great deal of mountain lion activity in the area between Upper and Lower Forest Lakes in the canopy. A few years ago I came across a cat in the Mammoth Gulch area just south of there at treeline.
This does look like an amazing area with good possibility. There also lines to the south on Frosty Mountain, and quite a few up Rollins Pass.