Peak(s):  Casco Peak  -  13,908 feet
Frasco Benchmark  -  13,876 feet
French Mountain  -  13,940 feet
Date Posted:  05/07/2018
Modified:  05/08/2018
Date Climbed:   02/02/2018
Author:  Dad Mike
 Outward Bound Fan Club   

Casco Peak, Frasco Benchmark and French Mountain
Time...5:45am - 3:30pm
Distance...15.4 miles
Elevation Gain...4794 feet
Trailhead...Winter Closure on Indy Pass Road at 10,600'
Route...Indy Pass Road to Lakawanna Gulch...W/NW Ridge of Casco...S Ridge of Frasco...SW Ridge of French...W Slopes of Frasco on Descent

Here's another one from this past winter. I chose this route after looking at a map and trying to figure out how to climb these peaks from Indy Pass Road. I talked to Ken Nolan about it and we both agreed that the west ridge of Casco would probably go, but that there would be at least one tower to deal with.

The forecast wasn't great, but I was running out of options that I could climb in a day and I didn't have another day off for a while. I was hoping to at least set a trench to treeline. It was snowing lightly when I got to the Lake Fork TH and all of the snowmobile tracks headed up North Fork Lake Creek.

After turning up into Lakawanna Gulch, I soon ran into one of the most impressive trenches I've ever seen. It was like a bobsled run. I followed it through the trees until it ran into a winter tent village. There were 5 or 6 big yellow tents and a few people up and moving around. I soon found out it was an Outward Bound group practicing winter camping. They were up there for 4 or 5 days. They were hoping to climb Mt. Champion, but had some bad weather and a few sick campers. They were really cool and I thanked them for their efforts with the unexpected trench.

Once I broke out of the trees, the clouds started to break up and my intended route came into view.

There is a little cliff band to navigate before the ridge flattens out and then it is cruiser for a while.

Just as I was thinking the ridge was easier than I expected this tower came into view.


Left didn't look good. I tried to wrap around the right side without dropping down, but ran into a 40' cliff. The only option I found was to drop 150 feet or so and traverse across a snowfield. This might have been an issue if the snow wasn't so good. Even with the stable conditions, I hustled to get off this slope and back to the ridge.

Here is the impressive tower and the steep face on the south side of it.

And looking back at it from further along the tracks are on the bottom left.

The rest of the ridge to Casco and over to Frasco and French went smoothly. There are a few class 3 sections in there, but nothing too difficult.

Looking back at Casco from Frasco

Looking at French from Frasco

Casco and Frasco on the way back from French

I was originally planning on going back to the Casco/Frasco saddle and descending from there, but it was too tempting to take the shortcut down Frasco's west face. Of course, this didn't go as planned. I started down Frasco's NW ridge, trying to find the best way to get down into the basin. After descending for a little while, I was forced off the ridge and down this fun little section of ice-coated rock. After 50 feet of not-so-graceful downclimbing, I was back on snow and happy to have that nasty section behind me.

Another look from below. I wouldn't suggest using this descent route. Better to just take the extra effort and drop down from the Casco/Frasco saddle.


The rest of the day was so great. Just mellow snowshoeing back to the car with great weather and killer views. Thanks to the OB group's attempt at Mt. Champion, I had a nice track to follow most of the way.

W/NW Ridge of Casco

Mt. Champion

Outward Bound Group


Strava Map

I was part of an Outward Bound group for my college orientation. This was before I officially fell in love with mountains and camping. We spent 4 nights in our tents in the rain. Every night we were forced to sit around a campfire and talk about our feelings. I hated almost every minute of it. I now take back all the bad things I said about the Outward Bound on that trip. Consider me a fan.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
The TR Standard
05/07/2018 17:42
I thoroughly enjoy your trip reports. The annotated photos with routes lightly penciled in, subtle peak identifiers, topo maps, etc. It allows for visualizing the key parts of the climb without giving all the adventure away or adding too many words. Keep 'em coming!

Dad Mike
05/08/2018 08:19
homie. I appreciate that.

05/08/2018 08:32
very well done TR

05/08/2018 10:54 always Mike! I'd looked at that west ridge from many angles... wondering how it'd go. Thanks for answering that question! I snagged that trio this fall using Echo Canyon as my approach... its type 2 willow bashing fun at its finest!

05/08/2018 14:18
I like this TR a lot.

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