Mt. Burke is a prominent peak in Livingstone Range. The weather forecast predicted afternoon rain so we had to give it a morning shot. We slept at Cataract Creek trail head and woke up at 6am. It was still winter in the morning though, and we got all windows iced up. As usual, we had breakfast and packed up and started the marching. Seeing the upper slope, we decided to leave crampons in the car. It's almost May and in the front range, so we kept the bear spray in our backpack.
We had to walk an extra 1km because the last part of the road was closed. The trailhead is located just before getting into Cataract Creek Camping Site. Follow Salter Creek and stay on the east side (left) from here. You are supposed to walk 2.5km along the creek bed. However, since it was my first time in this area, I turned left uphill after following the creek for only 0.5km... Note if you make the same mistake on other mountains, you might gonna put yourself into a serious bushwhacking position, or even ascending a wrong peak. We followed a faint trail steeply uphill for a short section, then it starts to drop down. Well, not too far down, we might only lose elevation of 50m or so. This trail is a bit weird, it has no switchback but lots of deadfalls. I soon realized that, it's not a trail, instead it's a cut line. I knew we are on the wrong route, but according to the map, the broad treed ridge leads to nowhere except Mount Burke, so if we keep going uphill, we will breaking out treeline anyway, so we went up the cut line. The cut line eventually crosses the proper trail about 40min up.
Lingering snow patches start to appear at this elevation, and we could see fresh tracks. Not bear's, they are human's. It looks like a solo scrambler has been up this mountain recently. The cut line soon disappeared after crossing the main trail, so we were forced to follow this lone hiker's footprints. The more we went up, the more snow we had to deal with. At about 100m below treeline, the trail disappeared due to the snow. Thankfully that guy had made the trail for us, so we didn't need to do any post-holing. The "holes" he made were sometimes waist deep...
Eventually we broke out of the trees, with NO wind. It's quite unusual to have calm day in this area. I still remember how did I battle against the howling wind on Coffin Mountain not far away from Burke. Other people's trip reports also mention the crazy wind in Livingstone Range. As you going up, the ridge narrows considerably. Mom stoped at the point where the ridge narrows to within 5m. I wouldn't consider this as exposure though, and a drop to either side won't kill you. Most important, with no wind, there's no chance you will fall.
There's a big shelter you can go in if the wind is crazy. From the summit, you can look down on the adjacent Livingstone mountains towards south including Plateau, Sentinel, Hailstone Butte, Saddle, Windy Peak, and Mount Livingstone. Towards west are the mountains on Continental Divide. I also went to the edge to check the impressive east face. It's a shear drop so don't get too close if the wind is strong. On the way down, more blue colors showed up in the sky, so I took more photos. At treeline, we decided to stay left (southwest) to avoid the snow. This isn't a good call because we were not following the ridge down. We soon realized our mistake and started to traverse towards right. We had to do some bushwhacks for 30min to regain the trail. We decided to follow the trail down instead of the cut line. The trail swings more towards left and drops down to Salter Creek. Too bad there are still lots of snow on the creek bed, and as a result, the hike back wasn't pleasant.