Ascent of Mount Sunflower on 2017-09-08

Climber: David Odenwalder

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Friday, September 8, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Sunflower
    Elevation:4039 ft / 1231 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was another "spur of the moment" decision on my part. (See the full report under Elbert and Panorama Point). Having completed the NE high point early Friday morning, and with a full day of nothing particular to do, I turned my consideration to the Kansas high point. My original plan had been to do KS, NE, SD, and ND in a single pilgrimage at some unknown future date, I realized that in doing NE, but not doing KS, I left a big hole in the middle of the country that I'd have to do on its own a some later time. (I did OK's Black Mesa during a cross-country drive a few years ago.) Calculating the distance from Pine Bluff, WY, I figured I could knock out Kansas and still have time to get to the Mt Elbert trail head before too late. The only sacrifice was not being able to acclimate at 10000 feet for as long as I had originally intended. I drove I-80 to the east a ways, then took highway 385 - billed as the "high plains highway" south paralleling the Colorado border. I used annoying Siri to help guide me down this rural highway, which goes in and out of a few towns en route. At one point, Siri wanted me to turn east on a county farm road. I ignored her, and kept driving. Turns out, I was right - she was confused. At I-70, she wanted me to get on for one exit, then off again to continue on 385. I think she was goofed up again, but complied with her directives. Now it gets interesting. After 2-3 hours on 385, I figured I had to be getting close - but needed to get over to the Kansas side. Siri directed me to turn on a graded county road. She argued with me, and gave me a couple other choices - still graded farm roads. I finally decided she had to be placated. So I took one. At first, not to bad - though I wasn't looking forward to 15 miles or so of gravel road. Corn fields on one side, fallow fields on the other. Eventually this "county road" became nothing but a couple of tire tracks - I could hear the weeds between the ruts rubbing the bottom of the car. It was getting pretty dicey. Finally Siri insisted that I turn north on a non-existent road - right in the middle of a harvested corn field. I wrested control back from the clearly confused lady, and backtracked half a mile to the closest road that looked like it might be passable. Turned out to be a good choice. A couple miles north, a couple miles east, and I was in Kansas, on the road that I should have taken all along. A few miles back south, a turn at the marker, and up the hill to Mount Sunflower.
This high point - probably all of a mile inside Kansas - was probably adorned by someone trained in interior decorating. Or a landscape artist. A small fenced in plot, ornate ironwork, a beautiful little chunk of ground - out in the middle of farm country. A few sunflowers growing. Truth be told there are sunflowers all over the area - but except in this little plot of ground, not to many actually on the "mount". I think I signed the register - nearby. Hope so. Quick look, a few pictures - and now I really needed to get heading west for Mt Elbert. It was already getting well along in the afternoon. I took the first north/south road - the one I came in on. Went north about 15 miles. It was a graded road with a couple of elbows, but eventually led me to I-70. First exit in Kansas. A moment later, I was on the freeway speeding toward Denver and my real prize of the weekend, Colorado's high point. Were I to do Kansas' Mount Sunflower again, I'd merely take I-70 to Kansas highway 3 (or whatever other designation it is) and get off there, go straight south. Mission accomplished.
Summary Total Data
    Weather:partly cloudy, light haze

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