Looking up the Northeast Ridge
Don't get me wrong...I love hiking the fourteeners, but I often long for the peace and solitude found on the lower summits. I'm just as happy hiking the lesser travelled yet slightly more oxygenated peaks. The Indian Peaks have a lot to offer in this department, but somehow I've neglected these peaks over the past couple years. Weary of the thought being stuck in another weekend mountain traffic jam, I decided it was time to make a second attempt at a beautiful mountain tucked away in the Indian Peaks. It is known as Jasper Peak by some, Mount Jasper by others, and it appears only as the elevation 12,923 on maps. Despite lacking an official name, this peak has plenty to offer. Jasper's Northeast Ridge Route has a little off-trail route finding, an excellent ridge with some fun light scrambling, visits the amazing 'Lake Xanadu Basin', and like Navajo Peak, it passes by an historical plane wreck.
This photo taken from the Arapaho Pass Trail shows the approximate off-trail portion of the route.
The hike begins at the popular Fouth of July Trailhead. Parking shouldn't be too much of an issue if you are getting an early start. Follow the trail to a signed switchback. The Diamond Lake trail continues straight in front of you. Take this trail.
Follow the Diamond Lake Trail
After descending on the Diamond Lake Trail back to the valley floor, the trail crosses a bridge to the south side of Middle Boulder Creek. There is a nice waterfall just to the west of this crossing. After crossing the creek, immediately turn right and find a good trail that parallels the creek.
Hang a right after this bridge
Follow this trail for a hundred yards or so and find a small meadow on the left. Cross to the other side of this marshy meadow, take a sharp right and look for a game trail leading into the forrest.
Cross this meadow and go right
Continue a short distance until you cross a smaller side creek. This creek will help guide you through the forrest up to treeline. Stay on the North and West side of this creek, and be sure to keep it within earshot. Sometimes one of several game trails will assist your ascent, but find another if it starts leading you too far from the creek. The first time my wife and I tried hiking Jasper several years ago, I went too far west before starting the ascent. This led to a very steep and exhausting bushwhack which was likely the major factor in our failed summit attempt.
keep following the creek
Eventually the creek will lead you up to a flat marshy area near treeline with several small ponds. From here, a direct route up to the basin (steep snow on the right side of the following photo and shown in red on the route overview photo earlier in the report) would require an ice axe and crampons. To avoid this, head to the left and ascend to the low point on the south side of the large rock bulge.
View from the ponds
Looking back on the ponds
Welcome to 'Lake Xanadu Basin'. This is an unofficial name that unfortunately brings to mind a horrible movie with Olivia Newton John and roller skates (please don't ask me why I actually watched that turd of a movie). From the basin you can pretty much climb up to the ridge anywhere you please. This will involve some steep scree regardless of where you ascend. I chose to go up at the eastern most end of the ridge because it looked like there were some grassy patches among the scree.
View of Jasper and 'Lake Xanadu' while heading up to the ridge
The ridge looks more difficult than it actually is. All of the towers can easily be skirted if you don't feel up to climbing them directly.
The first tower, Neva in background
Another look up the ridge
I skirted to the right of this tower
Interesting moths on the ridge
A look back at the ridge
Indian Peaks Panorama
The summit you have been eyeing the entire time turns out to be a falsie, but don't lose heart, the true summit is not much further.
Jasper's summit from the false summit
From the summit, return over the false summit and then descend the northeast slopes back into the basin. This descent would make for a fun glissade earlier in the season.
Descending the Northeast Slopes Route
Star Gentian in the basin
Once back in the basin, you can make your way past the plane wreckage and 'Lake Xanadu', then retrace your route back to the Diamond Lake Trail.
Plane wreckage above 'Xanadu Lake'
Along the trail back to the car I noticed these little flowers that my wildflower guide later identified as Death Camas.
Falls along the Arapaho Pass Trail