Elevation Gain: ~4,100 ft
With the awesome weather forecast for this weekend I knew I had to take advantage of Friday, since I wasn’t sure of my weekend plans yet. My beautiful wife was gracious enough to take the bus to work, but she needed the car by noon. That meant it had to be something close, but also a very early alpine start. Back in January, Milan and I climbed Parnassus with the plan being to traverse over to Bard, but a storm moving in and sub-zero temps stopped us on the summit of Parnassus. While climbing the Berthoud Pass group, Abe mentioned he had just climbed Englemann and Robeson from the Urad Mine area and that it was very accessible in the winter. Then and there I decided that is how I would take care of Bard, and get two more peaks as well.
Alarm went off at 1:40, out the door at 2:00, geared up and on the trail at 3:40. The ‘trailhead’ is very easy to get to. Just before the first switchback up Berthoud Pass you take a left towards Jones Pass. After a couple hundred yards you will see a sign pointing left to head to the Urad Mine. Follow the Urad signs until you see the gate with the big DANGER sign. There is room for a few cars right before the gate, as well as more room an eighth of a mile further. As long as they have gotten up to plow the road after any significant snowfall, this trailhead is easy 2WD. For some reason I chose the further parking area, I blame it on the early hour. The sign also says ‘Extreme Avalanche Danger’ underneath the snow, but to be completely honest, today I did not see what it was talking about. The below tree line snow was very stable and as soon as I busted out of the trees it was so windswept there wasn’t much snow anywhere.
This is a popular backcountry ski area, so I had a pretty nice track for the first mile or so. Once the road forks, I took the left branch and the tracks abruptly stopped. After 6 hours to break tree line on Saturday, and 3 on Monday, the 1 and a half hours this morning felt like cheating. After roughly an hour of crusty enough to support me to crotch deep wallowing, it felt great to take the snowshoes off.
Summit of Englemann
My goal was to be on the top of Engelmann for sunrise, which was nice because it made me push the pace. Arriving on the summit at 6:00 was just in time to see the beautiful sunrise. The views of Evans-Sawtooth-Bierstadt were just amazing in that lighting. Not to mention the huge full moon right behind me. In fact, I wore, but never turned on my headlamp all day! The battery for the camera was too cold at first, but after some in the pants action it was good to go. My hands got really cold while monkeying around with the camera, so I was eager to get back on the move.
Initially I had planned on heading to Robeson next, but decided it would make more sense to hit it after Bard. Since I would be descending from the Engelmann-Robeson saddle, I ditched all my gear except a water bottle and, of course, a Snicker’s bar, at the point where I would drop off to start my descent.
Looking to Bard
Ain't No Place I'd Rather Be
Just after that the sun was officially up and I witnessed something so cool I guarantee I will never forget it. I just wish I knew how to work the panorama feature on my camera to get the full effect, but it was too cold to figure it out. On the saddle, directly to my east was the sun just above the horizon, and to my west, the full moon also just above the horizon, both at the same height. They were the same size and it was really cool to just look to the left and to the right, truly something I had never seen before and feel honored to have had the chance to just sit in awe for a while.
I then hoofed it up to the summit of Bard, arriving at 7:00. The views of Grays, Torreys, and the Kelso ridge were phenomenal, as well as of the Gore Range and the ridge to Parnassus. Had I not stashed my gear earlier, I would have went on over to Parnassus because it looks like a fun little scramble, oh well. I was surprised to see two benchmarks within 3 feet of each other on the summit. Not being able to read the scratched up metal, I assume they are from two different datums.
Robeson and Englemann
Grays, Torreys. Kelso Ridge
Off the summit of Bard and over to the last objective of the morning, Robeson. Summited Robeson at 7:40 and took another slew of pics before heading down to my gear and more water. On the ascent it looked like my best bet would be to drop right down the gully between the two peaks, and it worked out wonderfully. I was extremely happy when the thin line of snow running almost the whole length was extremely stable and the perfect consistency for the first real glissade of the year. Not one of the sit on your butt in soft, deep snow and try to make it work glissades, this was the real deal. I was able to descend roughly 700 feet in a very controlled and safe manor in about 5 minutes. The perfect snow conditions had me drooling thinking about the upcoming couloir season!
From summit of Bard
Parnassus on the way out
Eventually I found my trail from the morning, slapped on the snowshoes, and got back to the car at 9:00. Turns out I could have slept in a bit longer, but I wanted to make sure I could get all 3 and be back in time. And if I had slept in I wouldn’t have been able to get this Trip Report up within 3.5 hours of being on top of the third peak of the day.
Overall an amazing morning, and an amazing week all around. Saturday in the Sangre’s for Spread Eagle, Monday in the San Juan’s for the Spring Creek Pass handful, and Friday back in the Front Range for these three buggers. Could not have asked for a better week of winter summits, and it really makes me realize why I love Colorado so much!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):