Resources: Dave Cooper's "Colorado Scrambles", Gerry Roach's "Colorado's Indian Peaks" (after the fact only), Derek's trip report
Mileage: Roach says 8.6, Cooper says 9, my GPS was closer to Cooper
Gain: Roach says 2,870, Cooper says 3,400, my GPS was closer to Cooper
Class: Roach and Cooper say class 4, who am I to argue?
Rock quality: Excellent
I found myself with a free morning on Saturday and with an itch to do some more scrambling. It had to be near home, so I could leave the dog behind, and to make sure I got back in time for a BBQ.
The North Ridge of Mt Neva had been on my short list for a while, so I checked out what Dave Cooper's "Colorado Scrambles" had to say. I also saw Derek's trip report. But I didn't take good notes or commit much to memory; I knew very well how to get to the Fourth of July Trailhead and the start of the ridge. I felt like I could figure out the rest as I went along.
About 3 miles up from the trailhead, past the mine, you reach Arapaho Pass. From here, take a left onto the Caribou Pass trail. Ramble on past Lake Dorothy, and good trail will soon deposit you onto the ridge.
I'll divide the ridge into three sections.
Section 1 goes from the start to the second deep notch. This section lets you know what you're in for. The exposure hits you pretty early. I tried to stay ridge direct the whole way, but there were a couple of points where I was annoyed at having to downclimb off the ridge. One was probably near the second, deeper notch in this pic (left edge), but I honestly can't remember for sure. For the most part, whenever you need to climb off the ridge, your best bet will be to the east (climber's left).
Section 1 - the Intro
The second section goes from the second deep notch, past the crux, and past the scrambling that is past the crux. It intensifies what section 1 has to offer and contains the hardest climbing of the day. All the way up, I had been staring at that streak of smooth, dark gray rock and the deep notch where it meets the ridgeline thinking, How am I going to get past that? Cooper and Roach both call this route class 4 because of this crux. Once I got on it, I thought a better description would be "exposed 3+." But what's the difference really? Let's just say I didn't regret my decision to go solo on this one.
Section 2 - the Crux
In the third section, the difficulties are over. There is one little bitty catwalk type of area with the loosest rock of the day, but it's hardly worth mentioning. In the pic below, from the low point at the middle up to the summit is literally about 3 minutes walk. But given the easy walk to the summit, I was pleasantly surprised by the airy nature of the summit block itself.
Section 3 - the Outro
Climbing the Ridge
As I approached the ridge, I noticed that there were two pairs of climbers ahead of me. That let me get some decent pics for illustration.
A climber on the ridge
From the ridge, anticipating the crux
A zoomed view shows 3 of the 4 climbers ahead of me
The first pair starting up the crux
In the pic below, pay attention to the highlighted orange/pink rock. According to the second pair of climbers, this first pair of climbers angled up to the right and to the top of the near side of the notch, then downclimbed into the notch, and up out of it. I took a different line: From the position of the lower climber, I took a route that angled up to the left. Then I crossed the grassy ledges, angled up into the gully below the notch, then climbed out of the gully up and to the left of the orange/pink rock.
Notice the orange/pink rock
Here's a pic from closer to the gully crossing.
Angle left of the orange/pink rock
The second pair of climbers let me go ahead, which gave me a chance to get pics looking back as they climbed the crux. They followed a line similar to mine.
Climbers following my path
Shortly after the crux, there was a cairn or two, and it looked like you could bypass the ridge on the right (west) side (blue arrow). Instead, I didn't want to miss more scrambling, so I climbed back up onto the ridge (red).
Red leads to the last good ridge scrambling
After a little more ridge scrambling, this little catwalk appeared. It was the loosest rock of the day - it reminded me a little of Elk rock. For maybe a few feet, it was also relatively narrow, but not really a problem. I believe this is an exit for one of Neva's couloirs. Then, past the next little bump, it's smooth sailing to a nice summit block.
The mini "catwalk" and the stroll to the summit
From the summit, I had been contemplating going back over to tag the orphaned 13er Old Baldy, or possibly heading over to high 12er Jasper. I decided to just bushwhack back over to the Arapaho Pass trail and see how I felt about adding Old Baldy - and see if the weather might permit it.
I knew from Derek's report that I could descend to the saddle between Neva and Jasper and follow a scree-filled gully down between a couple of lakes. From the summit, I could see the lakes, but had to take on faith that the gully descent wouldn't be too bad.
From the summit, I couldn't see the descent gully
But I could see the lakes
The gully descent turned out to be quite tame. From there, I got a little side-tracked toward some picture-taking. That plus the fact that the bushwhack took longer than I thought it would made me decide to save Old Baldy for another time.
Just a word on the bushwhack: it's not difficult, but I wandered a little to avoid some marshy areas. To give you one view that has a comparison, I stole Derek's GPX file, merged it with mine, and added a yellow line to represent the rough path that Cooper recommends. I'm sure any of these routes would work just fine. The black dots are Derek's route; the open circles are mine.
Along the way, I stopped to take in some expansive views...
Fog to the west
Apache and Navajo
Iroquois and Apache
Arapahos, Old Baldy, and basin
As well as to revel in the small things...
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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