I found myself with the day off and knew I wanted to get out for a solo. Not only did I need to keep in shape for a trip to South America that I leave for on Saturday, but I do some of my best thinking when alone up high, and lately there is a need for a lot of it.
I left Boulder Monday night and decided to pull off at the Bakerville exit, arriving after 11pm. I got some zzzz’s and got back on the road at 6:30am. I was originally headed for the Iowa Gulch 13ers, based on Aaron’s report, but when I arrived in Leadville I was instantly motivated to drive a bit further and headed down to the La Plata TH for Grizzly Peak A. I only had 2 Centennials left in the Sawatch and the route looked fun. I got some quick beta from Aaron and I was good to go.
First view of Upper Basin, Grizzly is on the right
Grassy slopes I used to gain the East Ridge
Ridge crest on the lower ridge
I arrived at the busy Trailhead and continued down the Forest Service road and over the bridge. The 3.2 miles that I drove were very tough on my low clearance Subaru and took quite a while. I parked before the final fork, a little over a mile from the gate. From here I expected 8-9 miles round trip.
I set out at 8:45am and made good time to the gate. Above here there is an old mining road that is easy to follow for another 1.1 miles. I encountered only very minor snow on the roads, and it was avoidable if you were determined. Near the end of the road I turned north and headed up loose grassy slopes to Grizzly’s East Ridge. This is a variation from the normal route, but Aaron suggested it would add some fun to my day. Turns out that staying on the ridge longer is a good way to go.
View into the next basin
Joining the standard route
A bit of exposure
The trip up was tedious and I was happy to be on the ridge. The rock was loose enough that I needed to watch my footing. I headed up the ridge, encountering minor difficulties along the way. Overall the trip to the main and menacing Gendarme went by with little effort. As the route description says, you can drop down on the left in dry conditions, or scramble around it if there is snow. Well, there was snow and I decided to just go up and over the tower, which wound up being a bit frightening when I encountered a 5th class move on questionable rock half way up. I was relieved to see the ridge crest was much more mellow above this section.
Direct line on the tower
The remaining trip to the summit of Grizzly was simple and I only encountered minimal snow. I arrived on the summit at 11:30am. The Bells Park was strikingly close, offering detailed views of all 7 Elk Range 14ers. I took some time to reflect.
A bit of snow
Message written in the summit register.
The Bells Park
After a quick lunch, I headed down to the Grizzly-Garfield Saddle which had a bit of a climber’s trail and was a welcome change of pace from the ascent. I arrived on the saddle after only 10 minutes. The ridge was enjoyable and offered some minor difficulties, but overall was much easier than Grizzly. I arrived on the summit around 12:30pm.
Grizzly from the saddle
Some cool snow on the saddle
Initial view of the traverse
Easy terrain below the summit
The descent was scree skiing and a bit of bushwhacking to get back to the road, and then smooth sailing. I was back at the car at 2:30pm and began the dreaded drive down the “2wd road.”
Excellent views on the hike out
I recommend this hike to anyone looking for a some solitude and great views in the Sawatch.