| A Bear of a Hike
Grizzly Peak D
13,427 Feet (303rd highest in Colorado)
13,117 Feet (555th highest in Colorado)
Northwest Ridge Route From Loveland Pass, 11,990 Feet
October 13th, 2007
5.8 Miles Roundtrip
2,770 Feet Elevation Gained
Greenhouseguy (Brian C.), Slow Moving Fun Seeker (Jay F.), Cairn Stomper (Brian E.), and Briaowe (Brian O.)
A Bear of a Hike
What comes after two days of bad weather in Colorado? Monday! The forecast for this weekend was dismal, but I still wanted to get outdoors. Jay had suggested Missouri Mountain, while Keith wanted to check out Humboldt Peak. In the end, we scrapped both plans and decided to hike Grizzly Peak as an alternative. The weather forecast for Grizzly Peak called for snow, but we hoped to be able to get up and down before the storm hit.
Grizzly Peak D is one of five 13ers in Colorado with the same name. It lies on the Continental Divide southeast of Loveland Pass, near the A-Basin Ski Area. There are several basins along the standard route into which hikers can descend to avoid foul weather, but all of them involve a long hike back to the parking area. Off-route hikers have caused several fatal and near-fatal avalanches. The most recent (non-fatal) avalanche was on December 31st, 2006:
There have also been incidents of hikers being struck by lightning while hiking on the ridge. Grizzly Peak is a popular and relatively easy hike, but this steep mountain should be treated with respect.
We got a bit of a late start, since we had all watched the Rockies' extra-innings victory the night before. After meeting at the park-n-ride on I-70, we headed for the nearest Starbucks. Jay imbibed some rocket fuel, and we were on our way to Loveland Pass. The trailhead is at the summit of Loveland Pass.
We geared up and hit the trail under blue skies. The path just beyond the trailhead is broad and badly eroded due to heavy use by tourists. Many people hike a sort distance for a photo opportunity, and then retreat safely to their car. The high altitude and the steepness of the trail probably discourage the casual tourist from hiking far.
The large rounded peak is "Cupid;" the pointed summit peering above the saddle is Torreys Peak; Grizzly Peak is just left of the center of the image
The steep trail starts out by heading towards Pt. 12,915. Hikers who intend to hike Mt. Sniktau use the same trail up to this point.
Mt. Sniktau is the rocky ridge on the left; Pt. 12,915 is the rounded summit in the center of the image
Passing over Pt. 12,915 adds a great deal of elevation gain to the ascent and to the return trip. It makes the hike more challenging, but offers little in the way of scenery.
Trail winding up the side of Pt. 12,915
Fortunately, there is a narrow trail that bypasses Pt. 12,915 and goes directly to the saddle between Pt. 12,915 and "Cupid." Some purists may want to take the longer and more difficult route, but this bypass trail suited us just fine.
Brian E. taking the bypass trail towards "Cupid"
Ascending the saddle between Pt. 12,915 and "Cupid"
The trail passes to the west of the summit of "Cupid." It is a large, rounded summit crowned by small piles of talus. We decided to make the short trek over to the true summit on the return trip.
Brian E. on the western slope of "Cupid." Grizzly Peak is in the center of the image
Moving along towards the summit of "Cupid"
Summit block of "Cupid" viewed from the trail
When we crested the trail on "Cupid," we could see the remainder of the route. We had to descend "Cupid," go up Pt. 12,936 and down the other side, and wind our way through some steep talus on Grizzly Peak.
Pt. 12,936 is in the foreground, with Grizzly Peak behind it to the left
Torreys Peak is to the left of Grizzly Peak, connected by a saddle. Grays Peak, in the background, looks deceptively pointy from this angle
At Jay's suggestion, we chose a slightly more difficult route to descend "Cupid." Near the base of "Cupid," on the ridge, there is a large pile of talus. We scrambled up and over the talus pile instead of taking the Class 1 trail around the pile.
Looking back up the rocky south ridge on "Cupid"
We were getting pretty winded, but the hardest work was still ahead of us. Pt. 12,936 was kind of a grunt, but at least it was a short grunt.
Looking down Pt. 12,936's southeast ridge at Grizzly Peak's northwest ridge
Grizzly Peak's formidable summit pitch
From the low point in the saddle, we had to ascend about 650 feet to make it to Grizzly's summit. The lower part had some loose scree, while the upper part was much more solid. It was not technically difficult, but it was physically demanding.
Cairn Stomper leading our group up the winding trail on Grizzly Peak's northwest ridge
We arrived at Grizzly's summit, and headed for the horseshoe-shaped wind shelter to take a break and have a bite to eat.
Left to right: Brian E., Jay F., and Brian O. on Grizzly Peak's summit
The sky was turning gray, and it was apparent that we would be receiving snow before too long. However, the views were still impressive. The farthest peak that we could identify was the Mount of the Holy Cross. The closest mountains, of course, were Gray's Peak and Torrey's Peak. I was surprised by our exceptional view of the Mosquito Range; Quandary Peak was easy to find because of its distinctive slope.
Left to right: Torreys Peak, Grays Peak, and Squaretop Mountain (behind Grays Peak)
Quandary Peak's long slope, with Northstar Mountain, Mt. Bross, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Democrat in the distance
We took a long rest on the summit, and took plenty of time to admire the views. We were close enough to see hikers on the saddle between Grays and Torreys Peaks. A trio of hikers with the Colorado Mountain Club arrived on the summit, and we had a nice chat. We were painfully aware that a storm was about to arrive, so we started to work our way back down the mountain.
Heading down the ridge on Grizzly Peak. The peaks along the ridge are, left to right: Pt. 12,936, "Cupid," Pt. 12,915, and Mt. Sniktau. This ridge is a segment of the Continental Divide
Climbing back up Pt. 12,936 was not an appealing proposition. We had plenty of altitude to gain in order to make it back to the trailhead.
Heading up Pt. 12,936's southeast ridge
There were some ominous clouds hanging over A-Basin, but they were just harbingers for what was soon to come. We had every motivation to lose altitude quickly.
Clouds hanging low over the A-Basin Ski Area
While we were on the summit of Pt. 12,936, we saw a pair of Rock Ptarmigans. Then we saw another pair. Then we saw a small group of Ptarmigans. These birds are not very wary, so they just moved a short distance off of the trail to allow us to pass. They had not finished moulting into their winter plumage, so they had a mixture of white, buff, and gray feathers. Ptarmigans are far from being scarce, but I was still pleased to get to see some wildlife up close.
Rock Ptarmigan standing on a patch of snow
Rock Ptarmigan on the tundra
We descended from Pt. 12,936, and headed towards "Cupid." The trail was difficult to follow in some spots, and the scree made the ascent more difficult. I was motivated by the realization that once we summited "Cupid," our journey would be almost all downhill back to the trailhead.
Rocky ridge on "Cupid" viewed from the south
We topped out on "Cupid" under increasingly gray skies. The rocky summit was not the most appealing place. We took our summit shot, and moved on towards the bypass around Pt. 12,915.
Brian O., Brian C., and Jay F. on the summit block of "Cupid"
A few scattered snowflakes began to fall. I was hoping that we would get to hike through the first decent snow of the season, but we made it back to the trailhead without incident. Grizzly Peak and Mt. Sniktau were enveloped in clouds and were getting pounded pretty seriously.
Storm clouds moving in
The full force of the storm hit just as we were pulling away from our parking place. Call it good timing, or call it good luck; in spite of a grim weather forecast, we had a good time and got to visit two 13er summits. The short-but-steep hike gave us a great workout. In fact, Grizzly was all we could bear.