| Golden Bear (Pt. 13,010') with fresh Sept snow
Trailhead: Loveland Ski Area (basin) parking lot
Total Mileage Up: about 2.25 miles (went almost straight up, below Chair 4, and on to Continental Divide):
Total Mileage Down: about 3.75 (via the service road)
Total Elevation Gain: 2,200'
Our goal was to climb along the Continental Divide ridge (above the Loveland Ski Area) to Hagar Mountain, and if we felt up for it, to go on to "The Citadel." Unfortunately, an early September snowstorm threw a wrench in those plans (ice and snow on exposed class 3 terrain isn't really our thing). But since the train was already rolling (i.e., dog kennel reservations and hotel reservations made), we decided to go anyway. Our decision was a good one, as we ended up having a great time in the mountains, and the view from Golden Bear (Pt. 13,010' on most maps) was spectacular.
Here was our route up (below the Chair 4 lift) and down (via the service road):
After parking in the Loveland Basin parking lot, we motored up to the service road.
View of the road, with Chairs 1 and 2 behind us and out of view:
This is where we briefly chatted with a guy who was driving down the road. He told us to be careful because it was the first day of hunting season. I wasn't sure what to make of that warning, but I was glad I was wearing an orange long-sleeve.
At the base of Chair 4, we just headed straight up the ski run. It was pretty steep and the snow was about ankle-deep.
The following is a shot I took partway up the slope. I-70 and the east entrance of Eisenhower Tunnel can be seen … plus the Loveland Valley area … and Sniktau.
Looking up toward the Continental Divide:
Beyond the top of the Chair 4 lift, the snow got deeper in some areas. Up to my knees, even (this next photo doesn't show the deepest snow we encountered).
Some shocked flowers:
Even though our plans didn't turn out the way we wanted them to, once we gained the ridge the 360-degree views were incredible.
Torreys and Grays in the distance:
Quandary Peak (middle) and Breckenridge:
Jen pushing up the ridge toward Golden Bear (upper-left):
Very cool wind-sculpted snow (Mt. Bethel, lower middle, and surrounding peaks in the background):
Hagar Mountain on the left; The Citadel's two rocky points to the right, with Pettingell peering from behind:
After slogging through the snow for about two hours, we finally gained Golden Bear's summit. Even though the wind was icy, the sky was bright blue and the views were magnificent. After hanging out on top for a bit (had it all to ourselves), we started back down the snowy ridge.
Ski Patrol sled with Loveland Ski Area in the background:
Got buzzed by a couple military choppers flying west (they flew up the I-70 corridor and over Chair 9, above the Eisenhower Tunnel).
I was going to wave, but I didn't want them to think we needed help.
As we descended, especially further down the service road, the snow got slushier and slushier. Quite a bit of melting going on, and I imagine it will be all gone before the end of fall.
That afternoon we hit Pug Ryan's Brewery for lunch … and the Dillon Dam Brewery for dinner … and then walked to our hotel room next door.
The next day (Sunday, Sept. 14), we hoped to climb Father Dyer via its east ridge, but with all the snow (and melting/icing) we didn't think that would be a good plan. Without anything else to do, we decided to still head up there and check things out.
The 4x4 road up to Crystal Lake was surprisingly rough and narrow, with some steep sections. Then, around timberline, it became so narrow that willows scraped both sides of the truck. Now my truck has cool "graphics" on each side.
We parked next to the old dilapidated cabin. Here's a pic of Father Dyer from there:
We scrapped the ridge and decided to take an old road that went up toward Crystal Peak. This route was very gradual but the switchbacks were insanely long. After hiking about 2 miles and about 1,000 feet (to just above the upper Crystal Lake), we decided to save that mountain for another day. The conditions and route above us just didn't seem very appealing. After all, we were hoping for -- and planning for -- fun on a dry Class 3 ridge, not a cold wind and icy/snowy terrain.
After getting back to the truck we met a large group of people (adults and kids) that had hiked up the road to the old cabin. Nice people. I ended up hauling down a bag of trash that they collected from the cabin. Quite a bit of broken beer bottles ... some people suck, but I digress.
We capped off the weekend right with some lunch and Belgian beers at the Cheeky Monk in Denver. Can't remember spending $60 on lunch in a long while, but it was worth it.
All in all it was a great weekend. And even though we didn't meet our objectives, which was somewhat frustrating, we still had a great time. Most importantly, I got to spend another awesome time in the mountains with my favorite person in the world.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):