| “Now I Know Why Tigers Eat Their Young“
"Now I Know Why Tigers Eat Their Young" – A Ridge Tour of Mount Spalding
Appx 12.5 miles
Total Vertical Gain:
Goliath Peak (12,216') – unranked
Rogers Peak (13,391') – 325th highest
Mount Warren (13,307') – 389th highest
Mount Spalding (13,842') – unranked
Gray Wolf Mountain (13,602') – 190th highest
Echo Lake (10,580')
I was looking to get a couple of new 13ers this past weekend and spent a bunch of time looking at maps to try and find a way to get some "bang for my buck". I decided that with the Mount Evans road not yet open for the season, the long ridge traverse around Chicago Lakes would probably be about as peaceful as it could be until the fall.
Echo Lake and Goliath
I parked alongside of Echo Lake and hit the Chicago Lakes trail at about 7 am. The main trail was well worn, but as the trail begins to descend to the creek, I left the trail to head towards Goliath Peak. In the trees here gaitors were a good idea, but most of the early morning snow was supportive enough that I didn't bother with the snowshoes. Just as the snow was getting to be a nuisance, I broke out of the trees and was presented with the dry slopes I had spied from the trailhead. These dry slopes led all the way to the summit of Goliath. (Trailhead to Goliath: 1.7 miles, 1650')
Looking back at Echo Lake from the dry ridge of Goliath
I traversed the dry ridge to the 12,152' saddle where the road passed to the east side of the ridge, crossed the road, and began my ascent of Rogers Peak. The route was mostly dry, and any snow was firm and shallow – still gaitors only so far for the day, and on this part of the route even those were overkill. The route is pretty straight forward, but due to the rolling nature of the ridge, the summit is not visible until you are almost to it. (Goliath to Rogers: 2 miles, 1240')
Ascent slopes on Rogers
From the summit Mount Warren looks close and gentle, and it is. The ridge was in much the same condition as the one of Rogers, and the going was quick. After passing through the 12,940' saddle, a mere 375' of vertical remains to gain the summit. There were several high rocks and the highest one was not obvious, so I walked over them all before taking a break on a perch overlooking Summit Lake. (Rogers to Warren: 1.1 miles, 375')
Ridge to Warren
I could see a few bikers on the road, who despite the chill, must have been enjoying the dry paved road with no cars. The road is plowed to Summit Lake and beyond, and I imagine the road will be open for the holiday weekend. It seems the only thing holding it back was the lack of plowing at the Summit Lake parking area, a condition I am sure they have been remedying this week.
Summit Lake and Evans from Warren
The descent to Summit Lake was much of the same, but care must be taken to angle a bit towards the road side of the ridge to avoid a large cliff that guards over the saddle. This will deposit you on a section of the "tourist trail" that wraps around the lake where you can follow that to the 12,876' saddle overlooking Chicago Lakes. From here the ascent of Spalding basically involved going straight up the ridge or following the few dry pieces of trail. As you pass over Spalding's East Face Couloirs (which were nicely filled in!) There is some Class 2+ scrambling required along the ridge crest. Once above these couloirs the ridge becomes more gentle and leads right to the large talus blocks of Mount Spalding's summit and the highest point of my day. (Warren to Spalding: 1.4 mile, 975')
Ridge on Spalding
One of Spalding's Couloirs
Caddyshack quotes filled my head as I snacked on the summit. Those familiar with the movie know that Spalding is the name of Judge Smails' obnoxious, spoiled grandson. A "fine boy" that when Rodney Dangerfield's character first meets him inspires him to say under his breath "now I know why tigers eat their young" – hence the title of this trip report.
North Face of Evans from Spalding Ridge
From this point the easiest way down is to go back to the saddle and descend the Chicago Lakes trail, but with Gray Wolf Mountain (a bi-centennial) so close, it was the obvious choice for me. The descent to the 13,020' saddle went quickly on relatively firm, shallow snow - gaitors were needed to keep snow out of the boots. The saddle was relatively dry, but wide and flat and kind of tedious to cross. The slopes started to steepen and soon enough the summit of Gray Wolf was reached. (Spalding to Gray Wolf: 1.3 miles, 585')
Gray Wolf from Spalding
Grays and Torreys from Gray Wolf
For the descent, initially you follow the ridge north from the summit, taking care to stay towards the right at any forks in the ridge in order to reach a large ramp that leads back to the Chicago Lakes Trail just below the Idaho Springs Reservoir. The ramp was relatively snow free, but it was wet and muddy from run-off and littered with waist high willows. The run-off creek became steeper in the forest as the bottom where the bushwhacking became extra annoying as tangled branches kept getting in my way. There were some soft snow patches, but snowshoes would just have been obnoxious with all of the deadfall and tangled branches, so they stayed on the pack.
The trail along the road was dry, and after about a mile a well signed turnoff leads to a sturdy bridge and a well beaten trail back to Echo Lake. Even in the heat of the afternoon no snowshoes were needed as this trail has seen plenty of use to pack it out. There were several hikers on this section, and the lake was crowded with anglers and picnickers – much different than it was at 7am! (Gray Wolf to Trailhead: 5 miles with appx 340‘ reclimb)
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):