| Divided Sky, The Wind Blows High
Approximately 3400ft vertical gain
(I don't own a GPS and am too lazy to figure it out with a map).
Having moved north to the Front Range, I've had to reconsider my name on this site. That's not going to change, but I do feel like a kid in a candy store around here, making not living by the San Juans any more a bit less difficult. Most Front Range folk start out this hobby with peaks like Grays/Torreys, Sniktau/Grizzly, Twin Sisters, etc., and go from there. Being from the south, I've done things in the opposite fashion. Until this spring, Longs Peak was my only summit north of I-70 in Colorado. I'm finding the I-70 corridor to be a playground of new peaks that are easily accessible much earlier in the season than in my previous life. My first trips above 13,000ft in most years don't start until Memorial Day. 2010? Early April. Good stuff.
However, after trampling mostly below treeline since moving here, I've been enjoying recent outings on the tundra, and was ready for another. Last week, Moonnugs (Kevin) and I made plans to hike something this Tuesday. Our choices boiled down to Square Top-->Argentine/Wilcox, etc., or a stroll along the Divide from Berthoud Pass to grab ranked 13ers Flora, Eva, and (maybe) Parry. We chose the latter.
Thanks to Avs88fan's TR, which I found just before leaving for this hike, we decided to leave snow gear in the car, a decision I only regretted for about five minutes when facing a slope I'd have enjoyed glissading. His TR also inspired us to do this section of the Divide from up high (Berthoud) instead of the lower access points. I much prefer dry conditions to snow, enjoying myself instead of struggling when the payout's essentially the same.
We started out from the parking area at Berthoud, and I convinced Kevin to hit the summit of Colorado Mines sooner rather than later. Since it's only a 12er, most accounts of this hike give Mines the shaft; if mentioned or hiked at all, it's not deemed important. Every time I drove to Winter Park last season, I thought about hiking Flora/Eva and figured this peak ought to be included, too. From US 40, it doesn't look like much, but often, the journey provides as many smiles as the destination. We ignored the road that goes to the summit, since it meanders well out of the most direct path, and followed some old power lines, crossing two small snowfields, the Continental Divide Trail (the CDT, which we later joined), and hitting the summit in 40 minutes or so. While it wasn't windy yet, clouds were billowing up from below, making for some interesting photos. Here are some pics from the ascent and the summit:
It didn't take long to start feeling irradiated, so we motored after a couple minutes, knowing we had at least two more peaks to go. From the summit, we could look down and see the CDT below us, headed toward Flora. Our path along the edge featured cornices and snow sculpture galore.
Evans, et al in the background
Looking back toward Mines
After intersecting the CDT, we ascended toward Flora
On the crest of the Divide, the usual amazing spectrum of views opened up. One thing I enjoy about hiking along the Divide is that looking one direction, then the other, often shows a literally divided sky.
Clear skies looking at Grays and Torreys
Cloud inversion over Winter Park
Blurry Moonnugs above the clouds
We reached the summit of Flora, stopped for a snack, snapped some photos, and got a move on. The wind had been dormant to this point, but decided to pick up, I guess to make things interesting and remind us that some clouds were starting to build in the distance. From the summit, we headed this way…
Eva's summit lies ahead, with Parry and Bancroft behind
Kevin took advantage of the soft snow for a little boot-ski action before we headed up the slope that followed, which is the first of two that must be ascended to reach the summit of Eva.
Here's the second one, which is much less steep.
Just below the summit, we checked out the exterior of an old building, a giant propeller, and a fallen tower of some sort. From the summit, views are pretty nice.
Old building and tower
I love you, Mary Jane
Parry and Bancroft
Some high cold mountain chain
Despite the wind and (potentially) troubling clouds in the distance, we took some time for a little monkey business before heading back toward Berthoud and some Avery IPAs.
The return trip toward Flora was perhaps the toughest part of the day
Since we intended to sidehill and avoid the top of this ridge, we headed right of the snow, and (as noted in other reports) this slope is pretty darn steep, especially in the latter half of an early season hike. The wind had picked up considerably but couldn't make up its mind—it was both friend and foe as it alternately pushed us up and back down the hill. It was blowing strange... However, it never ceases to amaze me that the number of photo ops of little things (like wildflowers, vividly colored rocks, etc.) increases in proportion to how hard I'm breathing or how much my legs burn. There were no roses to stop and smell, but plant life is making its return to the tundra.
Looking back toward Eva & Parry
The more rugged face of Colorado Mines Peak
Sitting back at 11,300ft, I looked out at the mountains and valley before me, took a sip of my IPA, and realized that days like this are exactly why living in Colorado is the bomb.
For people who don't live here and/or who are looking for an ideal acclimation hike, this one should be near the top of the list.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):