Peak(s):  Grizzly Pk A  -  13,988 feet
Post Date:  09/02/2010
Date Climbed:   08/28/2010
Posted By:  Papillon

 The Witching Hour   

Date: 2010-08-28
Peak: Grizzly Peak
Tale of the Tape: 15.2 miles and 4090 vertical
Partner in high-altitude crime: wooderson

Another dead of night drive from the city. Subtle reek in the air. Lone wolf truckers with their short-wave cackles and carbon monoxide drawls are broadcasting the witching hour to an undocumented audience.

Red and yellow lights. Peepshow traffic cams. Shadowy roadkill. The soothing turns of Clear Creek Canyon.

Towns and exits and tunnels in my rear-view. Idaho Springs. Georgetown. Sinister Bakerville.

Somewhere outside of Leadville, I see a black Ferrari sitting in a makeshift junkyard window. It is just up the road from an old forgotten school on an unappetizing stretch of US-24 all garnished with dilapidated structures, broken glass yards, trash, muck, cigarette flicks, and a wayward pair of undergarments. This is what they call great living at 10,200.

Days or minutes or hours later, I pull into the La Plata Trailhead. I haven't day-tripped from Denver in three months and I'm feeling the effects despite numerous Diet Cokes. I doze for ten, then Wooderson says it's now or never. We hoist packs and are on our way. FS 391. McNasser Gulch. Grizzly Peak.

We reach a gate at 11,300 and pass a corrugated dive at 11,700. The shack is up on a hill with front door wide open. There appears to be a washing machine nearby and I'm instantly getting that Ed Gein vibe – body parts in the freezer, candlelight shrine for mother, sex mags and swastikas, rodents in cages, large menacing knives. We clear out quickly.

Papillon: I want to take a closer look on the way back.
Wooderson: Good luck with that...

At 12,000, we reach a mine and take five, devouring several orange gumdrops. We debate taking the grassy ramps leading up to the ridge on our right but decide to play the percentages and press on further into the basin. Garfield comes into view and I'm looking for an escape route if we choose to make a bid for the bicentennial. There is a faint scree trail but it looks steep.

After some side-hilling on obnoxious dinner plate talus, we ascend a shattered weakness and reach the ridge at 13,300. Drop-offs on the other side are endless. I hear rockfall and see goats making their way down an anonymous gully. Grizzly Lake comes into view below – crystal blue persuasion.

We ride the ridge up, occasionally dropping down 20-30 feet to skirt some geologic vagaries. Around 13,600, we opt for a feast and a snooze. When all you've got left are the class 2 blues, relaxation is in order. I doze in the talus as best I can, adopting a serpentine posture in order to avoid the sharp rocks. It is by no means 5-star but I feel more content with each breath.

The next thing I know we're on the summit. Views are spectacular – hanging tarns, craggy drop-offs, gullies of ill repute. But there are clouds in the distance and that descent off Garfield looks pretty wicked.

So we orphan the bicentennial (third this season) and make our way down to the grassy security of McNasser Gulch. Nothing left now but the long walk out.

McNasser Gulch

Casa de Ed Gein

The mine at 12,000

Grizzly Lake

Navigating the ridge

A feast of friends...

Ascent route

The final stretch

Surfer Girl is in the mountains...

Looking back


Summit views

Psychedelic skylines

Reddish-orange flows

Tangerine dreams

If you're not drinking this after a day in the hills, you shouldn't be drinking at all.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Big knives     02/05/2011 00:22
You weren't far wrong about large menacing knives. When I got back to the TH parking there was a guy with a large menacing knife out, maybe he was the owner of that mining shack.


WTF?!?!!?     11/30/2010 17:28
What's up with that friggin' register? Never seen that before (and hope to never see it again ). So, that's a pepperoni, dill pickle, provolone sandwich? Nice to see Wooderson ... tangerine dreams indeed ... good on ya for showing us "duh Modus" ... happy trails!


Funny thing...     09/02/2010 22:12
When we descended from near the Grizzly-Ouray saddle a couple months ago, we followed a trail that ended up leading to the back area of that shack. I remember feeling like we were walking into some type of booby-trap approaching the shack through the tree's like we were...
Nice report of a nice summit.



Yeah!     09/02/2010 22:20
I love how this reads like a Dashiell Hammett novel... and the nod to Tommy James and the Shondells too. And Tangerine Dream, and Ed Gein. You're lucky there are old people like me on this site to fully appreciate your trip reports, Kevin! Nice job.


Secessionist Registers...     01/19/2011 03:38
grave robber cabins, Modus, wayward panties at 10k....
Teakettle should be interesting, to say the least

Brian C

Register???     09/03/2010 01:44
Agree with Presto! Love the sandwich, the beer and the photos!


My first Papillon     06/02/2011 14:57
My first Papillon TR and ironically enough... I am very much enjoying my first Modus Hoperandi as well! Nice read and nice photos.


Oh Yeah...     09/03/2010 03:26
The sandwich, the Surfer Girl, the Hoperandi - oh yeah, dude, yo' livin' right!

Say ”Hi” to Sarah for me!



In for a surprise.     09/03/2010 04:19
I have seen that register on 3 additional 13eeners in the San Juans. They are growing and WTF is a good assessment.


It'd be a whole lot cooler if you did...     09/03/2010 05:24
great read. felt like i was in a Frank Miller graphic novel.


I'd rather     09/03/2010 15:29
camp in a basin full of rabid wolverines than spend a night anywhere near the casa de Gein. I'd rather not wake up as a lamp shade. If you really want to see a post-apocalyptic hut, head up the Bighorn Creek drainage towards the Grand Traverse in the Gores. The closer you get, the higher the hair stands on your back.

Solid outing Kevin, some nice colors on the way down, makes the descent more interesting. And I guess a register from a group of Texans is better than no register at all. A good way to stick it to the BS LNT movement.


Interesting...     09/03/2010 16:30
trip report and interesting climb.

Interesting side note as well - The mine tailings pictures are from the ghost town of Ruby (circa 1840-60s) which also had a road over the mountains from Graham Gulch to Lincoln Creek that tied the Arkansas River and Roaring Fork River Valleys together before Independence Pass was built...

WTF is right - so if Texans ski in jeans, what do they climb 13ers in?


Magnificent TR!     09/06/2010 20:09
One of the most creative and well written TR's I've ever read...a true work of art. Thanks for sharing this unforgettable adventure. Keep the faith, and keep on climbing!


Thank you...     09/07/2010 13:30
Thanks for the comments everyone, including the kind words and the history. After lurking for 3+ years, I found it very difficult to get over the hump and finally put up a TR. I hope this is the first of many. Maybe I'll see you out there...

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