I don't want to anger the Gore Gods and share too much about these esoteric peaks, but figured I should post something as it was a memorable weekend for me. My plan was to do the Grand Traverse Friday and pack into the basin between Solitude and East Partner that afternoon, then do the Solitude group on Saturday, and X and Z via Usable Pass on Sunday. I got up at 3am in Denver on Friday and drove to the Bighorn Creek TH. I sat in a standstill on I70 for a couple of hours in the middle of the night due to a UPS truck that crashed and spilled packages all over the highway. I got to the TH much later than I wanted and started hiking in a misty drizzle. I wondered up the trail and above tree line I generally followed what I thought was the way to North Traverse peak, and found myself climbing steep grass, using good moss chunks as hand holds. This is typical of the range.
Once on the pass I stayed directly on the ridge which made for fun scrambling. There is however easier terrain on the west side of the ridge. The views started to open up.
I got to the summit and my shoes and the rock were soaking wet. The Gore Range is a lush place. I sat up there for a good hour contemplating the traverse; even starting it but ultimately turning around due to the clouds which I thought could open up at any time. The Grand Traverse is the last place I would want to be in a storm. Of course the sun came out in full a few hours later. At least there were occasionally some good views as the clouds permitted.
Grand Traverse with clouds swelling over
After heading down the Bighorn Creek trail, I relaxed for an hour at the car before heading up the Pitkin trail with a couple days worth of gear. The plan was to meet my friend Larre from work on the trail somewhere that afternoon. I eventually found him, and we slogged up until we got to where we thought the basin towards Usable Pass was. We made the easy bushwack up into the basin and found a good camping spot along the creek. We set up camp and started drinking beer. We each had a 12 pack and killed a lot of it that first night. The camp fire was a bit excessive for only two dudes, but when you're blitzed in the middle of no where in the Gore who cares.
We got an alpine start of 10am the next morning and headed up the gentle slope right above camp. We hit "Vista Peak" and Mount Solitude. The views towards the next day's objectives were enticing.
Peak X and Z from Vista Peak
The summit of Solitude was anything but solitude. We encountered no less than 5 people on the ridge. You know more people are coming to the mountains these days when you see this many people on such remote peaks. We met a nice couple on the summit of Solitude called the Climbing Cooney's, who had climbed more than 500 of the 13ers. Quite impressive.
Back at camp we met up with Mike (Chicagotransplant), and we chatted mountains all night before heading to bed. It's always fun to hike with Mike because he knows so much about the surrounding peaks.
The next morning we got up and headed for Usable Pass. After an hour we were on top of the pass. The west side is quite gentle, but the east side is steep.
Usable Pass from the west
Usable Pass from the east
Peak X from Usable Pass
We scrambled down the pass and headed up Peak X. Before you get to the ridge, the terrain is loose and annoying, but not too steep. Once on the ridge, the climb becomes much more enjoyable as solid class 3 is encountered. It only took 2 hours from camp to get to the summit. Mike decided he wanted to hit the XYZ ridge and I decided I wanted to putz up Boulder Creek towards Peak Z. Larre headed back to camp.
Boulder Creek basin is a great lonely place where you won't see anyone. My kind of place.
Boulder Creek Basin
I headed towards Z and strolled up to the shoulder where I ran into Mike again. We headed up easy 2+ terrain until we got to the high saddle between Z and Z'.
Summit of Peak Z
The route to the summit can be kept to easy class 3, but we found a few more interesting ways to spice it up. The views from the summit were impressive.
Peak L and N
The summit log showed that a SarahT was on the summit the prior week, and it was her 500th 13er. Quite an accomplishment to say the least. We headed down Z and enjoyed the views. Heading back up Usable Pass, 5 feet below the top my shoe slipped as the sole completely ripped in half. If I didn't have a good handhold I would have tumbled down the pass. My shoe was destroyed as I hiked out with my toes sticking out of the old Merrels. That is a steep pass to take seriously.
Usable Pass looking down toward Boulder Creek
Back at camp we packed up and headed out. I got disoriented on the bushwack and my dumbass ended up balancing on a log 20 feet above a creek. The log started to shake when I was halfway across and I sat there trying to decide what to do. After I found my way we hiked back to the TH and then I had the pleasure of sitting in traffic for 4.5 hours from Vail to Denver. At least the $12 I spent at Wendy's satisfied my belly. I'm looking forward to getting back to the Gore in the next year.