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Mount Morrison - Would you like a "Real Trail" to the top?

Information on peaks other than the CO 14ers and 13ers.
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Joined: Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:20 pm

Re: Mount Morrison - Would you like a "Real Trail" to the top?

Postby Aaron Johnson » Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:24 pm

Having climbed Mount Morrison since I was very young countless times, I have spent a TON of time on this hill, well beyond any number of trips I can recall, in all types of conditions and I have seen many changes over the years, including when the summit was accessible, then not, then accessible, and so on. I have camped on the mountain and listened to concerts from its slopes, including a memorable Fleetwood Mac concert. I still do a route or two on the mountain every year, in early or late warm season.

It has been my understanding that the east face of the mountain is actually within Red Rocks Park, and part of the Denver Parks system. On the TOPO map this line is well delineated and it corresponds closely with the actual barbed wire fence line that is encountered when climbing any east face route of the mountain. Even the North Ridge route crosses this fence line. West of the fence line is supposedly Jeffco Land. I'm assuming the Park is concerned with erosion of the trails due to increased use in recent years, particularly on the Funicular route. Perhaps concern over liability is another factor. :?:

The Park recently closed the eastern trails, primarily the Funicular trail from the Amphitheater, the Amphitheater route from the lower lot, the East Ridge access from the water tank road, and access to the East Ridge and East face from the Dinosaur Plaque parking area (which has been "closed" for a long time, though this closure has apparently been ignored over the years). I was led to believe the South Ridge access was also closed. My recent visit to research the situation a couple months back had signs posted at all of these access points declaring there was "no trail beyond the sign" even though anyone could plainly see the sign was lying to them. If the South Ridge trail has received the Park's blessing, it's news to me and if I can get this verified, I'll gladly update the page on SP (I wrote and maintain the Mount Morrison page on SP as mtnhiker13).

All information I had previously posted about east face routes on the mountain was removed from SP. I kept the Southwest and North Ridge routes combined on a single route page. Hopefully this will reduce incidents of people running afoul of the Park's intentions to keep the trails closed and unused. However, I do not agree with the Park's position. Historically, the mountain has always been there and has been climbed by locals since...like...forever. Inevitably, social trails were bound to be formed and this will continue regardless of the Park's closure efforts. The mountain is popular for many obvious reasons and will continue to be popular regardless of what the Park does.

I agree that the mountain is the Park's most under utilized asset and is a big draw, and can serve the Park's best interests if handled correctly. What that "handling" is exactly, I don't know, since I'm not a Park/resource management expert. I just know great interest generated in Red Rocks is often a byproduct of a climb of Mount Morrison, and my deleted material on SP reflected this.

Does Mount Morrison need an official trail? IMO, no. Such a trail would not represent the true character of the mountain. However, ultimately, it may be determined such a feature is needed to "protect" the resource from increased traffic and solve access/liablity problems from Red Rocks. My opinion might be swayed by evidence supporting this opinion, I'm certainly open to hearing what folks would have to say on the matter if it means opening east face access again. Right now, though, the mountain still has a "wildness" character despite being so close to the metro area, and I find it appealing to keep it that way.

Comments on the various routes:

SOUTHWEST RIDGE: This is the wildest "remote" experience you'll get on the mountain, with optional fun and exposed scrambling, too. I hope it stays that way.

SOUTH RIDGE: Despite the eroded part at the beginning, this is a fine route and should be left as is with exeception of the beginning. If Jibler's group needs direction on where to begin to attack this matter, my recommendation would be to install steps and other anti-erosion features in this area.

AMPHITHEATER: This route starts at the base of the mountain just south of the Amphitheater and utilizes rock in the draw for scrambling. Very little erosion has resulted, though the route hasn't been used very much. Social trail dies about half way up the gulch. Closing this route was an over reaction by the Park, IMO.

FUNICULAR: The Park is probably determined to keep this closed. It would be a lot of work to make it right, and I suppose liability is an issue, as the route scrambles up steep Class 2 rock about half way up and this probably makes the Park nervous. Too bad though. It's may favorite quick route on the mountain. The funicular tram ran up this thing repeatedly. More damage was done in the construction of this "attraction" than climbers could ever do. The damage is done. Why not use it and keep folks off the untrampled parts of the mountain? I doubt the Park would agree with this point of view.

EAST RIDGE: This classic line has been used historically for years and years. Utilizing the water tank road minizes impacts on the landscape to access this ridge line.

EAST FACE: This messy trail developed in recent years rather rapidly and may require a lot of work to be kept open. Since the East Ridge does the same thing and with less wear showing even after may more decades in existence, it would make sense to "close" this route and keep the East Ridge in operation. Both are fun routes, but the East Face route would require lots of manpower and dollars to shore up.

ACCESS FROM DINOSAUR PLAQUE PARKING: These were nice and very beautiful trails I used to hike on moonlit summer nights. The Park has wanted them closed for years. I understand protecting the resource, but on the other hand, what good is the resource if no one is able to get in, see it and enjoy it? A resource is nothing if no one is there to appreciate it, even at the expense of enduring some negative impacts. I know trash in the area has historically been a problem, but this will continue even with the closures in place, because people who want to party in and explore the area will ignore the signs. Only a few will be caught and fined unless the Park beefs up its patrols and fee assesment operations.

MORRISON SLIDE PLATEAU: Accessed from the upper hiking/biking trail, one can simply climb up grassy slopes due west and intercept the North Ridge route. This is a fine way to climb the mountain.

NORTH RIDGE: The longest route on the mountain begins in Matthew Winters Park on a nicely built bike trail. Before or on the Morrison Slide plateau, assume the North Ridge (Class 2 and great fun). Social trails get hikers past the communications arrays to the helipad and the summit.

Mount Morrison will continue to be climbed by these routes and many other new possibilities despite Park closures. If the Park keeps the east face access closed, so be it, but I feel this is a mistake. Again, I'm willing to be enlightened on the issue and will gladly update any information at SP on the matter. A "real trail" may ultimately be the answer after much consideration of the issues occupying the "big picture," but right now, Mount Morrison is fine as is. If anything, these closures have made the mountain more of a challenge, and that's not a bad thing either!

Further info: Mount Morrison on SP
Link to the current route page is over on the left.

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Re: Mount Morrison - Would you like a "Real Trail" to the top?

Postby Matt Lemke » Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:29 pm

You the same Aaron Johnson who retired from SP?
Lemke Climbs
The Pacific Coast to the Great Plains = My Playground
"Take risks not to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping"
"When you come to face what you fear, let the creator guide you"

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Re: Mount Morrison - Would you like a "Real Trail" to the top?

Postby Aaron Johnson » Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:32 pm

Matt-

Yes, that would be me. I registered here at 14ers to answer this issue about Mount Morrison, which is in "my back yard" and has a special place in my heart.

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Re: Mount Morrison - Would you like a "Real Trail" to the top?

Postby Matt Lemke » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:18 am

OK, cool. Didn't know you were so close to Golden. I've been up there myself but is was for a School of Mines geology class. We got special permission from the park to head up cross country.
Lemke Climbs
The Pacific Coast to the Great Plains = My Playground
"Take risks not to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping"
"When you come to face what you fear, let the creator guide you"

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Re: Mount Morrison - Would you like a "Real Trail" to the top?

Postby Aaron Johnson » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:26 pm

Yeah-we're about 20 minutes from Golden, 10 minutes from Mount Morrison.

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Re: Mount Morrison - Would you like a "Real Trail" to the top?

Postby jibler » Wed Sep 28, 2011 3:18 pm

Thanks for your input Aaron. This mountain has been getting WAY more popular over the last couple years, and it stands to reason that it will only become more so in the future. I've seen your summit post page many times. I was always impressed with that endurance hike that the Iowa people had put on from Green Mtn to Mount Morrison. Those flatlanders could put many a Denverite to shame seemingly....

I would highly recommend attending our Friends of Red Rocks annual meeting. I'll private message you something in a bit for how to get in contact with me.

As an organization we're just taking baby steps to see what we can do to influence park management and/or contribute member labor to some trail projects, but I think the future can be a bright one if we can, for ourselves, determine how we'd like access to be maintained.

I always had this vision of a new, more established trail that would build off of the furnicular line left off (like 1/3rd of the way up) but seemingly the angle of incline of the whole furnicular trail in general is too steep for upkeep.

Sooner or later Jeffco will have to be brought in, since again their interests are definitely involved.

So I'm just keeping an open mind and my core philosophy is for as much access as possible.

Once we finalize our meeting, I'll try to remember to post it up here for any other people who are interested in attending too.

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Re: Mount Morrison - Would you like a "Real Trail" to the top?

Postby climbing_rob » Wed Sep 28, 2011 4:08 pm

Aaron Johnson wrote:
SOUTH RIDGE: Despite the eroded part at the beginning, this is a fine route and should be left as is with exeception of the beginning. If Jibler's group needs direction on where to begin to attack this matter, my recommendation would be to install steps and other anti-erosion features in this area.
We always climb Mt. Morrison from a trailhead just off of Highway 8 and Red Rocks "Entrance 4".

Aaron: is THIS what you're calling the SOUTH RIDGE route? I think so, but not sure what erosion you're referring to because I see none along this route. It is damn steep for the first couple few hundred feet though and a few steps would not hurt as folks slip on their butts all the time on the way down.

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Re: Mount Morrison - Would you like a "Real Trail" to the top?

Postby climbing_rob » Wed Sep 28, 2011 4:08 pm

woops, empty post

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