The Unmentionable Traverse

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espressoself
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The Unmentionable Traverse

Post by espressoself » Wed Apr 07, 2021 4:21 pm

I've been thumbing through Gerry Roach's RMNP guidebook, and toward the back he mentions a number of traverses. Among them are the classics, Pfiffner, the Grand Slam, and Mummy Mania, but he mentions one at the beginning of this chapter that I hadn't heard of before, the Unmentionable Traverse. I searched this site and then Google and came back empty-handed (so it lives up to its name!). Perhaps it has an alternate name (just the Never Summer Traverse)?

Anyway, it's well outside of my ability level, but I figured I'd share it here in case anyone wants to give it a shot at some point:
Once upon a time, a July trip to the Never Summer Mountains turned into winter camping practice when dawn revealed five inches of snow outside the tent! The Never Summer Mountains lived up to their name that day. Ever since then, the Never Summer Mountains have been referred to in shushed tones as "The Unmentionables." The lengthwise traverse of the Never Summer Mountains has been named in memory of that summer snowstorm.

There are several possible itineraries for a lengthwise traverse of the Never Summer Mountains. This section describes the longest traverse with some shorter plans given as variations. These peaks are lined up on the Continental Divide just waiting for you to mow them all down! Get in shape before attempting this traverse!

Day 1. Three peaks, 10.5 miles, 3,730 vertical feet of elevation gain. Start at the Colorado River Trailhead on Trail Ridge Road. Head north along the Colorado River Trail to La Poudre Pass. Climb west over Mount Neota, Thunder Mountain and Lulu Mountain. Descend west to Thunder Pass and Michigan Lakes. Camping is allowed at Michigan Lakes with a permit from Colorado State Forest. For extra credit you can hike up Point 12,018 feet, alias "The Electrode", before dinner. There are no technical difficulties this day.

Day 2. Five peaks, 6 miles, 3,500 vertical feet of elevation gain. Ascend the East Ridge Route on Static Peak, traverse to Mount Richthofen and get ready to point it down range. Traverse south over Tepee Mountain, Lead Mountain and Mount Cirrus. The Class 4 north ridge of Lead is the most difficult part of the entire traverse. Other portions of the ridge require some Class 3 scrambling.

From the Mount Cirrus-Howard Mountain col, descend to one of the designated campsites in Hitchens Gulch below Lake of the Clouds. This is a significant descent and you may wish to camp on the Continental Divide. Since the divide is the Rocky Mountain National Park boundary, it is legal to camp west of the ridge crest on national forest land, although water can be difficult to find.

Day 3. Five Peaks, 7 miles, 4,600 vertical feet of elevation gain. Climb back up to the Cirrus-Howard col and continue south over Howard Mountain, Mount Cumulus, Mount Nimbus and Mount Status to Baker Mountain at the end of the ridge. This ridge is rough but non-technical. Descend west from Baker Mountain to the Baker Gulch Trail and follow the spur trail west up to Parika Lake. This lake is in Routt National Forest and no camping permit is needed.

Day 4. Seven Peaks, 16 miles, 3,800 vertical feet of elevation gain. Climb north to Point 12,253 feet, alias "Paprika Peak," and follow the Continental Divide south over Parika Peak, Farview Mountain, Point 12,442 feet, alias "Never Summer Peak," to Point 12,280+ feet. Take a side trip out to Bowen Mountain and back if desired. Descend southwest to Bowen Pass, continue south over Ruby and Point 12,198 feet, then climb Cascade Mountain. Descend to Bowen Lake and follow the Bowen Gulch Trail down to the Bowen/Baker Trailhead.

Escape
The traverse can be easily escaped by descending the South Slopes Route of Mount Cirrus to the Colorado River Trailhead.

Variations
1. Day one can be eliminated by starting at the Lake Agnes Trailhead and following the West Ridge Route on Richthofen. This version of the traverse requires a long vehicle shuttle but, when combined with Variation 2, reduces the traverse to the heart of the range.
2. Day four can be eliminated by following the Baker Gulch Trail down to the Bowen/Baker Trailhead.
3. Day four can be shortened by eliminating the ascent of Bowen Mountain and/or by descending the Bowen Gulch Trail from Bowen Pass.
So 20 peaks total, 39.5 miles, and 15,630 feet of gain (note I haven't mapped this out myself, so this may be inaccurate). It's certainly not the most difficult traverse out there, but it still looks like it would be a pretty good push! Let me know if I missed a TR of someone who has taken this on, I'd love to read it!
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Re: The Unmentionable Traverse

Post by 12ersRule » Wed Apr 07, 2021 4:37 pm

I've done every named,ranked, soft-ranked Never Summer except for Tepee. Hopefully will do that this summer. All of them as day-trips. Cougar has done every Never Summer, I believe, at least all of them in the park. Cougar, Dpage, and I had a memorable loop of Never Summer, Lead Mtn, and Cirrus. Another memorable day trip was up Nokhu Crags where a bunch of 14ers.com people went. I think there were 7 or 8 of us, a crazy number given how loose that last gully is. At least that one is short.

Here's a report where Nick Clark, an accomplished ultra-marathoner and not a bad peak bagger either, takes on the whole spine in a day (not the stuff off the north-south ridgeline though). http://irunmountains.blogspot.com/2014/ ... baker.html.
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Re: The Unmentionable Traverse

Post by cougar » Wed Apr 07, 2021 6:08 pm

Nick, Sarah T, and a few others have done the whole ridge in one go, from Nokhu to Baker. The ones to the west like Paprika and Bowen seem to be a different ridge, easier terrain. A loop of the ridges and basin like the glacier gorge traverse might be a route close to Roach's.

I've done all the ones from Nokhu Crags to Baker, and the rest east of those, in the park, and all the state park ones, plus Mahler. Haven't gotten unranked Shipler or south crag on Nokhu. On several outings. Tedious slogs on loose junk and long approaches, props to those who can knock them out in one go. Most are long days on their own. All are scenic and worth getting after. Roach also wrote that the traverse between the north and south Nokhu Crags didn't go, and neither the north ridge of Static, but Nick did that in the dark.

I'd call it the Never Suffer Traverse.

There is also an extended version of Mummy Mania that goes farther north to Comanche Peak and the north boundary of the park. Mostly tundra. I also heard a couple ultrarunners circumnavigated the park boundary a couple years ago, and that included the Never Summer Traverse.
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Re: The Unmentionable Traverse

Post by espressoself » Thu Apr 08, 2021 2:47 pm

Thanks for the link, Cougar. I haven't spent any time in the Never Summers, but I still remember gawking the first time that I drove past the Nokhu Crags, Richthofen, and Mahler on Hwy 14 headed to Steamboat. Beautiful and rugged. The range (particularly Richthofen) has been on my list ever since.
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Re: The Unmentionable Traverse

Post by Cygnus X1 » Thu Apr 08, 2021 4:19 pm

espressoself wrote:
Thu Apr 08, 2021 2:47 pm
Thanks for the link, Cougar. I haven't spent any time in the Never Summers, but I still remember gawking the first time that I drove past the Nokhu Crags, Richthofen, and Mahler on Hwy 14 headed to Steamboat. Beautiful and rugged. The range (particularly Richthofen) has been on my list ever since.
Highly recommend the way to do Richtofen is to go up the fun, exposed, class 3 east ridge of Static and across. The west ridge of Richtofen is among some of the loosest, most miserable, crap you'll find.
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Re: The Unmentionable Traverse

Post by cougar » Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:03 pm

Cygnus X1 wrote:
Thu Apr 08, 2021 4:19 pm
espressoself wrote:
Thu Apr 08, 2021 2:47 pm
Thanks for the link, Cougar. I haven't spent any time in the Never Summers, but I still remember gawking the first time that I drove past the Nokhu Crags, Richthofen, and Mahler on Hwy 14 headed to Steamboat. Beautiful and rugged. The range (particularly Richthofen) has been on my list ever since.
Highly recommend the way to do Richtofen is to go up the fun, exposed, class 3 east ridge of Static and across. The west ridge of Richtofen is among some of the loosest, most miserable, crap you'll find.
+1. That ridge on Static is fun and a good primer for exposure and ridge scrambles. Lead mtn is also similar fun, with a longer approach. Ricthofen from lake Agnes is very loose. The worst areas for scree are below the saddle between Howard and Cirrus above lake of the clouds, and the slope to gain the saddle between lead and jiffy pop/never summer peak. That whole basin sucks, don't want to go back.

Nokhu is much easier than it looks, easy approach too, just short loose gullies near the top.

A herd of bighorn live in the range and will tease you with their agility.
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"If we don't change direction, we'll end up where we're going."
"Bushwhacking is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get."
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