Peak(s):  The Needles - 10,068 feet
Gem Peak - 9,140 feet
Date Posted:  02/07/2013
Modified:  03/02/2014
Date Climbed:   02/02/2013
Author:  kimo
Additional Members:   Floyd
 Taking Our Lumps As They Come: The Lumpy Ridge Traverse.  

"Taking your lumps" is an expression originally rooted in rough physical play that leaves people battered and bruised.
If someone accepts injury without complaint, then that person has taken their lumps.

In life everyone takes their lumps.

Anna and I planned to hike Culebra Peak on Saturday with the group. As the day moved closer we chose to cancel
due to a slow-healing foot laceration that I suffered while swimming on New Years day. Due to the injury, snowshoes are not
in my cards for some time yet, but you won't hear me complain. We have plenty of lower options that don't require snowshoes
in winter, or a long drive to reach.

With that in mind, we hook up with Scot to hit some lower peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park. Scot loves great adventures
in wild places, and has solid experience with cross-country off-trail travel. We bounce between two excellent options while
planning the adventure, eventually agreeing to meet in Estes Park on Saturday morning to choose our destination based on
what we see. Once we arrive, the dry golden rock of Lumpy Ridge is an easy winner.

Lumpy Ridge is a series of granite domes, slabs, and spires within Rocky Mountain National Park north of Estes Park. The Lumpies
are known primarily for technical climbing on routes made famous by luminaries like Layton Kor, Bob Culp, and Jeff Lowe. The area
is lesser known for two modest (yet still mighty) ranked peaks that form the bookends of the ridge. At the eastern end is Gem Peak
and at the western end is The Needles. In between are miles of rugged trail-less terrain that can deal some serious punishment.
The route in between is called the Lumpy Ridge Traverse.

We head into the hills armed with a map, some insight, and a great sense of adventure. We are ready to take our lumps as
they come.

Gem Peak
Summit elevation and rank: 9,140 feet, 89th highest in RMNP

Lumpy Ridge
Summit elevation and rank: 9,606 feet, unranked with 146 feet of prominence

The Needles
Summit elevation and rank: 10,068 feet, 85th highest in RMNP

The Lumpy Ridge Traverse.

Trailhead and elevation: Lumpy Ridge, 7,850 feet
Round trip distance: Approximately 12.2 miles
Vertical gain: Somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 feet
Difficulty: Route-finding required. 7 miles of class 2/3 bushwacking with a few class 4 moves. 5 miles of class 1 trail.
Climb date: February 2, 2013

Our GPS track...

...and elevation profile:

Captions on top of photos.

We park at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and start hiking towards Gem Lake.

We gain elevation and the views open up. Longs Peak takes center stage.

After 1.6 miles and 1000 vertical of easy hiking, we arrive at Gem Lake.

We continue past the lake for a few hundred yards and then leave the trail at a spot that just feels right. Gem Peak
comes into view.

We follow the natural flow of the landscape toward an obvious saddle. Here, Scot scrambles past some big boulders.

Anna walks a narrow ledge past granite slabs.

And then she takes a tree belay on the exit.

We reach the saddle between Gem Peak and the Middle Gemstone. We turn left and walk toward
the unranked but tough Middle Gemstone.

The summit is well guarded. Scot makes some awkward moves to get on top.

As Scot climbs to the top of the Middle Gemstone, Anna and I turn and take a good long look at Gem Peak. The most
obvious line is to drop to the saddle, scramble up some slabs, and then gain the south ridge to the summit (from left
side of photo).

We descend toward the saddle on lumpy terrain. This rock is something special.

Scot starts up boiler plate ledges after crossing the saddle.

Anna scoots past one of a dozen random cairns we will find today.

Scot heads toward the ridge.

Longs Peak continues to dominate the view.

We gain the ridge and smile. Today, we get to be big kids.

Let the good times roll.

The fun scramble ends much too soon. Here, Scot approaches the summit boulder.

On the summit of Gem Peak.

The spectacular view to the south and the Continental Divide.

We turn toward the west. The Needles is the dark and distant "sharktooth" peak to the left of center.

We take a hard look at our destination and the difficult terrain ahead of us. The granite dome on photo left is called
Lumpy Ridge. At center, in the back, is MacGregor Mountain. The prominent craggy knob to its right is The Needles.
The snow-capped Mummy Range is further back. We stare at the trees and granite. The traverse will not be easy.

We descend from Gem Peak.

The fun continues.

Down climbing these ledges is easier than it might seem.

This was the trickiest move of the day.

Rock becomes trees. Our next destination is the high point on the left of the photo: the top of Lumpy Ridge.

We 'shwack through rugged terrain on our way to Lumpy Ridge.

It gets thick and the travel is slow. We turn back and see Gem Peak in the distance (craggy peak at far right).

From where we came: Gem Peak.

Scot takes in the view.

Anna with Estes Park below.

We continue up steep rock.

We reach the top of Lumpy Ridge. The view to the west is breathtaking. The Needles is still a long ways away.

The sun starts its downward arc. We move a little faster.

We opt to go up and over lumps rather than around them.

The view behind us.

The rock is a joy to scramble over.

I guess snow is inevitable. This is winter after all.

And after countless stumbles, bruises, smiles, and muses, we reach The Needles summit block. The wind is RIPPING

The summit is guarded by short vertical walls. Anna finds a weakness in the east face and goes for it.

We reach the short summit ridge. The wind rushes over the summit with the force of an ocean. We crouch low to avoid
being swept off our feet.

At last: the summit.

Three Philosophers in one.

To the west is the Mummy Range and a vanishing sun.

We descend the northwest ridge toward the Black Canyon Trail.

Ypsilon and Fairchild soak in the warm afternoon light.

We scamper around deadfall and boulders for 1200 vertical feet.

We reach the trail, a bittersweet return to civilization.

On our way out we pass below Sundance Butress at the base of The Needles.

Night overtakes us.

We stop in the dark and listen to the calm whooo whooo of a nearby owl. In ancient cultures, the owl guarded the underworld,
was ruler of night, and a seer of souls. Some cultures believed the owl was a bad omen. I believe otherwise. The owl should
be honored for its abilities. In Hawaiian culture, the owl (pueo) is considered sacred as a guardian and protector.

Tonight, I feel very fortunate to hear this owl hoot.

We head to the Wapiti Pub in downtown Estes Park for our due reward. The day offered up a great route, good food, and
first-rate company. It's one for the books.

I feel very fortunate indeed.

 Comments or Questions

Awesome Pics!
02/07/2013 16:40
Those views are amazing!!! Thanks for sharing!

Brian Thomas

better than Culebra
02/07/2013 17:01
Looks like you had at least $200 of FUN up there. Very nice!


02/07/2013 17:03
nice job gang! RMNP > Culebra


Gem Peak to Needles
07/29/2013 18:29
Definitely seems like a route finding challenge. The first time I tried for Gem Peak, I approached from the west, and there just wasn't a non-technical way up. I can imagine the terrain from Gem all the way to Needles being an amazing maze. BTW, did you go on a polar plunge on New Years Day and lacerated on a piece of ice? What's the story with that one?


Getting to be big kids!
02/07/2013 17:19
Great day in the park with outstanding company. Thanks for putting the TR together Kimo. That was one heck of a traverse but thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

9ers - Coral in Hawaii, don't feel too bad for the guy. We descended to the S-SW and that got fairly hairy in places. I can see why you didn't make it up from that side.


Welcome back, dude...
02/07/2013 18:12
I hope your foot heals. Just don't push it too much or you'll jeopardize your summer.

The lack of a post-climb feast pic leads me to believe Floyd had a chicken caesar salad or something. Criminal!


02/07/2013 20:06
Three fun summits, I enjoyed all of them over the last 2 seasons. I'd imagine going E-W on the ridge is much more of a pain than W-E as I was doing. Going from The Needles to Lumpy Ridge HP was actually a pretty pleasant bushwhack IMO.

Good job guys


Awesome pics
02/07/2013 22:21
I started drooling over the low scramble before realizing I had done Gem about a dozen years ago. I couldn't for the life of me remember where or what it was. Thanks for bringing back the memories. Now to go back for Lumpy. Good luck on the foot.


Very nice!
02/07/2013 22:57
I've never climbed any of Lumpy Ridge but I always love to see it when we're in Estes Park. It is some super gorgeous stuff! When I saw the first few shots I thought maybe you mixed up the photos -- it almost looked like summer shots! Wow! It's really dry there!
Nice job you guys! Enjoyed tagging along with you this way. Thanks for the post, Kimo!


Excellent Trip Report
02/08/2013 04:09
Whenever I see Kimo in the Posted by: I know I'm in for super unbelievable photography and a great read. As usual OUTSTANDING. Gem Peak's rock formation is wicked cool. Thanks for sharing another top notch report.

Kevin Baker

Very creative!
02/08/2013 20:54
Those are some sweet peaks along Lumpy Ridge for sure. That beats Culebra in winter any day! Thanks for the photo montage, Kimo. Hope you foot heals up soon.


Some day
02/09/2013 04:07
Now I know there are mountains to climb at Lumpy, maybe I'll take my wife and climb while she rock climbs.


Second what Monster said
02/09/2013 16:07
If only I weren't so awesome and didn't do repeats I would hit Gem again via that awesome scramble.

I'll be up on Bear Peak today, maybe I'll see you up there!


02/09/2013 16:28
nice report and great pics - I've been eyeing some sort of similar traverse in that area for a while. Looks a lot more rugged than expected in those pictures


Appreciate the comments...
02/12/2013 06:10
HULKHIKEGOOD, hard to take a bad pic in Rocky. Thanks.

Brian Thomas, sometimes I feel mountaineers are the ultimate sadomasochists. Especially when we pay for such treatment.

dillonsarnelli, Culebra is cool but I have a special place in my heart for the Park since it's the first place I went when I first visited Colorado twelve years ago. Will never tire of the place.

49ersRule, route-finding is fulfilling, and good challenges can be good fun. Sliced that foot open while swimming in Maui. It was either rock, coral, or a twenty-foot shark and I just got lucky.

Floyd, wouldn't trade it for anything. Great day out with you and Anna.

anna, anytime.

Papi, it's healing and hopefully sooner than later. Can't jeopardize the summer - have some big plans. Let's get out soon. Once the food hit our table the camera was the last thing on our mind. Just know it was worthy, and didn't involved anything that resembled a salad.

ChrisRoberts, agreed, compared to some other bushwacks I've made, this was enjoyable with good views and the deadfall was never too bad. I think that bushwack up and down Copeland in Wild Basin is a few steps above in heniousness but the payoff there is pretty good.

Monster5, it's always good to go back to places later, in a different season and mind. Run the ridge, you might enjoy it. Thanks for the comment.

MtnHub, it's been crazy dry here but hopefully we are turning a corner and will get some good snow as we enter spring. The mountains need it. Thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed it.

jasayrevt, thanks man. I enjoy writing reports. It's sort of become my art. Wish I had the time to write a report for every trip because they are all good. That lumpy rock is great.

BostonBD, that is appreciated. Thanks. I told Anna before posting that this was one of my most conventional reports. Glad you enjoyed it.

Kevin Baker, thanks man...Lumpy gave us a good time with great views...little peaks that hold their own against the big boys. I'll take those good times any time, any place.

cheeseburglar, you gotta keep the wife happy. And you too. Just do it.


02/12/2013 06:12
FireOnTheMountain, Bear offers up the goods on snowy days. Close to home, great terrain, awesome views...we're lucky to have it. Hopefully we'll get Shadow Canyon and South Boulder Peak back soon. We drove to the Chataqua TH on Sunday morning expecting to go up Green, stepped out into the cold, said to hell with this, and then went to the Sun for a late morning coconut cream stout so all was not lost.

cougar, the terrain was rugged but fun and easily passable with some good sense. There are plenty of great combinations and possibilities in the Estes Park area, both in and out of the park. I'm sure we'll be back for more fun soon.


02/13/2013 00:13
Good to see you out and about again. Do you guys even consider hiking anything that doesn't involve major bushwhacking anymore?

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