Peak(s):  Flora, Mt  -  13,146 feet
Eva, Mt  -  13,130 feet
Parry Pk A  -  13,391 feet
Bancroft, Mt  -  13,250 feet
James Pk  -  13,294 feet
Date Posted:  08/05/2014
Date Climbed:   08/02/2014
Author:  Steve Nicholls
 Berthoud Pass to Monarch Lake Traverse   

Berthoud Pass to Monarch Lake Traverse
August 2, 2014
Colorado Mines Peak, 12,493; Mt. Flora, 13,132; Mt. Eva, 13,130; Parry Peak, 13,391; Mount Bancroft, 13,250; James Peak 13,294; Jasper Peak, 12,923; Mount Neva, 12,814
Approximately 33 miles, 8,600 v/ft.
There's nothing quite like the feeling of driving back along Highway 40 into Tabernash, looking up at the horizon, and realizing you've climbed everything you can see.
The date was on the calendar from the beginning of summer. First weekend of August, big day. As August approached the ranks thinned. Danielle had to work. Jeff decided he had better things to do on his birthday. Well, can't blame him for that decision. Dima was going to join for a section, but had family commitments come up. In the end it was me and Melanie.
It was not looking good at the start of the week. The weather was iffy at best. As the weekend approached, things started looking up. Minimal winds and no storms? It's a go!
We knew we were in for a long day and wanted to start early. 2:00 am goal. 2:30 reality. Exiting the truck at the top of Berthoud Pass, it was obvious that: 1.) The forecast of minimal winds was b.s.; or 2.) "Minimal" means something a little different on Berthoud. (I'm going with 2).
Brisk. Cold. Not a hint of the moon. Dark. We were on the way. The road up to Colorado Mines was a snap. Soon, we were wandering past the buildings and antennae trying not to think about how creepy it seemed. Now off road on grassy terrain we knew there was a trail somewhere. Fortunately, being directly on the Continental Divide, even in the dead of night, it was clear which way to (not) go.
The trail appeared and it was off to Mt. Flora. As the CDT dove east and down into the valley, we headed off trail to the north keeping close, but not too close to the drop off to the east. Down steep grassy slopes. I had been here before, and knew although steep, there were no cliffs, surprises or other dangers. All the same, the headlight beam disappearing into a dark abyss when looking down was a little spooky.
Thankfully, we were once again heading up. Still dark, but hints of light appearing far to the east. Soon we were nearing the old, decimated weather station. Looking back at Mel was a scene from Tron. Reflective material on everything she had on, and her face was literally turning blue. August, middle of summer. Freezing. The wind at 20+ mph was ruthless and we both wished we had more layers.
On top of Eva it was down, and up again. Parry next. The light was growing and so were the thoughts of warming sunshine. The sun broke on the horizon as we were dropping off Parry toward Bancroft. Highpoint of the climb at the coldest part of the day? Check.
Bancroft came and went quickly. A little scramble to James and we were heading up again. Frozen standing water on the bench below the summit rise served to validate the shivering.
On James the warmth of the sun started to take hold. As we looked north, the day held nothing but promise. The strong trail from James faded as we passed Rogers Pass. There's nothing quite like feeling of crossing high alpine meadows. The "trail" for the most part consisted of linking together poles rising from cairns. It was absolutely beautiful. The views from the divide crest to east were breathtaking, and it was hard to believe there was so much snow left.
Miles passed. Hours passed. No one to be seen. Then, Rollins Pass. Lots of cars, and soon, lots of people along the trail. Making good time, we crossed the Devil's Thumb watching it appear from a Magic Eye game as we climbed from the saddle. The grunt to Jasper was just that. The views of the Indian Peaks from the top made it all worthwhile.
The ridge to Neva is straightforward, but proved a nice change of pace, and placing hands on rock felt great. 8 for 8. Down to Columbine Lake. A bit grungy, but we found an intermittent climbers trail directly on the ridge proper that made for easier passage. Note. Coming down, when you reach the saddle, the trail heads farther west. There are strong game/climbers' trails heading directly down a steep scree slope. I would suggest trying to avoid this stretch. It was a mistake.
Columbine Lake is beautiful. From there we were back on trail. 3 miles to the Junco Lake Trailhead and then 7 more to Monarch Lake. Somewhere along the seemingly endless trail to Monarch Mel asked why we didn't get picked up Junco? A good question. One I really didn't have an answer for, except the more time you get to spend on the west side of the Indian Peaks, the better.
Pictures follow, they're not great, cell phone, but we were going light..

First light, the connecting ridge between Bancroft and James:

From James, looking north to the work ahead:

Looking forward to miles of rolling grassy slopes along the divide:

One of the Iceberg Lakes living up to its name:

Melanie with Winter Park in background:

Looking back across the Iceberg Lakes to James:

The Devil's Thumb:

Mount Neva from Jasper:

The most interesting part of the Jasper/Neva Ridge:

Jasper Peak from Neva:

Heading down to Columbine Lake:

Columbine Lake:

A victory lap at the Roadhouse Bar & Grill:

Comments or Questions

Big day!
08/06/2014 16:45
I was just discussing with someone that same trip, but ending at Rollins Pass after Heartbeat Peak. You went quite a bit further!

Nice views at Columbine Lake, I'd like to get back there again sometime in the summer...I've only ever seen it frozen.

Thanks for posting.


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