Peak(s):  Gray Wolf Mtn  -  13,602 feet
Warren, Mt  -  13,307 feet
Rogers Pk  -  13,391 feet
Date Posted:  11/23/2014
Date Climbed:   10/25/2014
Author:  Marmot72
 Mt Evans area bike & hike   

Purists, read no further but kindly move to other reports, as this one involves the heresy of mechanized travel.

Wanting a quick peak fix and workout, I looked for 13ers in the Mt Evans wilderness area, and decided on this itinerary: park at Echo Lake, bike the Mt Evans road to Summit Lake, then hike to Gray Wolf, retrace my steps and go up to Warren. The question was how to involve Rogers: it doesn't make much sense to continue on the ridge from Warren and then have to reverse 2 miles back west to get the bike. I considered stopping on the road and nabbing it first, but Gray Wolf was the main prize and I like to get that part done first. So I left Rogers for the return ride down.

With a warm, benevolent forecast and a last-minute issue at home ("we have to clean the laundry room before they deliver the new washer & dryer"), I didn't set out until mid to late morning. It was 11:30 am as I began biking the 9 miles up the road to Summit Lake. Not knowing whether some snow might linger on the road, I took the mountain bike instead of the road bike. One rider passed me on the way up and two came down; I also passed a trio of hikers. The other road traffic was vehicular - a surprise since the road is closed now - but CDOT is doing road work around mile 7 on the road. After the pickup trucks and front loaders clustered just west of mile marker 7, I had the road to myself. I reached Summit Lake at 12:50, or 1 hour and 20 minutes after leaving, so an average time of 6.75 mph. What a difference 5 minutes can make - I had hoped to make it at a clip of 7.5 mph, which would be 1 hr 15 min.

After taking a few minutes to read the signs and admire the lake, I located the excellent Mt Evans trail that winds its way along Spalding's east ridge. It begins at the eastern edge of the north shore of the lake, and climbs quickly.


Snow obscured the trail in some places, inviting some optional sporadic low-key class 3 scrambling along the ridge. After I gained a couple hundred feet of elevation, I ceased to worry about the trail and simply moved upwards, keeping the sheer fall to the lake close on my left. It's a class 2+ ridge climb. While fun and aesthetic, the consequence was that I gained more ground than I needed to, finding myself on Spalding's north shoulder, with around 70 or so vertical feet to lose to cross the flat tundra and then ascend Gray Wolf. (Having stood on unranked Spalding once before, I had no need to do so again.) The views and experience were worth the slight extra work, as was this view to the west, with a crow also pausing to take it in from the earthbound perspective.


The climb up Gray Wolf was a simple slog up moderate slopes of grass and mostly well-wedged talus. The preceding week of warm weather had melted most of the snow on this south-facing slope. This picture shows the climb after I had crossed the flat tundra section between Spalding and Gray Wolf. The summit was maybe 200 feet or so from the false summit in the picture, along a slight incline.


The downclimb to the tundra and brief grunt up Gray Wolf took me a total of exactly 50 minutes; which felt long because it was three minutes longer than my climb from the lake and it didn't seem like it involved as much elevation gain. I lingered only 3-4 minutes on the top to take in the views, as it was 2:45 and I thus had scarcely three hours of daylight left.

View west from Gray Wolf summit:


As I made the return to Summit Lake, the ridge to Spalding and Evans' higher ridgeline behind made for an enjoyable view. I didn't take as direct of a line as I could have, descending to the east from the Wolf's summit and following the ridgeline that hems in a small basin that branches northward from the Chicago Lakes basin. Still, with barely any snow and easy slopes, this amounted to a detour of only a few minutes. As I began climbing back up Spalding's north slopes, I heard voices. This is what my view ahead looked like.


Soon I came across the source of the voices -- they were two climbers, finished with some pretty gnarly ice climbing and heading across the tundra between Spalding and Gray Wolf, on their way back to the Guanella Pass trailhead. They'd been ice climbing some flows on this sheer inset corner of Spalding's northeast spur ridge. This view below is a zoom from the prior picture and shows where they'd been climbing - look at the ice just right of center. I respected their skill!


Knowing daylight was short, I contoured southward along Spalding's east slopes, so as to avoid any unnecessary gain. En route, I paused for this view of the Chicago Lakes due east. This slope was the most treacherous part of all - not difficult, but more wind-loaded snow here and just enough of a slope to make it necessary to watch my footing. Once back on the ridge, it was auto-pilot down to the shore of Summit Lake.


Right where the Evans trail begins its climb westward along the north shore, the way to the east is blocked by a short, narrow headwall. Walking further south opens up easy slopes; this is the way I returned. Going up, I chose a brief, fast scramble to the right of the more difficult rock and then proceeded up easy grassy slopes. I took no photos of this section, as I needed to simply make time. Once atop Warren, I glanced southward to Rogers to verify I didn't feel like going that far and then walking all the way back to the bike, and so struck a bee-line southwest, which led me on a diagonal course right back to the ranger hut near the lake. I grabbed the bike, walked it to the road, and road back past mile marker 8, where I slowed to find a good spot to stop for Rogers.

I also found some new traffic. These youngsters were drinking the water from the snowmelt that had trickled down onto the road.


The crowd allowed me to pass, and I pedaled casually, watching the terrain on my left to find a good spot from which to tackle Rogers. I guesstimate it was a little east of midpoint between mile markers 7 and 8 that I found this next view up and back to Rogers. In the topo map on this site with highway five, I met the bighorns in the area of the "5" below Rogers and I parked my bike for the climb in the straightaway east of there before the road dips southeast before making a hard turn north around the mountain. The "top" in the photo below is not the true summit, but the summit was not far beyond.


I was surprised that it took me more than a half-hour to the summit. I mean, the Mt Evans road is high; it's only a few hundred feet of gain. But it was just about 45 minutes for my roundtrip from the road, snapping the prior shot at 5:03 and getting back to the bike around 5:50. Of course I did not return exactly the same way I ascended. Whereas my ascent had been from the southeast to gain the summit from nearly due east, I returned more southerly, dropping off the southwest and countouring across the south slopes, which were gentle and grassy. A quick little loop.

The sun was low, nearly below the horizon and blocked by the mountainscape behind me as I set off on the bike. Due to the chill air and steep grade, I pedaled only a little, mainly just hunkering down, shivering, and hitting the brakes through the turns. But I stopped a short way down for some shots of the scenery kissed by the sunset.

My photos don't nearly come close, but here are the pale attempts. First, the view back up the road to the west:


Next, the view northeast to Echo Lake and the distant mountains beyond.


In one more long chilly moment I was back to the car. The sections broke like this for me: 1 hour 50 of hard biking, 4 hours and 40 minutes of hiking, 12 minutes or so of coasting on a mountain bike.

A delightful day in Colorado.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Comments or Questions

Very nice
11/25/2014 21:03
Thats always a nice bike ride.


Atta boy
11/25/2014 22:44
Way to take the path of LEAST resistance Have a happy turkey day, buddy!


11/25/2014 23:21
Happy Thanksgiving Steve!


heresy, shmeresy
11/26/2014 00:02
Good for you. Nice TR on a cool trip.


11/26/2014 03:14
Thanks and happy Thanksgiving to all. I was a cyclist way back before I ever thought I’d finish 14ers – let alone worry about 13ers – so I find it fun when I can combine the two.


nice Steve
11/26/2014 05:09
Cool time to do the loop, no Mouth Breathers around. That is in fact the path of least resistance. Did you bring the bike out for round 2 cause you shorted on West Spanish?


I Like It
12/03/2014 14:37
I had similar aspirations to hit Rosalie and Epaulie this way over the summer but was never able to put it together. Riding up there after the road closes is an even better idea!


I don’t know how I missed this one.
12/03/2014 23:14
I have fond memories of these three.

Nice report!


Bike it or hike it?
12/04/2014 15:29
I tried the bike thing once but it wasn’t on a road (mountain bike), it was on the now disliked Rainbow Trail in the Sangres. Needless to say that my timing on that wasn’t very good because there had been a huge blow down of trees, that there was a tree laying across the trail every hundred feet at the least.

Nice ride you had and report.

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