Peak(s):  Grizzly Pk A  -  13,988 feet
Garfield Pk A  -  13,780 feet
Date Posted:  09/13/2016
Date Climbed:   09/03/2016
Author:  rob runkle
 Grizzly and Garfield Peaks from McNasser Gulch TH   

After meeting up with Jeff last night, the plan was to climb Grizzly Peak and Garfield Peak. Grizzly is the highest 13er in Colorado at 13,988 feet. We had arrived at the trail head the previous night just before midnight. I finally got to sleep just after midnight, tucked into the back of my Jeep Cherokee rental. We agreed to hit the trail at 5:30 am, and set our alarms for 5 am. Right at 5 am, my alarm went off, and at the same time, I saw the lights come on inside Jeff's SUV. After gather everything together, grabbing a quick snack, we got started up the trail right around 5:30.

The initial hike is an easy mining road. Jeff and I were going about the same pace, but I could tell that Jeff would definitely be leading the hike today. At just over 2 miles, and about an hour into our hike, the road ended. We had a couple of options for beginning our "off-road" portion of the hike. We ended up taking a hard right, and climbed up and over the old "fridge box" looking thing.
The Mine Fridge at the lower trail (where trail leaves the road)

Once we left the road, the trail was much less clear. Even though there wasn't a clear trail, we knew the direction that we had to go, and there wasn't any difficult bush whacking. There were some willows along the route, but they were thin, and we never had to whack through the willows. There was always a clear path that went around the willows. As we made our way toward the base of the ridge, things definitely got much steeper. At this point, it became very clear that I would be Jeff's anchor for this trip. Jeff was killing it up the hills, and never had to stop. I was keeping a pretty solid pace, but I needed to stop every 5 minutes or so to catch a breath, but more importantly to let the lactic flush out of my legs. My calves were definitely not use to this uphill hiking, and were being subjected to plenty of lactic burn. But, with my regulated stops, I was able to successfully ward off any serious drain in energy. I actually felt pretty good considering this was day 2, and day 1 consisted of 13+ miles and 6,000 feet.

We arrived at the bottom of the ridge, then continued to climb the slopes, with the intent of gaining the ridge at some point. The climb was sometimes very loose, and tough on my calves. Despite my short rest stops, I was making great progress, even on the uphills. Every once in a while, I would make some great progress. But, as I settled into a short break, I would look up and Jeff had made MORE progress. Jeff would be my "rabbit" for the day. I was determined to not be too much of a drag on my "mountain goat" buddy. That motivation kept my breaks short, and my progress steady. Some sections of the up climb were solid, but most of it was loose and nasty. Jeff and I fully gained the ridge in about 50 minutes from the time that we left the road. Gaining the ridge was a bit of relief, because that meant we would have much less of the "loose and nasty."

Jeff heading up the Grizzly Ridge

The Grizzly Ridge

Jeff near Grizzly Summit

Down in the Valley

Up the Grizzly Ridge

Once we gained the ridge, we had a little less than a mile left to the summit of Grizzly. At this point, we were watching the skies closely. It looked pretty good, but it was a bit cloudy, and had potential to build into something. So, we didn't want to mess around much. Jeff and I had also considered going after another 13er, just past Garfield, called Red Mountain B. I knew that the route to Red Mtn would be class 3, and loose, so I was starting to consider that I might just let Jeff do that one alone, if he still wanted to. The other consideration for doing Red Mtn B was that it would place us in the wrong valley for the descent. So, if was wanted to get back into McNasser Gulch, we would have to retrace our route, and come back towards Garfield. As we climbed the ridge towards Grizzly, Jeff let me know that he didn't think Red Mtn B was a good idea today. Whew! As we got about half way up the ridge, the ridge turned south (left) towards Grizzly. At this point, Jeff - who was still keeping ahead of me by 50-75 feet - told me that the skies on the other side of Grizzly did not look good and that we would need to make quick progress the rest of the way up Grizzly, and across Garfield. I kicked it into another gear, and with solid ground, it wasn't too bad. The rest of the way up Grizzly was pretty easy. There were a few cross over points, but each cross over always had an easy path on the other side. We mostly stayed on the right side of the ridge for the last section. On final scramble to the top, and we were on Grizzly Peak. We ultimately made the summit in around 2 hours 35 minutes. We spent less than 2 minutes on the top, just enough time to take a few pictures. I held off eating or drinking, because we wanted to get to Garfield ASAP, and hopefully the weather would hold.

Jeff and Rob on the Summit of Grizzly

Grizzly Register

Shot of our route off of Grizzly, towards Garfield Ridge

Jeff along the Garfield Ridge

Jeff getting close to Summit of Garfield

In order to get on route, towards Grizzly, we actually had to drop back down the same final scramble that we took to gain the summit (north). We dropped about 30 feet, then turned left (west) to go around the summit of Grizzly. The route from Grizzly to Garfield was pretty uneventful. We mostly stayed on the west side (right) of the ridge. It was solid class 2, and class 2+. The few times that we encountered something that was a higher grade than class 2, we pretty easily found a way to get around. Probably the toughest part of the route was just after leaving the summit of Grizzly. We opted for a minor down climb; with a little bit of hands down, butt scooting. The down climb was the most direct route, so we took it. We made the summit of Garfield, from Grizzly in just under an hour. We spent about 10 minutes on the summit of Garfield Peak. I needed to get some fluids and calories into me, before my legs turned into jello. I was actually feeling great. My legs were still feeling strong, and the altitude wasn't bothering me much at all. I was looking forward to some downhill hiking. The skies, at this point, were looking fair. There were some storms in the distance, but it was pretty clear that we could get back down into the valley quickly, if we needed to. And, nothing seemed to be heading in our direction.

After our break, we continued over the Garfield summit, and headed east towards the saddle between Garfield and the adjacent summit. The descent off the saddle looked loose, but it was pretty clear. We descended mostly along the north (left) side of the ridge. If I were to do it again, I think that I would try to stay "ridge proper" all the way to the saddle. Side traversing on loose scree was not very enjoyable. We never actually gained the saddle, but instead traversed until we were just below the saddle (about 100 feet), then turned left, towards the valley. Once we got back down into the valley, I emptied my shoes of all the small rocks and scree. Maybe I need to tighten my shoe laces, or something, because Jeff didn't have the same problem with pebbled filled shoes. Once we got back down into the valley, we continued towards the top of the mining road. The path at this point pretty much met back up with the path that we had taken up towards Grizzly. We made the top of the mining road, then had an easy walk out. Total descent time was about 1 hour 35 minutes.

Total round trip time was about 5 hours 17 minutes, a little over 7.6 miles, and about 3,100 feet of elevation. I was pretty happy with another centennial (top 100), a bicentennial (top 200, Garfield), and some great hiking with my buddy. Jeff definitely kept me on a solid pace all day. It was nice to be all the way down before noon. Jeff's SUV was definitely better suited for the rough drive out, so Jeff headed out ahead of me. Tomorrow, I was planning to either do the Ice Group, or Oklahoma. Once I got back down to town, and checked out the potential weather, I would decide. (I opted for Oklahoma).

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Runkle & Kunkle...
09/13/2016 10:21
Sounds like a lawfirm, Congrats guys on a couple successful summits!

rob runkle

09/13/2016 12:25
Yeah, that is probably what drew us to each other... Weird freaky last names.

Mine Fridge
10/09/2016 16:31
The "Mine Fridge" is probably where the miners stored their explosives.

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