Peak(s):  Grizzly Pk A  -  13,988 feet
Garfield Pk A  -  13,780 feet
Date Posted:  09/17/2019
Date Climbed:   08/25/2019
Author:  13erRetriever
 Grizzly/Garfield Loop with Dog   

Grizzly Peak A & Garfield Peak A Loop
Elevation: 13,988 & 13,780 ft.
Rank: 54 & 117
Date Completed: August 25, 2019
Mileage RT: ~7
Gain: ~3400


I'm kind of obsessed with my dog. Of almost 80 ranked unique summits, I've only done six without her. She loves being out there with me too so if the terrain and land stewards allow it, she's with me. It's pretty easy to find out where dogs are absolutely not allowed (hello Culebra and RMNP), but it's a lot more difficult to judge which open terrain might be too much for your pooch. That being said, in all of our hikes I've only done three trip reports. That needs to change. She does so much out there and sharing our experiences can help others decide if the route may be too much for their own dog. Harper is definitely not the most accomplished 13er/14er dog out there (Loki the husky just completed all the 14ers this week!), but for the most part, dog hikers out there remain fairly silent when it comes to trip reports on tougher terrain. I think this is because of the backlash that we get by even daring to bring our dogs up some of these summits. The video of the German shepherd getting butted off the mountain by goats in California and the story of the abandoned dog on the Sawtooth traverse get thrown around all the time over on the Facebook page. Sometimes it's warranted. However, the responsible (and I realize this is a term up for debate) dog owners are really just tired of being generalized. You're better than that, and so are most of us dog owners. I like hiking with my dog. I'm going to keep doing it for as long as she wants to do it. And I'm going to encourage others to do it as well so long as they are being responsible, respectful, and safe. With that said, first I'm going to impart some general lessons I've learned from hiking with a dog on 70+ summits.

  1. Paw wax and/or booties. Pack them. Use them. Harper made it to five years old before I had to start using wax. The vet couldn't answer either why she did fine on rocky terrain for five years then started having issues with thin skin on her pads, but the wax has helped a lot and has kept her in the mountains and in my hiking plans. You can pick up a tin at Petco or Petsmart for $10 and I guarantee it'll be worth it. We tend to apply it once we get off the dirt trail/out of trees and every hour or so thereafter for as long as we are on rocks. Even better than wax would be booties, but not every dog will tolerate this (Harper despises them). Check pads often to make sure they are holding up and remember making it to the summit is only half of the hike. Always be willing to turn around.

  2. Water. You can lead a dog to water but you can't make it drink. They just don't know any better. However, it's still your responsibility to make sure your dog stays hydrated. Harper is too excited to drink from streams on the way up a mountain, so even if we do pass water she usually ignores it until the descent. We also learned long ago that bringing a dog bowl ends up wasting water that she doesn't drink. So what works for us? She drinks from the hose on my Camelback like a water fountain. She's learned to ask for water by standing in front of me and begging, so I never have to waste anything by guessing whether or not she's thirsty and I don't have to worry about packing any extra gear. I typically bring 3 liters to cover both of us on every 7+ mile day trip. Find what works for you.

  3. Food. Pack your dog a sandwich for heaven's sake. They've done just as much as you and probably more.

  4. Rockfall (your concerns). Oh yes, this debate about dogs on "dangerous" peaks. Let me preface by saying "dangerous" is a matter of your own comfort level and just because a class 3 mountain is super scary to you does't mean I don't know what I'm doing with my dog, or that I'm being irresponsible. Rest assured, I am being mindful of you just as much as I am being mindful of my best friend in balancing her safety with her love of the outdoors and spending time with me. So, some thoughts:
    • Here is where I tend to draw the line on whether or not to bring my dog: Is it a steep, loose, dangerous, likely occupied gully or notorious rockfall route? Think the hourglass and almost the entirety of the Bells and Pyramid. I'm not selfish enough to think that getting her up those summits will make any difference to her or anyone else, and I realize the true danger she would present to herself, myself, and all other climbers present if I did take her on peaks like that. On the other hand, taking her up a route like Quandary West Ridge or Lindsey's class 3 ridge poses almost zero danger to other climbers due to the layout of the route.
    • We discovered our best trick on Kit Carson, and I'm pretty comfortable now bringing her on any low to mildly-trafficked scree gully or rock field where rockfall hazard is not extreme. Our trick is this: Harper goes up the slope/gully first, and I follow right on her heels. It's that easy. We go in reverse on the way down, with me first and her following right on my heels. She's pretty surefooted and doesn't tend to kick down rocks anyways, but if she does I'll be right behind her or in front of her to catch them before they gain momentum. It's worked wonderfully the past few years and even if I get looks from people on say Wetterhorn for merely having a dog, I know she's posing no more danger to them than I am. Again, this logic could be applied to peaks like Pyramid or Little Bear but due to the extreme danger of even just normal rockfall posed by those routes, I would never chance it. This method really only works if you can train your dog to keep a close and consistent distance from you. If your dog is prone at all to running off when distracted or scared, you really shouldn't be on this terrain.

  5. Class 3 and 3+ terrain (my concerns). This is the hard one, and the reason I'm going to start doing more reports. Class 3 routes and moves vary widely and are so difficult to judge from pictures. I myself never have a problem and it's my favorite class of climbing, but bringing a dog is a totally different situation. Is it the class 3 they can do without assistance? A little assistance? A lot of assistance? Just impossible? Is it sustained class 3 where I'll be helping them the entire time for hours on end or is it only occasional moves? Are the most difficult moves exposed? Will helping them put me in danger? Is my dog going to be uncomfortable on this? Only first-hand experience and sometimes a lot of research can help answer these questions but they should be considerations before taking a dog on any hike. Know your limits and your dog's limits, and again,always be willing to turn around. Also, I don't suggest hiking any class 3 terrain alone with your dog. Every class 3 I've done with my dog has required at least two people to safely get her up and down the mountain, usually one lifting from below and the other encouraging from above. For this same reason I also suggest getting a comfortable harness for your dog to help you grip on the moves that require a lot of assistance. Finally, work your way up to this. Try routes with just a couple of small class 3 moves first before committing to something bigger to make sure your dog is comfortable on this terrain. Maybe do some rock climbing down lower in Boulder. And ultimately, realize that your dog just may not be into this. Just like a gun shy dog, scrambling may just not be your dog's thing. That's okay! Love them at home and take them on any of the other hundreds of class 1 and 2 14ers and 13ers in the state.

  6. Poop and leashes. I'm just not going there. I'm sure you have your own opinions anyways and anything I say is very unlikely to change them. You surely won't change mine as to well-behaved dogs. Be respectful in highly trafficked areas (i.e. leash it) and keep your dog away from wildlife no matter where you are (no excuses here). If you don't have absolutely solid voice control at all times, use a leash. That's all I'm saying on this.

Okay guys, I'm getting out from behind the pulpit now. If you're reading this I'm probably preaching to the choir anyways. So let's see some mountain and puppy photos!



Kyle, Harper, and I decided to camp at the trailhead to save some driving time the next morning in hopes of making it home before dark after the hike (spoiler alert: still didn't happen). We took our time Saturday and enjoyed the drive over to the trailhead from Denver, stopping at Louie's in Buena Vista for some of our favorite ice cream. The drive to the trailhead was rougher than expected along CR 399, but nothing that Kyle's Jeep Patriot couldn't handle. A Subaru could probably make it as well, but leave your compact 2wd at home. The road to the upper trailhead really wasn't any worse than what was down below, so if you've made it this far just keep going. We got to the upper trailhead's obvious gate around 6 p.m. and were the only ones there. I love it when that happens. We set up the car for sleeping, Kyle chopped us some wood, and we had a nice little fire (a very rare occurrence for us) while watching the cotton candy sunset reflect off the nearby peaks.

Harper Quinn with some 12er in front of camp.


As much as it's not a secret that I love my dog, it's also not a secret that I hate early mornings despite my eagerness to be on a summit. We slept in until 8, and got on trail around 9. We were still the only car at the trailhead, and it quickly became apparent that we'd be the only ones on the summits that day. Awesome. The route description on the .com is pretty spot on, so I'm not going to confuse matters by giving more directions. I will, however, provide lots of pictures and provide commentary on areas of note.

Not even 5 minutes from the gate and she's already making new friends! The butterflies and goats were the only other living creatures we encountered that day. Pure bliss.
Mine near the end of the road. It was gated off and I got this picture by slipping my phone through the bars.
Grizzly from near the end of the road. Garfield is out of sight to the left.

On our eventual descent down Garfield, we looked across to our ascent route up Grizzly and thought "no way." This is one pretty gnarly looking mountain, even though in actuality the ascent is barely difficult class 2. It's just steep and looks absolutely cruddy from afar. Up close it's not great, but it's not the worst you'll encounter on the loop. We got off the "trail" several times on the way up but even switchbacking across the mountain were able to keep the terrain under control and eventually figured it out near the top. My go-to when we find ourselves on stuff like this is to head for solid rock instead of grassy slope. This worked, and the ascent really wasn't all that bad. Just head for the saddle and when in doubt, go straight up rather than too far right or left.

Harper Quinn on the ridge with Grizzly Lake beneath.
You go up THAT?! No way... Yes way. This was taken as we were about to drop into the basin beneath Garfield, towards the end of the day.
Hello, mountain wizard!

As the .com states, the next hurdles are the gendarmes to reach Grizzly's summit ridge. These also were not difficult, though we went when there was no snow and it's my understanding that snow will quickly elevate the difficulty of this route. There's a faint trail all the way across from the saddle to get to the summit ridge. At the third gendarme, we descended only slightly and traversed on loose (but not dangerously loose) scree. Again, I would barely call this difficult class 2. Annoying? Yes. Difficult? Not really.

Looking back at the gendarmes from close to the summit. You can also see the ascent path up Grizzly's gully. Doesn't look too pleasant from this angle.
Looking directly at summit now. It really is a lot better than it looks.
Kyle almost to the summit of Grizzly. The trail here is really obvious.
From the summit, there are awesome views of the Anderson group to the west and their lakes beneath. These views will stay with you until you descend from Garfield.

There was no summit register that we could find that day which is always a disappointment but we have our own way of keeping track of where we've been so it's no big deal in the long run. We did get cell service and sent a couple of texts so our parents knew where we were. We descended from Grizzly according to the .com directions and did't have a problem finding the exit. The ridge over to Garfield, once you get down from Grizzly's summit block, is very obvious.

Looking at Garfield from Grizzly.
Harper getting a mountain "pawdicure" on the way over to Garfield. By the time we were midway on the traverse, we had already applied wax twice.

The rest of the traverse all the way over to the base of Garfield was fairly straightforward. However, once you reach the rocky base of Garfield's summit block it can be very unclear where to go. At the first rocky bit, we were able to identify a trail that traversed the right side and gradually went up. Once you reach a little window between rock bands (I think this is Bill's picture #12 for the .com traverse) we opted to stay high for the "easy" class 3 and this was definitely the right decision. Looking down at the right side from the ridge, the terrain looked absolutely miserable. The ridge was truly very easy class 3, to the point that I'd barely even call it that. From there, the summit is just steps away and we had great fun getting there!

Where the little "window" is between rock piles. We skirted right to get here, but I would highly advise staying ridge proper the rest of the way from this point.
Kyle coming up with Anderson/Petroleum group behind.
Last little bit to Garfield's summit. Again, much easier than it looks. It was really just a walk over so long as you stay on the ridge.

We finally made it to the summit, where we took a much-needed break and reapplied paw wax for the descent. There was a good summit register on this one with some noticeable names. It's always fun to read through these to see who has come before. From the summit there was also a really good view of a nasty unranked peak just across the saddle from Garfield. It looked to me like it had to the prominence to be ranked but I had researched the area before heading out and didn't remember seeing this peak as one I should tag while we were nearby. Imagine my relief when we got home and I found out that I was off the hook.

Finally a register!
Peak #72 for me!
Harper cheesing it up, as usual.
What I've dubbed "Nasty Peak" turned out to be unranked. Thank goodness. You can just barely see the scree slope that is the descent route down Garfield.

The descent from Garfield is in my opinion the only true class 3 on the entire traverse, and even then it is only for a very short section and may even be avoidable depending on the route you take. To this point, we hadn't had to help Harper on any of the rocks. We never found the ledges or the scree slope that Bill mentions in the .com directions, but did find a short and solid gully to descend on the right side of Garfield and popped out at a little chimney that we needed to maneuver down. We clearly hadn't been the only ones on this route, so we just went with it. The chimney may have been all of 7 feet but with a dog this is enough to complicate things even though the exposure was very minimal. Kyle went first and I held Harper back to stop her from kicking down pebbles on top of him. Once he was safely in a solid position in the chimney, I encouraged Harper into his arms and he was able to lift her down the first half and drop her down the second safely. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of this part but you'll know it if you get to it. The most important part here is that once you are down, you immediately need to traverse left to get to the correct saddle. You really won't drop any more elevation on this side of the mountain. If you're not paying attention and still have adrenaline rushing from the chimney move, I think it would be easy to keep going down the slope and end up on unknown terrain in the wrong basin (my dad did this on Wetterhorn last year which is an entirely different story for a different time, once I can get over the trauma of it).

Once nearing the saddle, Kyle and I argued over where we should begin our descent down the scree gully. I had pictures from a few different reports showing where people had began their descent and Kyle was arguing for a higher launching point that he saw in one of the photos. I wanted to go as low as possible in the saddle to avoid scree for a little longer... So, we went as low as we could then began sliding down the scree from there. Maybe I'm just getting more used to it but I really didn't think that this scree was very difficult either. Yes, again, annoying, but nothing to be scared of. I surely wouldn't want to go up it though. We initially planned to try and head over to the grassy ridge to the right as soon as possible but it really was much easier to just continue sliding down the scree rather than traverse the loose boulders. We aimed for the two snow patches that were still existing at that time of year and took a short break at both so Harper could cool her feet.

Looking back up Garfield from near the lowpoint in the saddle.
View of Garfield taken earlier in the hike. Gully is the rusty colored rock to the left between the two dark peaks. We aimed for the little snowfield midway on the slope, then for a larger one further down out of sight.

We eventually popped out in the basin, then traversed high to the right to avoid having to climb again, even though the little stream and lake below were very tempting. Other reports have you turning immediately right as soon as you get to the basin but this leads you to another scree wall. We had scouted this route on our way up and found that if you just continue mostly straight you can stay on fairly gentle grass the entire time before reaching a small but solid rock descent to the stream beneath Grizzly. We did our own route and it was a beautiful walk without a trail to get back to the base of Grizzly that ended up being our favorite part of the entire day. There's nothing better than walking across a wildflower-filled basin with your little dog, the hard stuff behind you, with a new (or two new) summits under your belt. The solitude of the day made it just that much better. We took a break at a beautiful little waterfall along the stream, and decided we wanted to keep following the water down towards the road instead of trying to find the "trail" that we had come up on. The wildflowers along the banks were just incredible and Kyle had to keep reminding me that it was a Sunday night and we needed to get home for work the next morning, otherwise I probably would have spent the next few hours taking pictures of Harper sitting among the flowers. Finding the road above the mine didn't prove difficult and an hour or so later we were back to the car, and an hour after that all three of us were eating victory burgers at K's in Buena Vista. Harper slept for the next two days but was ready for some new 14ers by the following weekend. In all, it was a very successful trip and the terrain was just as expected, if not easier. This mountain is completely doable for a seasoned dog if you have the right paw protection and are comfortable (and your dog is comfortable) maneuvering down one semi-difficult but not extremely exposed class 3 chimney.

I could have stayed here all day.
Have you ever seen a happier mountain dog?
Queen Harper's victory crown.
Harper pouting at the end of the day before we loaded up for the ride home. Cheer up, pup! We will be out again!

Comments or Questions
Really enjoyed your report
09/17/2019 18:13
Wow, you take some awesome pictures! It is great to hear your advice and ideas on bringing a dog with you. My dogs are my best hiking buddies besides my husband. I hadn't thought of wax, thought that was just for snow and hot surfaces. They will wear booties but they certainly don't like it. I have work to do to keep them both real close by us though. How about Missouri from Rockdale, any troubles with Harper on that? I would expect not. Sounds like this, was worse than that. Anyway, thanks for the report, look forward to seeing more.


09/18/2019 09:50
You're no longer allowed to do things without me otherwise I'll make you go back and do it all again lol


Thank you!
09/18/2019 10:35
Thanks, Arianna! The hardest part about Missouri from Rockdale is the road. Other than that the trail wasn't difficult for us to find 3 years ago and it was pretty straightforward class 2. Harper did just fine. You still have to cross what is considered the "crux" of Missouri near the summit even on the Rockdale route, but Harper did just fine on that too. In fact, I'm pretty sure she beat me across on the way back with a big smile on her face! I've got a picture of that somewhere.

Chelsea...I'm game! Grizzly is supposed to be a good ski peak! Ready to take some CMC and AIARE certification classes with me?!


08/19/2020 08:04
is the coolest dog EVER!! Was SO happy to see a trip report with that sweet pup again! Love the crown and pouting pics btw Too cute! Well done on another awesome trip!
Please keep these trip reports coming!


Hey thanks!
09/01/2020 01:02
Awesome trip report and thanks for advocating for both dogs and responsible dog ownership. My roommate got a new dog not long ago who has such an enthusiasm for climbing mountains with me she is basically my dog too at this point. We have done 25 of the 14ers together and a few of the 13ers and honestly her stoke for class 3 and exposure on ridges gives me so much life. I really appreciate your report with Harper and any other pup trip reports I find so I can decide intelligently where to take Pepper. Thank you and safe climbing

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