Grizzly Pk A - 13,988 feet
Garfield Pk A - 13,780 feet
Grizzly Pk A - 13,988 feet
Garfield Pk A - 13,780 feet
|Grizzly/Garfield Loop with Dog|
Grizzly Peak A & Garfield Peak A Loop
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
|Comments or Questions|
Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.