Peak(s):  "Golden Bear Pk"  -  13,010 feet
Hagar Mtn  -  13,220 feet
Date Posted:  10/27/2019
Date Climbed:   10/26/2019
Author:  supranihilest
 Hagar the Horribly Windy  

A few weeks prior I climbed "The Citadel", Pettingell Peak, and "Hassell Peak" but orphaned "Golden Bear Peak" and Hagar Mountain. I wondered when I'd get a chance to come back to them, and when my friend Michelle told me she'd been invited to climb Denali with a small independent team and wanted to learn some of the finer points of mountaineering I figured "Golden Bear" and Hagar would be a good start - close by and relatively easy. We'd done Boreas Mountain together years ago in December so we've got some history of peak bagging in less than ideal conditions.

I was trying to determine which route I wanted to take. There were several options: start at Herman Gulch Trailhead and ascend or descend through Dry Gulch; start at Loveland Pass and stay high on the Continental Divide the entire day; or, as suggested by Trotter in his excellent report, start at Coon Hill Trailhead directly on the western side of the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnel. It had been a while since we'd climbed together and we had gone to a friend's Halloween housewarming party the night before so we chose the latter option, starting from Coon Hill Trailhead. It was the shortest and easiest way to get the peaks and would be a great early season welcomer. A minor secondary reason for me was to just start at a trailhead I'd never been to, since I didn't even know there was one there until reading Trotter's report and had already hiked from Herman Gulch and Loveland Pass before.

We met at about 8:45am in Boulder and drove to the Coon Hill Trailhead where we got started about 10:40am. A late start for sure but the route was short. We surveyed the route. We knew there was a road that led up Straight Creek and then switchbacked up and over the Divide and that would probably be the easiest option, though it wasn't direct.

19941_01
"Golden Bear" is the rocky bump above and slightly right of the water tank (tan colored building). The road curves around to the right as marked by the posts.
19941_05
Unnamed Point 12,337 on the left and Coon Hill (12,757) on the right. The fun looking north ridge on the right apparently goes at Class 3.

We opted not to bring snowshoes which meant more of a slog, but the snow was pretty awful this low - wet and punchy on top and sugary below - and snowshoes probably wouldn't have helped much anyway. Our progress was slow and we had to break trail the entire way up.

19941_06
Continuing on the road. We planned our descent route from here too - we'd try and go down the ridge from the obvious snowy point on the right and down talus fields that we knew were at safe angles.
19941_07
Trying to map a path linking grass patches and rocks to avoid the snow.

We went about halfway up the first switchback and then turned directly east and went up the slope thinking it'd be faster. We followed a series of still running streams trickling down the hillside and tried to weave through the willows as best we could. For the most part the snow wasn't that deep but it still slowed us considerably. It was mostly just a lot of tedious ankle deep stuff with the occasional knee deep posthole. Combined with the willows and the angle of the slope it didn't seem like we were making much progress.

When we hit one of the switchbacks much farther up the hillside we decided to stay on the road as much as it made sense - actually made sense this time, instead of whatever was super direct. The upper slopes were more windblown but still contained some deep drifts. We found if we stuck to the downhill margins of the road there was less drifted snow and our progress was faster.

19941_08
Michelle making her way up the road. Note the second set of animal tracks just to the left of mine.

We followed the road for several switchbacks until both the angle of the slope lessened and the open slopes became more scoured of snow. At this point it became easier to avoid what little deep snow there was.

19941_09
Off the road but progress became easier as we could just tromp across grass and some rock.
19941_10
Looking back down towards I-70.

As we made our way to the ridge crest, which was on the Continental Divide, the wind slowly began to pick up. The higher we went so too did the wind speeds. Of course the winds were highest at the very top and they became a near-permanent fixture for the remainder of our time on the Divide.

19941_11
"Golden Bear" looking super ultra mega extremely nuclear exciting. Have you ever seen such a miraculously shapeless lump of rock? It's OK, we were speechless too. Loveland ski area is to the right on the other side of the Divide.
19941_12
Grays (right) and Torreys (left) from the ridge.
19941_13
"Golden Bear" on the left, Hagar indistinct behind it, "The Citadel" right of center with Pettingell Peak indistinct behind it. "Hassell Peak" is way in the background on the right.

Michelle had come up with a trekking pole in one hand and my ice axe in another so she could learn some of the basics as she'd never used an axe before. I made her take over trail breaking duties to the summit of "Golden Bear" and tag the summit first. After all, she was doubling her 13ers from one to two, a momentous occasion! She even opted for a very brief Class 2+ scrambling warmup instead of taking the more basic snow slope to the top.

19941_14
Great technique, ice axe in the uphill hand, trekking pole in the downhill hand.
19941_15
It looks as if she leapt a couple of body lengths from snow to rock. That's because she did. Not only is she a good climber but she crushes at basketball and the high and long jumps.

We found a relatively sheltered area away from the wind (like 3 feet below the ridge top on the eastern side: 40mph winds to zero) and hung out for about 10 minutes discussing the route behind and the route ahead.

19941_16
Hagar is the square-ish summit on the left. "The Citadel", Pettingell Peak, and "Hassell Peak" (far in the distance) are on the right.
19941_17
Zoomed shot of Hagar's summit. The route up the final summit block wasn't clear until we had gotten to the false summit immediately prior.
19941_18
The gore-geous Gore from "Golden Bear" with Coon Hill in the foreground.

The ridge from "Golden Bear" to Hagar is easy but contains a whole bunch of small and annoying bumps, like five or six that add up along the way.

19941_19
Though it doesn't look far it's farther than it looks.
19941_20
One bump! Two bumps! Three bumps! Ah ha ha ha!

The winds as we traversed the ridge were absolutely relentless. We were getting blown around and stinging snow was blown into our faces every time we had to face into it. The ambient temperatures weren't all that cold but the wind really brought it down. There was a lot of slush-turned-ice on the ridge that was clearly from the calmer morning, as some of it was still wet. By the time we returned off Hagar it was entirely frozen.

Hagar has one false summit from the south that has a big gain of several hundred feet to reach. It's not particularly steep but covered in snow it took us a while, longer than we would have liked. According to topo maps (as well as the peak page here on 14ers.com) this false summit is Hagar, but it's obvious from everywhere that this is not the case. The big cube in the center of Hagar's summit ridge is clearly the summit.

19941_21
Hagar's final approach slope and false summit.
19941_22
Somewhat steep in spots. We switchbacked up and around to make the terrain easier.
19941_23
Michelle coming up, taken from about halfway to the top. The winds are highly visible in this shot.

Hagar's summit block was the one unknown I had on this route. I read it went anywhere from Class 2+ to Class 4. That's a pretty big variation. When we got to the false summit the true summit reared its head and bared its fangs. This was going to be awesome!

19941_37
Hagar the Horribly Windy.

There appeared to be several options to reach the summit. I stopped to put on my microspikes at this point for just a little extra traction; Michelle had had hers on most of the day. The snow was quite firm at this point and actually made for good climbing, so I figured the scramble up wouldn't be made all that much more difficult due to the snow. I picked a line and led up the steep, solid granite. Every step upward increased the exposure, especially to the west. The snow did indeed prove to be in good shape, even when near vertical. I think the early morning warmth softened it up and the afternoon chill froze it into almost perfect step kicking glory. My chosen line went at a pretty solid Class 3.

19941_38
My approximate route up. That shelf just below the top on the right looked better until I got to it; while it was less steep I took a few steps out onto it and the exposure east went from a couple feet to hundreds. Going in a nearly straight line up the block made more sense and kept the difficulty the same while reducing the exposure.

This was by far the highlight of the day. The scrambling was awesome and an absolute ton of fun. It brought me back to earlier in the year doing Kelso Ridge over and over in winter conditions. What an incredible start to the winter season!

19941_39
Michelle a few steps from the top. Hagar's false summit is the obvious foreground mass. Coon Hill is directly behind.
19941_40
Pettingell Peak is the high peak on the left. "The Citadel" is the triple peak near the center.

The winds were howling like a freight train on top of Hagar, despite the bluebird skies. We didn't take a break here and there was no summit register to sign, since someone had broken the one up there.

19941_41
I can't imagine something like this happening without deliberate intent to break it. These things aren't exactly made of tissue paper...

We quickly scrambled back down and up and over the false summit. The northern shadows were growing long this late in the afternoon and it was getting exceptionally cold in the shade, so we waited to take a break until the bottom of the big slope below the false summit.

19941_42
Back down we go.

The ridge went quickly back to the triple point between Coon Hill, "Golden Bear", and Hagar despite the annoying bumps somehow not getting word that they should get out of our way.

19941_43
A great section of ridge with great scrambling everywhere. Hagar, "The Citadel", and Pettingell all held super fun Class 3 scrambles.
19941_44
Looking back towards the tunnel, which is far enough away to barely be visible. The snowy road which we took bits and pieces of is visible on the left.

The slopes directly off the triple point were steep enough to slide but the snow was extremely stable so I went straight down instead of zigzagging through more mild terrain slightly west and down the ridge towards Coon Hill. The avalanche terrain was short lived and we soon found ourselves at the bottom of the basin. From here it was just a matter of breaking trail back to our tracks near the tunnel.

19941_45
Our tracks are faint, but we basically came down left of center, which is left of the low saddle on the ridge, then cut around the right side of the exposed rocks and into the gully where our tracks are more pronounced.

The route finding was obvious in the basin and we even found someone else's boot tracks. I'm not sure where they went since we didn't see anyone all day and there were actually two sets of tracks even farther down, so it's a curiosity what others were doing booting around up there like we were. We got back to the trailhead and went for dinner at Smokin' Yards BBQ in Idaho Springs. A brisket sandwich and fried pickles to die for topped off the perfect start to the season. I hope it continues to be this amazing.


Statistics

Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Michelle D.
Trailhead: Coon Hill
Total distance: 7.92 miles
Total elevation gain: 3,174 feet
Total time: 8:03:18
Peaks: Two ranked thirteeners

  • "Golden Bear Peak", 13,010'
  • Hagar Mountain, 13,220'

Splits:

Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Coon Hill Trailhead "Golden Bear Peak" 3:23:05 3:23:05 10:42
"Golden Bear Peak" Hagar Mountain 1:53:42 5:27:29 0:00
Hagar Mountain Coon Hill Trailhead 2:35:49 8:03:18 Trip End

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




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45


 Comments or Questions
Jay521

Wow!
10/28/2019 10:39
Very, VERY nice report, Ben. And I LOVE pic 23! I imagine that's Michelle's desktop background now.


supranihilest

Desktop
10/29/2019 17:37
Thanks Jay! I know Michelle prominently featured that photo on her Instagram at least, I think she's pretty proud of this one as a starter.



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