Peak(s):  Pacific Pk  -  13,950 feet
Atlantic Pk  -  13,841 feet
Date Posted:  06/22/2020
Date Climbed:   06/21/2020
Author:  bwinners
Additional Members:   little_castaldo
 Coast to Coast in the Mayflower Gulch  

20235_08
My attempt at capturing both Pacific Peak and Atlantic Peak. They are only about 0.7 miles apart from each other!

I once had a quest to finish all the 14ers in Colorado, before I realized that I didn't want to hike every weekend for a checklist; I wanted to hike for the sake of enjoying the trek. Since that epiphany, I've repeated many 14ers and have sought out lesser known peaks to fulfill my joy jar.

This weekend did just that. Ashley and I had decided on Pacific Peak's east ridge route for a fun Sunday hike after purchasing Dave Cooper's Colorado Scrambles during quarantine. We quickly squashed that idea and decided on the shorter, albeit more technical, west ridge route. We also discovered that tapping in the traverse over to Atlantic Peak meant an easier class 2 hike down...which meant a great opportunity to play with GPX routes and our Garmin watches! We each created routes and compared - they were only off by 0.1 miles of each other (likely due to both of us just blindly creating a traverse along the ridge). I utilized Caltopo and the dot com, combined the routes, and uploaded them successfully to my Instinct.

20235_05
Spent my Saturday night geeking out with my new Garmin Instinct. This isn't meant to sound like an ad, but I looove my new watch!

Ashley and I set off from Denver at 5AM and hit the trailhead at 6:15. I regretfully did not take photos of the road, but the Wrangler did just fine. There was one rut about a quarter mile up the road that I could see other vehicles having issues with, and then the road gets a bit rough right before the mines. We were the only car up there; I definitely double checked the Mayflower Gulch trailhead sign though and all it said was "highway legal vehicles only" so I knew we were fine. I also had to remind myself that this was a 13er and that most of the cars were probably over yonder at Quandary's trailhead!

We began our hike at 6:30AM. Having the GPX routes on both our watches and phones, we felt pretty confident. We knew from past trip reports that the first 50 feet or so would be a willow bash session...and the willows delivered. They were dry, but they were quite thick and tall. My arms grew tired quickly and all I could think was, "well this will be a boatload of fun on the way back."

20235_06
Where's Waldo? Willow Edition!

We hit the trees at last and quickly made our way up and through them. The landscape opened to an absolute beautiful valley and our first glimpse of Pacific Peak to the left. The terrain was a mix of light snow patches, rolling tundra, rocks, and a flowing creek. The wildflowers were a plenty. Luckily there was somewhat of a trail to avoid the precious tundra and plenty of rocks to step on. We crossed 3-4 small snow patches as we continued to gain elevation. It was a great warmup as we approached the west ridge.

The ridge starts pretty abruptly. This was a great opportunity to sit down for a snack and stick our helmets on. The skies were bright blue and not a drop of wind, though we knew wind was predicted for later that morning. My boyfriend made bread the day before (residual quarantine hobby that stuck) and the yeast didn't quite activate fully, which resulted in a dense bread that can only be described as lembas bread. True to its description, one bite filled me up. Ah, a nice second breakfast!

20235_09
Ashley near the beginning of the ridge climb. It was Class 3 pretty much from the start and didn't end until the final summit push!

The ridge began with an immediate difficult class two and the transition to class three was gradual enough that we didn't even realize it until we had gone quite a bit with four points of contact at all times. The rock was rotten almost immediately so Ashley and I moved one at a time, climbing and then waiting while the other followed. It was slow going, but at least neither of us had to worry about rock fall. Our slow going caused a group of 3 to catch up to us around 12,800' and the five of us ended up linking together a bit to navigate our way up the ridge.

20235_02

This isn't my first rodeo on a class 3 hike, but this was by far the most sustained I've been on. They never seemed to end...occasionally we'd gain footing before quickly approaching yet another class 3 section. It was a healthy mix of staying along the ridge crest (and praying that the other side would be okay) and keeping to the left or right, whichever looked best. There were a few portions where Ashley and I would choose different routes, depending on how spicy we wanted it to be (Ashley leaned a bit more on the spicy side).

20235_03
SURPRISE ARETE! This was one of those features where you climbed up and definitely didn't know what to expect on the other side. Well, this was what was on the other side.

At around 9AM, we reached a gully, and I knew from the route description that this would be the final class 3 portion before the final summit pitch, a class 2. Ashley saw a crack in the nearly sheer face on the left and hopped right on it. I opted for the gully itself.

20235_18
This is where the final gully is. Ashley opted for the left face....I opted for the easier gully :)

From there, it was rotten rock up to the top. 10AM. There were some clouds forming in the distance, so Ashley and I decided to take a couple quick photos and then immediately drop down to begin our trek to Atlantic. Before we left the summit, I sent a couple quick texts to our boyfriends - yes, I had full LTE service at the summit!

20235_11
At the top of Pacific Peak!!

We had no idea what to expect with the traverse. For some reason, I didn't see a lot of beta on it. In less than 20 minutes, we managed to make our way down and over to the base of the summit push to Atlantic. It was an easy walk on unbalanced rocks. Leaping from rock to rock, hands in pocket. The winds ravaged us a bit but it couldn't have been more than gusts up to 20MPH, sustained 10MPH at most. It was the type of wind where it was hot when it stopped, cold when it picked up again.

20235_10
My watch at the top of Pacific Peak told us we had less than 500' of elevation gain left in the day!

My legs felt great and ready for another summit push. We both decided that we'd just go totally heads down, fight the wind and the leg burn, and just power our way up the rocks. We made it up to Atlantic just before 11AM. The questionable clouds we saw in the distance hadn't moved in that hour, but they did seem dark and a bit looming, so once again, we quickly celebrated our second summit and began our descent down.

20235_12
Looking back up Atlantic - just a giant pile o rocks

This was the worst part of the day, if you could call it that. The rocks sucked, and the adrenaline of the class 3 ridge was totally gone. Much like the traverse, these rocks were, well, rocky and unstable, so it was a lot of heads down and hope that you don't twist an ankle after all that you had already accomplished earlier that morning. Even so, Atlantic's ridge was easy going. The temptation to drop down into the basin was definitely there - but again, from reading trip reports, we knew that was a no-no. So we spent the next 45 minutes chatting about our dogs' lives and making our way down. I had chowed down on my lembas bread and clif bloks throughout the morning, but I was still yearning for something...dug deeper into my pack...and remembered that I had packed bacon. Bacon at 12,000' after two summit pushes is the best bacon you'll ever eat.

20235_14
Looking back over at Pacific Peak's west ridge as we made our way down Atlantic. It's always great to look at something you tackled!

We had parted ways with our friends from the ridge at the top of Pacific Peak, but they eventually caught up to us on the descent down Atlantic (probably also intelligently aware of clouds). We reached the end of the ridge. They continued straight on - as I write this I still have no idea what they did beyond that. Ashley caught sight of a potential glissade on the right that would drop us directly back down into the valley that began our ridge quest that morning. We walked on the snow a bit to decide. It was soft and we postholed our way to the edge - and we saw what the rest of the bank of snow looked like. It was a semi-steep drop that lead into a very gentle rollout, all on snow. Ashley donned her rainpants and went for it. She was at the bottom quickly. I took a couple more steps to decide whether or not I wanted to commit to the glissade - when I slipped and gravity decided for me. Rather than try to self arrest, or even panic, I just leaned back and enjoyed the ride...the gentle terrain at the bottom naturally stopped me and I relished in the fact that my mind let my body relax in a situation that I knew was going to end just fine. Over these last few years I've practiced and repracticed self arrest for emergencies, and I knew this wasn't that.

And so we found ourselves back where we began.

20235_15
As you can see, the skies actually became more and more blue as we descended - the storm we saw in the distance never made its way over.

We crossed those annoying snow patches again (this time it wasn't a glide over, it was a trudge-through with some major post-holing) and found ourselves in the trees once again. I had a moment where I sat on a rock and just soaked in what the morning had delivered. It was such an incredibly perfect hike, without any hiccups, weather issues, or route trouble...nothing made my brain scream, nothing made my legs cry.

20235_16
Here's that moment where I sat on that rock and did that thinking.

...until I remembered we still had to get through the willows!! The Jeep was so close, yet so far with the darn willows in the way. And so we bashed, and bashed, until we emerged, looking like crazy folk to all the day hikers who were looking at the mines. Their small drawstring bags and flip flops were a stark contrast to our helmets and large backpacks, not to mention me yanking my hiking pole out from the thick willows that don't look inviting at all.

And so, the hike was complete. The drive down was very interesting, as the road was completely crowded with day hikers - all totally shocked to see a car on the road. We made it most of the way down and stopped for a group of hikers that approached our car and asked how far they had to go to the "top" and we delivered the bad news that they were barely halfway. They asked what we had done that day and Ashley told them...I prayed they wouldn't try to attempt it! They then asked how we managed to get a car up here, that the sign said no vehicles. Our hearts raced - though we both had the vivid memory of seeing the sign that morning! Sure enough, the sign was there as we approached the parking lot, which was full of sedans that would not have made it up the road anyways.

With a bit of traffic on I70, I ended up landing back on my couch in Denver at 3:30PM. A 10 hour day, door-to-door. Not a bad way to end a weekend!

20235_17
done and done!



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

Great Day!!
06/23/2020 07:03
This truly was a fantastic voyage!! You captured it so well in your report, and I feel like this will be super helpful for people looking to do Pacific - Atlantic in the future. Where's Waldo...LOL!! Thank you for writing this and posting it


Monster5

Nice job, Brittany!
06/23/2020 09:05
Those fancy watches are easy to nerd out on.


13erRetriever

Thanks!
06/23/2020 10:53
You just totally convinced me I need to up my watch game. If you've done Quandary west ridge, how do you think this route compared?


bwinners

You're very welcome!
06/23/2020 10:59
I haven't done Quandary's west ridge but found the difficulty of moves to be comparable to Kelso Ridge if you've done that, just significantly more sustained with more exposure. Route finding isn't difficult, it's mostly just deciding your comfort level. I've had this watch for a couple weeks now and I LOVE it! I mostly use it for cycling but it was invaluable on this trip.


nyker

Nice job
06/23/2020 21:45
Sounds like this was a good addition to your Joy Jar, haha. Atlantic/Pacific are on my list of to-do's this year, hope I can come out soon and get them, looks like pretty cool area.



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