Peak(s):  Pacific Peak - 13,950 feet
Date Posted:  12/07/2009
Date Climbed:   12/05/2009
Author:  JB99

 A Fall Day on Pacific‘s West Ridge  

The weather was supposed to be really nasty this weekend; like high of 15, winds 20-35mph gusting to 50, temps with windchill as low as -35 nasty. Sounded more like a day on Denali than a Fall day in Colorado. We were silly enough to still head out to attempt the west ridge on Pacific Peak. Cliff aka ascent88, his friend Dave and I planned to meet at 4AM at the Wooly Mammoth Park and Ride and on Friday evening Trevor aka centrifuge decided to join us as well.

The sun hiding behind Fletcher's ridge --Trevor

We got to the Mayflower Gulch trailhead a little later than we planned and set off into the still morning around 6:30AM. It was about 10 degrees but there was no wind. I used my headlamp for about 15 minutes but didn't really need to. We came to the turn off for Pacific and made our way into Mayflower Gulch just as the sun lit up our snow filled world.

Enjoying the view --Trevor

There was a great track all the way across the gully and once at the base of Atlantic's west ridge we stashed our snow shoes. Comically the only part of the day I might have used them was just around the corner. As we started toward Pacific's tempting ridge we hit the first questionable slopes of the day. CAIC had the avalanche danger for the area as low on most slopes but we still were cautious. One at a time we made our way across three or four of these sections.

Cliff making his way across the potential avy slopes --Jesse

Once passed here we had to cut across the basin to get to the ridge, where did I leave my snowshoes? It wasn't too bad and we were at the base of the ridge before too long.

Breaking trail across the basin --Trevor

Here we stashed the poles and had a little snack before starting up. The weather continued to be the complete opposite of what we'd expected. The predicted 50mph gusts of wind were making a liar out of the weatherman, much to our delight.

Approaching the base of the ridge --Trevor

Looking down on our route --Jesse

We made our way up the ridge, delicately hopping and climbing over the loose snow/ice covered rocks. Quickly we found not much was stable and had to be very careful not to send rocks flying down on each other. The scrambling was fun though and I was really enjoying climbing up something rather than hiking to it. I honestly hate walking in snow, with or without snowshoes. Post-holing is miserable; snowshoes are miserable; slipping around half post-holing is miserable; bleh. I just hate it. Contradictory to this I love snow climbs and being up above the trees while our Rockies are snow covered.

Looking across to Atlantic --Jesse

Whenever I am in the mountains and see something that looks climbable I imagine climbing up it. Pacific's west ridge is one that might just make you stop the car and climb it at first sight. It's begging for it.

Pacific's west ridge tempting you to climb it --Trevor

The start of the ridge --Jesse

Climbing up the ridge was pure bliss. Post-holing was replaced with mitten handed scrambling over ice covered rocks. Carefully placing the tips of my Nepal Evo's on small rock outcrops and delicate balance replaced the "drunken" snow walk through the basin. This was why I had put up with those other couple miles of walking; this is what I woke up at 2:30AM for. I think back to being in elementary school climbing around the playground.

Proof that Cliff really is human --Jesse

Dave, Trevor and Cliff coming up the ridge --Jesse

Trevor and Cliff climbing the ridge --Jesse

Eventually we were faced with a really unpleasant scree slope. At this point it was 11:30, Cliff's GPS had froze so we were unsure how high we were and how much further we needed to go and the wind that had been so pleasantly absent started in. All this combined with an uneasy feeling Trevor was having and we had reached our turn around for the day.

Looking down at Dave and Trevor at our turn around point --Jesse

I turned back without feeling defeated but immediately excited to return for the rest of this route. It was an aesthetic and fun ridge up to there and the approach was minimal. It has been awhile since I got a day in the mountains that really put that little kid smile on my face so this was a great reminder for me.

That little kid smile... --Trevor

Dave's got one too --Trevor

When we got back to the pole stash the wind had really set in. It was a natural exfoliation of sorts for any exposed skin. Albeit a painful one, sitting here a day later I must say my skin has never felt so refreshed after my usual bird poo facial; .

Trevor the mountain ninja --Jesse

We made our way back without incident although the slopes that held the most avy danger felt a little more threatening than on the way in. No movement but as I made my way out across the last of them I wondered why I decided to be the first one across…

It was a beautiful Fall day in Colorado and more proof that you just can't let the weather forecast make a decision for you about going out.

Looking out toward Elbert and the Sawatch on the hike out --Trevor


 Comments or Questions

Awesome Photos!
02/05/2011 00:22
I really like the last one a lot. Thanks for sharing!


11/30/2010 17:28
That last one is one Trevor took, it's my favorite too. It was a photogenic day to say the least...


Nice ...
11/30/2010 17:28
There's some really good photos (you do have a kid's smile ). Cool to spread the picture taking out amongst the group. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


I still don‘t believe...
12/08/2009 00:06
...that Cliff is human! It looks like a really beautiful day to be out! I would love to go back there with you next time!



You‘re probably right...
12/08/2009 00:38
He might not have been resting in that picture. We should definitely head back up there, you‘ll like that ridge.


Great TR...
12/08/2009 00:53
And great photos, I only managed to snap four, and they really aren‘t anything better than what you guys have. It was a great day, and I cant wait to get back up to that ridge soon! Thanks for coming out guys... We‘ll get it next time...I‘ll save the ”human” for the next time when we traverse to Atlantic from Pacific


love the report
12/08/2009 01:25
I really want to get out and try it again! This one is only going to turn me around once... but next time I will be bringing a helmet


Great day to be out!
12/08/2009 14:48
Beautiful pictures! Looks like you to had a weather surprise. We were over on Massive the same day. And believe me, I had the same giddy, kid on Christmas morn, smile. It was a gift to be able to slid this one in before this second Arctic cold front blew in. Thanks for posting. I‘ve not climbed these peaks...and now I‘m interested! Good job.


12/08/2009 15:31
Just what Britt said. Our party decided to brave the predicted 55mph gusts on Bierstadt that day and had the same pleasant surprise. Nice TR and enjoyed the photos.


12/08/2009 16:21
Good work fellas getting as far as you did, I‘m really liking the colors in several of those shots! Good stuff.


Nice Report!
12/08/2009 17:47
I‘m curious on the last picture: Did you take that from the ”base” of Atlantic? I rememeber there being a mine pit up there with that wood sticking out. If so, does that mean on the way out your traversed above the creek on the ridge instead of along it? Was this preference or conditions based?

Great pictures!


Great report!
12/08/2009 19:32
Hey Jesse,
Great report! I‘ve been in that area many times but have never done that ridge, your report makes it look tempting. Glad the day brought a smile to your face.


Thanks everyone...
12/08/2009 20:35
For all the comments and votes. I‘m always hesitant to post a trip report lacking a summit but they seem to be well received.

Derek- We originally planned to descend the west ridge of Atlantic so we stashed the snowshoes there and Trevor got that shot on our way out. We stayed under Atlantic‘s ridge and that‘s where we had to cross some slopes that had some slide potential. Picture 3 shows Cliff crossing one on the way in.

moon stalker

Sometimes it pays to ignore the weathermen
12/08/2009 20:52
For those of us that ignored the weathermen that day and still got out, we were rewarded. I‘m surprised you guys had wind that was that bad. I wasn‘t that far away on North Star, and the wind was very manageable. I summited at 11:40, which is about the time you said the wind picked up for you. Almost no snow moved due to wind on North Star that day, at least while I was up there. I kept looking over at Pacific to see if you guys summited. It was still a great day in the mountains, even if you didn‘t summit. Summits aren‘t everything. And actually, after seeing your post, I‘m interested in trying it. I always figured getting across that basin would be horrible with snow, but you guys didn‘t even have shoes and it didn‘t seem that bad. Thanks for posting.


The wind..
12/08/2009 21:23
Was only bad for a couple minutes for us, specifically when we picked up the hiking poles. Atlantic‘s ridge looked like it got it worse than Pacific‘s, we were generally really well protected from it. The basin wasn‘t too bad but definitely the most draining part of the day for me. I want to get back up there for the west ridge on Atlantic too, that also looks fun.


Good Deal
12/14/2009 15:08
A small group of us tried in November and had the same result. Can‘t wait to try again. Your story motivates!

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