OverviewLength: 3 miles (roundtrip)
elevation gain: 1,650'
This variation, or "extra credit", option off the Mt. Garfield trail allows you climb to a very airy and sweet perch. Though not particularly difficult, the final move at the top is very exposed and exciting. People who are afraid of heights will probably pass. Those who brave the exposure are rewarded with an airy throne and astounding view.
Getting ThereThere are two ways to get to the trailhead. The official way is to exit I-70 in the town of Palisade onto 37 3/10 Rd (I love the road naming convention in the Grand Valley). About one hundred yards south of I-70 you will cross over an irrigation ditch. Make an immediate right (west) on G 7/10 Rd. Go about a mile or so west on G 7/10 Rd until you are forced to make a right (north). Head north to a tunnel that leads under I-70. The trailhead is just on the north side of I-70. The only problem with this method of getting to the trailhead is that the tunnel can fill with water. There are signs on the tunnel warning against going through it when it was full of water. I heeded this warning and parked on south side of I-70 and waded through the two-foot deep, filthy, muddy water. This was not a very fun experience.
An alternative is to be going westbound on I-70 and pass the Palisade exit. Drive roughly one mile west past the Palisade exit and look for a spot to pull off. There is a small break in the fence and you can drive you vehicle all the way off the road into a little parking area. This will sneak up on you fast and you may miss it if you don’t know what you’re looking for. However, if you go to the tunnel and it’s full of water, this is worth a try.
Route DescriptionThis interesting climb provides an exciting variation on the standard Mt. Garfield route. Follow the Mt. Garfield trail for 1.25 miles to a prominent saddle. This occurs just after traversing along the bottom of a tall cliff. From this saddle the main trail continues west and climbs towards Mt. Garfield. The “East Garfield” variation instead turns east and climbs to a prominent, exposed summit. This point has about 150’ of topographical prominence and thus does not qualify as an official peak. It is a worthy scramble, however, and is considerably more difficult than the Mt Garfield trail.
Scramble up the steep slope towards a bulging rock on the right side (as you are looking up) of “East Garfield”. For maximum excitment try to stay as close to the ridgeline as possible. The highest cliff bands require some short class 3 moves. Scramble carefully up to the base of the summit block and take a deep breath: the final move is exciting.
The move to the summit block requires that you jump across a small gap over a two hundred-foot drop. If it is windy, this crack howls and whistles menacingly. It is not a long or difficult jump, but you will discover your mortality with bad execution. You may find yourself tempted to search for less-exposed alternatives, but this gap is the easiest way.
After making the jump do a quick move to a dramatic perch. Those who aren't intimidated by exposure might find this final move easy, but for many people this is a scary place. Though this block is the most interesting spot on "East Garfield", the wedge-shaped block just to the east might actually a few feet higher. How close to the point of the "V" do you dare get?
RECOMMENDED LINK-UP: Start with the Mars Route, divert to East Garfield, and then traverse over to Mt. Garfield's true summit to get the full experience. This variation on the standard trail is a worthy and adventurous outing. Combine it with some bouldering near the first meadow on the way down and you will collapse when you get home.