Lead Mountain (left) and Point 12,438 (right) on the approach from Hitchens Gulch.
This is a truly beautiful mountain that serves as the meeting point of three distinct ridges, Hart Ridge from the South, the North Ridge connecting to Tepee Mountain, and the wonderful East Ridge. However, it is seldom visited due to its longer approach and relative isolation. There were only seven parties consisting of about 24 people that signed the summit register in the year prior to my arrival on the summit. By "Rocky" standards, that is not too many folks.
If you are looking for some solitude, some nice third class scrambling and a wonderful summit, then this would be a mountain worth considering. The long approach and rocky terrain make Lead Mountain a Never Summer classic!
To climb this mountain by its most direct route, you will want to begin from the Colorado River Trailhead off of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. This trailhead is on the western side of the park about an hour from either east side entrance, and about 15 minutes from the Grand Lake entrance.
Follow the Colorado River Trail for one half of a mile to the Red Mountain Trail junction. Follow the Red Mountain Trail for another 2.8 miles until you reach the Grand Ditch (a large canal that diverts water from the west to the east side of the Continental Divide.). You will walk North (take a right) along the road beside the Grand Ditch for about 1.75 miles until you reach Big Dutch Creek and the trail into Hitchens Gulch. Walk along the trail into Hitchens Gulch until you reach an open meadow with a small lake or pool. Here you will be able to get a good view of Lead Mountain, Point 12,438 (to Lead Mountain's East) and their connecting saddle. From here you can pick your desired route, any of which will require at least 3rd class scrambling.
The only permit required is a pass to get into the National Park. You can buy a week pass for $20, or an annual pass for $35.
Fees for admission.
When To Climb
This mountain is typically climbed from late June through mid/late September. A winter climb would be much more ambitious due to the harder approach. An axe and crampons would be desired and depending on conditions of ridges and your desired route, some form of protection might not be a bad idea.
There are a few backcountry sites in the area.
Call the Backcountry Office, 970-586-1242, for specific details.
Routt National Forest
If you wish to camp on the wester slopes of the Never Summer Range, you should contact Routt National Forest.
USDA Forest Service
Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests
2468 Jackson Street
Laramie, WY 82070
To get the most accurate conditions on this mountain, it would be best to call Rocky Mountain National Park directly. 970-586-1206.
Note that the Never Summer Range get tons of snow and it can last well into the spring/summer. When other surrounding areas are relatively snow free, the Never Summer's can still be holding a considerable amount.
What's in a name?
Lead Mountain's name dates back at least to 1879 when prospectors around Lulu City recorded their claims as located in the Lead Mining District.
Lead ore proved a heavy nuisance to prospectors seeking metals in this district; the owners of the Wolverine Mine found that freight charges ate up their profits. Also, there are tales of pure lead. Trappers told Abner Sprague they had picked up lead nuggets on the Poudre River which they used, unworked, as bullets.
Source: High Country Names by Louisa Ward Arps and Elinor Eppich Kingery