Lumpy Ridge is better known as a rock climbing destination than a climbing mountain. Indeed, it's hard not to salivate at the dozen-odd major granite domes and spires (and hundreds of smaller formations) arrayed along the northern boundary of the Estes Park Valley. Lumpy has seen quite a lot of pioneering climbing in its day from the likes of Layton Kor, Bob Culp, and others in the 1960s. Major rock formations include Sundance Buttress, the Pear, the Book, Batman Rock, Rock One, and the Twin Owls. There are a number of classic moderate and hard climbs, many cracks on gorgeous granite. Classics include White Whale (5.7), Magical Chrome-Plated Semi-Automatic Enima Syringe (5.6), Osiris (5.7), Melvin's Wheel (5.8), J-Crack (5.9), Kor's Flake (5.7+), Batman and Robin (5.6), Pear Buttress (5.8+), and more. For further detailed information on technical climbs at Lumpy, see Mountain Project.
The south face of Lumpy Ridge with major formations labeled.
But Lumpy Ridge is also a mountain. It's not much compared to the higher peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park, but it's a great destination for those looking for low-key, low-altitude adventure. A long (10 mile) but easy loop trail circles Lumpy passing the large rock formations on the south side and dipping into the isolated Cow Creek valley on the north. The Needles, the highest point on the mountain at 10,068', is located on the western end above the Sundance Buttress. While non-technical, the Needles offer an airy perch with a fantastic view of the Mummy Range to the north, the Continental Divide to the west and the Longs Peak massif to the south.
Estes Park from the Needles.
The Unmistakable Twin Owls
At present, Lumpy Ridge is most commonly accessed by the Twin Owls Trailhead. A new, larger, and farther away trailhead is under construction and is expected to open for the 2007 season (the smaller and more convenient Twin Owls TH will then be closed). Both trailheads are located on MacGregor Avenue/Devils Gulch Road off of US34 on the north side of Estes Park.
From the intersection of US34 and 36, head west on 34 past the historic and unmistakable Stanley Hotel. Turn right after a quarter mile on MacGregor Avenue/Devil's Gulch Road. The old Twin Owls TH (now closed) was straight ahead. The new, larger trailhead is farther up the paved road. Bear right and continue on Devils Gulch road to the prominently signed parking area on the left.
Rocks & Routes Overview
A 10 mile trail wraps all the way around Lumpy Ridge and provides great scenery and access via side trails to several nice lakes and waterfalls.
The Pear and Magical Chrome-Plated
The highest point at Lumpy Ridge is a series of three rocky fins on the west end. The eastern Needle is the tallest at 10,068'. The western Needle is 10,027' while the middle (connected to the summit of the Sundance Buttress) barely tops 10,000'. Some scrambling over large rocks is required to gain each summit, but the difficulty does not exceed easy 3rd-class. There are two viable routes to the Needles. Both start from the Twin Owls trailhead:
Sundance Gulley Route - Hike west from the Twin Owls TH on good trail for two miles to a signed side trail labeled "Sundance". Turn right and climb up a steep climber trail to the base of the impressive Sundance Buttress. Follow a use trail to the right along the base of the rock, then scramble the steep gulley between Sundance and the Needle/Thunder Buttress wall. This is the descent trail for technical climbs of both rocks and a switchbacking use trail has developed. It's easy to lose the trail, but the tall rock walls on either side will keep you from getting lost. Top out on a broad, open saddle with great views to the north. Scramble right to the narrow summit of the eastern Needle.
West Ridge Route - A longer route climbs the Needles via the more gentle western ridge. Hike 3 miles west on the trail from the Twin Owls to the junction with the Cow Creek Trail at 9100'. Leave the trail and bushwhack to the south east staying as close to the ridgeline as is comfortable. This route is more sporting than the topo map would have you believe as the ridge is choked with downed timber, rocks, and sudden precipises. Still, the view south from the ridge crest is spectacular. Gain the same saddle mentioned above and scramble to the summit.
The Twin Owls
Yup, they really do look like conjoined owls. Raptor nesting closes these rocks for part of the year. The Owls are known for off-width cracks including the ferocious old-school Crack of Fear (5.10d).
The Book is a large and complex formation roughly half way between the unmistakable Twin Owls formation and the massive Sundance Buttress. It is split into several sub-areas, all with a litterary theme: Left Book, Bookmark, Pages, Book End, etc. The Book offers perhaps the highest concentration of classic moderate routes combined with a relatively mellow approach: Hiatus (5.7), Beelzebub (5.7+), White Whale (5.7), Fantasy Ridge (5.9), Melvin's Wheel (5.8), Osiris (5.7), George's Tree (5.8). Routes on the Left Book are generally three pitches and top out on the Paperback Ledge from which there is an easy walk-off.[img:238180:alignright:thumb:The Pear and Magical Chrome-Plated]
The Pear's moniker becomes apparent from the right angle; it looks like a collosal, squat pear rendered in huge granite slabs. The Pear is actually a lower buttress of the Citadel 1.5 miles west of the TH between the Book and Sundance. Routes here tend more to slab climbs than steep cracks. Standing below the final (fifth) pitch of Magical Chrome-Plated Semi-Automatic Enima Syringe (5.6), that name will make sense as well!
While Lumpy is technically part of Rocky Mountain National Park, no day-use fees or permits are neccessary to hike or climb. However, standard rules apply as anywhere else in the Park:
no pets on trails
no wheeled or motorized vehicles
camping and fires require permits
In addition, Lumpy Ridge lies hard-by the historic and active MacGregor Ranch. Relations are between the ranch and RMNP are somewhat delicate, so please do what you can to keep access open and cordial. Stay on trail, clean up litter, don't harrass the livestock, and keep gates closed.