From Loveland Pass
Friday Sept 6, 2011
I checked the NOAA web page and saw only a 10% chance of afternoon showers, light breezes, and a high of 71 degrees for Loveland Pass. I awoke later than I wanted to and got a bit of a late start, readied my pack and was on the road at 6:55AM, headed out of Louisville via Cherry St & McCaslin to route 128 where I turned right and headed west then turned left on route 93 all the way to Golden where I then turned right on route 6 and up through the canyon to west on I-70. The day was bright and sunny and as I passed Georgetown Lake the water surface was like a mirror with zero wind and I anticipated a perfect day for my quest; a return visit to Mt Sniktau after not get’n ‘er done back in June due to very high winds after reaching the summits of Cupid & Grizzly Peaks. I drove up towards the Eisenhower Tunnel and exited right on route 6 and up to the parking lot at Loveland Pass.
Six other cars and a camper were at the lot and I found one of the few actual parking spots with clear skies, calm breezes from the west and plenty of sunshine. Nice. I dressed in long clothes, and wore my climbing gloves as things were still a bit cool and I packed my raincoat/windbreaker in my day pack in case the winds increased. From here there is access to several different peaks on both sides of Route 6, I would be heading east directly toward the rising sun and the trailhead begins right where I was parked. I applied a good layer of sun lotion, saw no one else around as I started up the trail right at 7:58.
Since there truly is no approach I found that the trail starts gradual for about 40 yards then goes straight up the side of the mountain, no switchbacks, just up a stony/scree grade with a pretty good pitch to it. I was taken somewhat off guard and found myself huffing & puffing right off the bat as I had no chance to find my gait and breathing which usually takes me about a ½ mile or more. So up I went and soon had to pause for a short breather and I was starting to wonder if I had dressed too warmly for the energy I was exerting. Before long I reached a hump and then a brief flat across some scree and then up another good grade where I paused briefly for some water and to catch my breath. The trail now turns to a stony/scree as I zig-zagged along gaining the higher ground up this well traveled trail. After yet another stop I then finally made it to the top of this grade right at the juncture where you either turn left for Sniktau or right to Grizzly; I found this ascent to be the actual crux of this mornings climb.
The winds remained light and here the ground was covered with light snows from the night before as all I found was one set of footprints heading towards Sniktau; I was not alone up here after all. I turned left at the two stone bunkers and again found the good trail heading towards an unnamed high point ahead. The snow was now a bit deeper (2”) and was covering the trail and the surrounding grounds with clear views of the surrounding peaks; Cupid, Grizzly Peak, Torreys Peak back over my right shoulder. The grade is quite gradual and the hike up to the unnamed high point went quickly as I continued to follow the lone footprints heading in my same direction.
From this high point I could now see Mt Sniktau taller and directly across
and below I could now see a person returning back dressed in red. The views were great and I could now see a much better picture of more to come as this trail descends through a bouldery section to a connecting saddle of sorts. My camera batteries were caput so I’d need to use my cell phone to try and capture the sights as things remained cool and dry on this beautiful morning. Arapahoe Basin ski area and Keystone farther back with their dry slopes soon to be snowy was directly behind and Mt Sniktau directly ahead.
Climbing/scrambling down through the boulders went well and I soon came upon the only person I would see heading over to Sniktau. I believe his name was Cyrus, 62 years old from Houston,TX and he was doing quite well for a flatlander way up here as he shared that the elevation in Houston is all of about 30’. We spoke briefly then bid our well-wishes and moved along as the grade was easily managed and soon I was heading up through the saddle and after a few more gradual grades I reached an empty summit at 8:57.
My view was immediately drawn to I-70 from east to west and the Eisenhower tunnel stands large/low in the west.
The view north was much better with lots of peaks, most with high, new snows. A-Basin and Keystone ski areas (dry) along with great views of Grays, Torreys
Grays & Torreys Peaks
Grizzly and Cupid Pks.
Grizzly & Cupid Peaks
I had to make due with my cell phone again as my camera was not available, I started snapping shots right away. I-70 east at the Bakerville interchange resembled a snakehead
Bakerville interchange "Snakehead"
and the traffic appeared moderate where at times this is a tangled mess of cars heading east back down on Sundays around noon or so.
The unnamed high point at 13152' that lies due south from Sniktau.
High Point at 13152'
I took in some food and drink and was grateful to have this spot to myself I stayed for a little while took a final summit self-portrait
then started back down the way I came.
Upon reaching the saddle back to where the junction is for Grizzly Peak I noticed some small dark shadows against the snow and looking up I saw three black crows only about 10’ over my head. I thought about what the native Americans must have believed when such an encounter occurred and could only think that it must be something good since I was having a great morning here just off the Continental Divide; I can only hope………..
Looking back towards the parking lot at Route 6 I could now see many other cars and several small groups of people making there way up towards me. I paused for one last look around and again saw the same crows now about 30” over head before heading back towards the TH and my truck. The short hike back went well and I reached my truck right at 9:57am. The day remained sunny and clear with things now warming some as I now prepared for a little trout fishing at Georgetown Lake on my way back to town.
Another beautiful morning in the Colorado high country and another 13’er as well…………Sweet!