This link-up combines an unnamed peak east of Howard Mountain, Howard Mountain, Mount Cirrus, Lead Mountain, and 'Never Summer Peak' into one outing. This page describes the route starting with the unnamed peak east of Howard Mountain, but it can easily be reversed to start with 'Never Summer Peak'.
Getting ThereStart at the Colorado River Trailhead.
Route DescriptionStats: Class 4, 17.3 miles (round trip), 5242 feet of elevation gain.
From the Colorado River Trailhead hike north for 0.5 miles to the start of the Red Mountain Trail. Head left onto the Red Mountain Trail and follow it for 3.2 miles until you reach the Grand Ditch. Walk north on the road that parallels Grand Ditch for 1.7 miles to Hitchens Gulch. Cross the Grand Ditch on a bridge and head west on the Lake of the Clouds Trail. After 0.3 miles you will read Hitchens Gulch Campsite which may be a good stopping point for day 1 (permit required). After another 0.5 miles on the Lake of the Clouds trail you will reach Dutch Town Campsite which is an alternative site to camp at. Note that snow is often present at Dutch Town Campsite into late July. About 0.3 miles past Dutch Town Campsite the trail fades into talus. Continue west for another 0.2 miles (for a total of 1.3 miles from the Grand Ditch) to the base of a steep slope that leads up to the bench that holds Lake of the Clouds. Scramble up the slope and then head south to Lake of the Clouds.
From Lake of the Clouds, head southeast to gain the north slope of the unnamed 12,460 foot peak east of Howard Mountain. Scramble up the steep north slope (class 2) gaining 1000 vertical feet to the summit of the unnamed peak east of Howard Mountain.
From the summit of the unnamed peak east of Howard Mountain, traverse the ridgeline west for 0.6 miles to the summit of Howard Mountain. The difficulty of this ridge ranges from difficult class 2 to easy class 3.
From the summit of Howard Mountain, head northwest up and over a false summit of Howard Mountain and then down to the bottom of the saddle between Howard Mountain and Mount Cirrus. From the saddle head north to the summit of Mount Cirrus gaining 400 vertical feet.
From the summit of Mount Cirrus, make the long traverse north for 1.1 miles to Lead Mountain. The bulk of this traverse is named Hart Ridge, named after a pilot who crashed his plane into the ridge. The 500 foot elevation gain to the summit of Lead Mountain after the end of the ridge may feel slightly grueling at this point.
From the summit of Lead Mountain, the excitement begins. Carefully traverse east-southeast on the class 4 ridge towards the saddle between Lead Mountain and 'Never Summer Peak'. You may have to drop down slightly off of the very top of the ridge occasionally as you navigate your way across the jagged blocks which comprise the ridge at this point. After 0.1 mile the difficulty eases to class 3, and after another 0.1 mile the difficulty eases to class 2. After a total of 0.3 miles you will reach the saddle between Lead Mountain and 'Never Summer Peak'. From the saddle, head east for a quarter mile and 500 vertical feet to the summit of 'Never Summer Peak'.
From the summit of 'Never Summer Peak' head back down to the saddle between it and Lead Mountain, then drop down off of the saddle to the south-southeast aiming for the Lake of the Clouds Trail. You will lose 1100 feet of elevation over the 0.9 miles of this descent. Once you reach the Lake of the Clouds Trail, follow it back down to the Grand Ditch, then to the Red Mountain Trail, and ultimately back to the trailhead.
Trail Profile and MapThe trail color represents the class of that portion of the trail.
Green = Class 1
Blue = Class 2
Purple = Class 3
Red = Class 4
The vertical unit is feet, and the horizontal unit is miles.