I discovered this route while reading Roach’s Northwest Ridge route description. He notes that if you still have the energy to try to climb Point 11,831-ft from the saddle of Mount Neva’s northwest ridge and Point 11,831.
Starting at the Junco TH at 10,050-ft follow the wide “Caribou Pass Trail” trail as it slowly ascends up through the trees and bypasses some beautiful meadows on the right. Mount Neva’s huge west face will never leave your view for the entire hike up to the lake, so getting lost would be difficult, since your objective is Columbine Lake. After about 2 miles of easy hiking you will come to a fork in the trail. There is a sign marking the Columbine Lake turn-off. Leave the wide Caribou Pass Trail and turn right on the single-track trail to Columbine Lake. Follow this trail another mile through some delicate wetlands and on to Columbine Lake. During this stretch, Point 11,831 will be the towering cliffed-out mountain on your right and Mount Neva will be directly in front of you.
Once at the lake, locate the saddle connecting point 11,831 and Neva’s northwest ridge. There is a faint trail that ascends the grassy slope all the way to the saddle. From the saddle start your ascent up Neva’s steep, talus-laden northwest ridge. At first the ridge is quite steep, requiring a little route finding to bypass some steep walls of rock. After the initial half-mile of tough class 2 hiking the degree of difficulty relents to a leisurely stroll up grassy slopes. From the upper grassy slopes of the northwest ridge angle right a little to head directly to Neva’s summit. If you have the time and weather I recommend heading towards the class 4 north ridge, which is to the left. Viewing Neva’s technical ridge is a treat and is worth the side trip. Ascending to the summit from here is an easy class 1 hike of about a quarter mile.
For the descent, retrace your steps back down to the saddle that connects Neva’s northwest ridge to Point 11,831. Instead of dropping back down to Columbine Lake, continue north up about 300-ft to the broad, grassy ridge crest of 11,831’s south ridge. Follow it to its open summit. From here the view of Mount Neva’s west face is inspiring. You also get excellent views of the Arapaho Massif and the Apache Peak Massif. From this high perch you can see your ascent route down to the right for the Columbine Lake Trail is about a 1000-ft below you. Continue north down the grassy slopes of Point 11,831 for about a half-mile until you reach tree line. At this point you are looking for a weakness in the long ridge that you can take to descend back down into the Meadow Creek Drainage. You might have to spend a few minutes hiking north down through the trees to find a doable descent, but it is worth it. Don’t worry, for you can see the Caribou Pass Trail down below to the right and all you have to do is drop down into the tree covered slope and bushwhack east. You will break out into a lush meadow and continue east through the meadow until you eventually reach the Caribou Pass Trail. You have now completed your loop! Take the trail another 2 miles back to your car.
Be prepared for an overnight stay.
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