To climb this mountain by its East Ridge, 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. Make your way to the saddle where the East Ridge of Lead Mountain begins.
From the saddle between Lead Mountain and Point 12,438, gaining the ridge is pretty self explanatory.
You will immediately begin on 3rd class terrain that will be sustained for the entirety of the ridge to the summit. The first third of the ridge is not very exposed and is the easiest, less technical section of the route. Once the ridge makes a turn toward the west/northwest the exposure becomes greater and the terrain becomes a bit more technical, making some harder class three moves necessary. The crux of this ridge is encountered a little more than two thirds of the way up the ridge. It is a large boulder sitting in the middle of the ridge with limited hand holds and some considerable exposure on either side, followed by some exposed cracked slabs with good hand and foot holds.
The rock on this ridge is, for the most part, very solid. There are, however, some loose rocks so do use caution.
In general, this is a very fun and enjoyable 3rd class ridge. It offers great views into both Hitchens Gulch and Skeleton Gulch and leads to a great summit.
In the summer/fall months your typical hiking gear will be required. Make sure you have some trust worthy footwear for this ridge, as a slip could be bad news.
In the winter/spring you will want crampons and axe. Protection would be a consideration depending on the condition of the ridge. Make sure you are aware of the avalanche danger on the approach.
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