From Loveland Pass
Friday June 10, 2011
I had checked the NOAA web page and saw only a 20% chance of showers, light breezes, and a high of 51 degrees for Loveland Pass. I readied my pack and was on the road at 5:55AM, 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; planned to do Grizzly Peak and back to then bag Mt Sniktau. I drove up towards the Eisenhower Tunnel and exited right on route 6 and up to the parking lot at Loveland Pass.
Four other cars were at the lot and finding a spot was no problem with perfectly clear skies and snowy peaks all round. I dress in long clothes, my gaiters, light fleece gloves and my light wind/rain jacket as it was a bit cool yet but with a very light breeze from the west. I had read that there is no real approach to the peaks that lay ahead just a high trail head above tree line right here at the parking lot. Another guy pulled in just as I was leaving and he was planning to hike up and ski from the opposite side of the road, we bid our farewells and I started up the trail right at 7:30.
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 snow and then up another good grade where I met one guy coming down and soon two more that I had seen coming back over from Sniktau. I stopped yet again and then pressed on up more stony/scree where the wind became much stronger and was actually helping to blow me 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.
The wind here was simply “howling” and I pulled up my hood and tied-down tight and was now very glad I had dressed properly as temps were quite cool in spite of the rising sun. Two stone bunkers had been built by others and I could certainly see why as I turned right and followed the trail for Grizzly Peak that lay well ahead with Torreys Peak back and left of my destination. I headed down the trail/grade with the next stop being Cupid Peak right along the connecting ridges leading over to Grizzly Peak. Going back down and with the wind driving hard from my right (west) had me leaning somewhat but my progress was good and as I looked well up ahead I saw another person nearing the top of Cupid. Down to the lowest point of the connecting saddle and then back up and across a barren rise to a pile of well-rounded stone on my left and I was now on Cupid Peak.
Cupid Summit Shot with Grizzly Peak in background
The views were great and I could now see a much better picture of much more to come as this trail takes many ups & downs along a continuous connections of ridges and saddles in a relatively short distance. I stayed only briefly as the gusts were nearly enough to knock me down, looking back to the high point where I had come from I could now see another person in red starting the descent and heading to Cupid as well. Back on the trail and down another grade and some heavy cornices of snow on my left with a series of “bouldery” looking humps ahead to be negotiated. Arapahoe Basin ski area was now in view below on my right as I reached the boulders but facing into the strong wind was not pleasant and I kept my head down and focused on the trail and what lay ahead.
Climbing/scrambling through the boulders went OK and then back on a short section of trail and then more boulders and a snowy path where many others had trekked as it was wise to hike where others had passed and stay well clear of the cornices left for obvious reasons. Upon clearing the “boulder humps” a good view of Grizzly Peak comes into view with the trail well defined up ahead. Another descent starts here and down along another barren stretch where the trail now takes you right up next to the heavily snowed cornices on the left and before long a long, deep, icy crack can be seen with a snowy path about 10’ right of it. This is a true crevasse and although I’d never seen one before its perils are plenty apparent; if you ever were to fall in there I wouldn’t know how you would ever extract yourself. Quite scary.
Here the trail now abruptly heads straight up Grizzly Peak proper and again the grade caught me a bit off guard but with the summit now so close and the winds blowing stronger than ever I found a vigor to press on and was making solid progress through more stony/scree with short switchbacks. I paused a couple more times briefly to take a breather and a drink and soon saw the person I’d seen earlier ahead coming back down towards me, we met at a snowy sections and I was assured that the top was right up there with no false summit. We bid adieus and I was glad to be wearing gloves as the wind here was really whipping and the chill was biting at times as I continued more of a scramble approach here as the trail was less defined and grabbing hold here and there became necessary. One last rise and ahead was the empty summit with another stone bunker for protection; I arrived right at 9:17……I’d made it!
Directly east Torreys and Grays Peaks dominate the view above with countless other snowy peaks all round and route 6, Dillon Reservoir, Breckenridge ski area and Summit County directly west, north was Sniktau and many other peaks, south was a broad expanse of innumerable snow covered peaks. I removed my pack and found a spot in the small bunker offering relief from the relentless winds, I took in some food and drink and was grateful to have this spot to myself as there wasn’t any room to spare as it would have been a tight squeeze for even two I pulled out my camera and held firm while taking some quick photos and hand-held self portraits;
Summit Shot with Torreys Peak in background
Torreys & Grays Peaks
Loveland Pass Route 6
some more food & drink and then back down after only about 10 mins on this beautiful summit as I knew I’d be facing the winds all the way back down.
Facing the wind during the descent was not a pleasant endeavor and I made quick work of the scramble and back to the stony/scree section where I met the person in red but we were both so “buttoned-down” and focused on our pursuits that we simply waved and said hey but no more as the wind here was the strongest yet and wearing rather hard at this point. I lost my concentration as well as my footing here and ended-up on my butt as the scree was like roller bearings, I bounced back up and didn’t stop again until I reached the next ascent where the wind was a bit blocked from the direct frontal blow.
Cupid center & Mt Sniktau right
I’m no meteorologist but the winds had to be a sustained 30 mph with much stronger gusts mixed-in and the hike back was as much a leaning-left stagger of sorts with eyes down on the trail. I grew up in Connecticut about 5 miles from a jet engine plant where everyone’s fathers worked and all these men affectionately referred to it as Pratt & “Whiskey” aircraft; as the dull roar I was experiencing in the back of my head reminded me of the test house when they fired-up a JT-9 and more than once I looked up to see if a commercial plane was passing overhead. It wasn’t.
Other than a brief stop at Cupid the trek back became somewhat of a blur as I paused only briefly a few times and didn’t really stop again until I reached the twin stone bunkers at the juncture and heading over to Sniktau would have to wait to another day as I was now pretty well weather-beaten. The slog back to the car and lower elevation brought immediate respite as the winds tapered down to a breeze as I reached my truck at 11:16. I’ve had better days in the high country but the day was sunny and clear and I’d made the best of things not allowing the wind to ruin my climb of another Colorado 13’er…………Sweet!
Cupid Peak left,Grizzly Peak center with Torreys Peak behind Grizzly