"North Traverse Pk", 13079'
"Grand Traverse Pk", 13041'
Start: Bighorn Creek TH, 8600'
Finish: Deluge Lake TH, 8700'
approx. 11miles, 5000' gain, 10hrs 20min
Thanks to Jon Bradford and Kane for excellent beta!
Scott Patterson and I dropped his car at the Deluge TH and drove to the Bighorn TH, the shuttle saving about 1.5 miles. We started my first Gore Range hike at 6:10am. The trail is easy to follow and ascends steadily over 4 miles to an old cabin. We continued on the trail awhile further but abandoned it when it was unclear that it was going our way. We dropped off the trail into some marshland and slowly worked around to the NW face of North Traverse Pk. Scott wisely restrained me from leading us more directly up the loose west face.
We ascended loose rock and grass above the basin, at one point climbing up a sketchy chimney with more dirt and vegetation than rock. Above this we ascended a grassy gully and then worked our way to the saddle north of North Traverse Pk. We then hiked south up the class 2-3 ridge to the summit, reaching it at 11:10am. Great views of many peaks I could not identify.
The skies were somewhat difficult to read. Around us were white gentle clouds and blue skies - more threatening clouds in the distance surrounded the northern Sawatch. So, with some uncertainty, we set off for Grand Traverse Pk at 11:20am.
The initial portion of the ridge was easy to follow, and we reached Pt 13035 in about 15 minutes. All along the traverse we took note of potential escape routes back to Bighorn Creek. There seemed to be plenty of options, which was reassuring, although we couldn't know that a gully wouldn't cliff out farther down.
In general, we did not go out of our way to stay on the ridge-top, choosing whichever path seemed quickest and most direct. After 35 minutes from North Traverse Peak, we reached the crux gendarme, knowing it requires a class 4 ascent and descent. Convincing myself I could down-climb it if necessary, I went up the fat gendarme. There were plenty of good holds and loose rock. From the top, I realized I really didn't want to down-climb this after all!
On top of the tower, we walked 20' or so to the other end. There did not seem to be a good way to descend. We had read that the route descends on the left and then winds around to the right. Well, all we could see below on the left were some exposed grassy ledges below a 4th class downclimb.
Exercising faith that the route would go, we descended one at a time to the small grassy ledges. We then traversed carefully around the tower, at one point preferring the solid rock to the ledges below.
As we turned the corner it was a relief to see that we were going to be able to follow the ledges back to safe ground. After all this, we noted a notch to the SW of the tower. We did not go back to verify, but it may have been possible to drop 50', go through the notch and avoid this crux tower completely.
The rest of the route contained more up and down but required nothing beyond simple scrambling. We bypassed several more towers on the right. Finally, the summit came into view. We ascended one last slope of loose and solid rock and reached the summit of Grand Traverse Pk at 1pm. The traverse had taken us 1hr 40min.
The weather had held nicely, but we now got a sprinkling of hail on the summit. We cut our visit short, descending the SE ridge to the saddle with Valhalla and then picking our way down to Deluge Lake. This area is very scenic, but ascending the talus to the summit of Grand Traverse Pk from this direction must be a chore.
We caught the Deluge Lake Trail and started heading down. Then we started heading up. And across. And up some more. We verified on the map that the trail was supposed to do this. Eventually the trail starts heading down rapidly. The final 1/2 mile taunted us again with its meanderings. We reached Scott's vehicle at 4:30pm.
Overall, the route was not as difficult technically as we'd expected, though one could make it 5th class in a hurry. There was not any 4th class required besides the crux tower, and that could possibly be bypassed on the right. The Gores are indeed scenic. We saw a couple climbers from a distance and a couple hikers on the trail below. Not too busy for an August Saturday!