Joe and Frédérique Grim, Manuel Fillon and Mary Jackson
3.8 miles roundtrip
1387 feet gain (14% avg. grade)
We started the hike from the new Lumpy Ridge Trailhead (N40.39655 W105.51315, WGS84) and were surprised to find that there were only two other cars than our own. As we were driving up, it was just starting to snow, but at the same time, the sky was just starting to have gaps of blue. Over the next hour and five minutes, we hiked up the icy Gem Lake Trail all the way to Gem Lake (N40.41106 W105.50360), where we had a very nice relaxing lunch on some rocks on the far side of the lake: mostly out of the wind and by that time, mostly under sunshine.
After lunch, we continued north on the Gem Lake Trail a short ways, before cutting off trail (N40.41235 W105.50291) to make our way around the north side of ‘Middle Gemstone’. There on the north side the snow was quite deep, as we sunk in to our knees in many places. As we got around to the northwest side of the gap between ‘Middle and West Gemstones’ (N40.41301 W105.50472), the snow was deep enough that it was over our knees, as we trudged up toward the 6 foot-wide gap between the two peaks. It was the type of snow where a 165 pound man could have walked on top; unfortunately, I’m 170 pounds. So with each and every step I had to raise my foot up out of the deep snow, lean forward and push with that leg to get myself up on top of the snow (we left our poles at the car …) and just as I put my entire weight on that leg, I would fall through.
Eventually, we got up to the gap (N40.41254 W105.50500) and Frédérique scouted out how things looked for climbing on the south side, while I scouted on the north side. Her side ended up being easier and had a lot less snow, so we went her way. From the gap, we had to drop down a little to a place (N40.41228 W105.50521) where we could climb up the steep sides of the canyon. Everyone but me left their packs there. We then climbed up a short ways to a sort of ledge (N40.41240 W105.50530), but Mary decided she would prefer not to try it and stay behind. From there, we made our way around to the south side of the peak (N40.41212 W105.50609), where we could see almost all the way up to the summit. It was a straightforward, continuous class 3 climb most of the way to the top. At one point we reached a place where Frédérique had a very hard time pulling herself up. Fearing that there would be a lot more to come, she opted to wait there for us. Unfortunately for her, there wasn’t anything harder for the rest of the way up, so we’ll have to do it again another time so she can make it to the summit. When Manuel and I finally made it just below the summit, we encountered a class 4 climb to the very top with hardly any holds. Manuel said he was done there, but I wanted to see if I could find a way up. I worked my way along the rock, trying to find any weakness or crack I was willing to try unroped, but didn’t see anything. I then worked my way around the west side of the rock, trying to find another way up. To my pleasant surprise, there was a much easier ascent on the north side. I talked Manuel into trying it too and he joined me on the top. The views from here were great in all directions; I particularly enjoyed the views to the north, where I could see Sheep Mountain that we had climbed two weeks earlier. It was also neat to look down upon the two lower ‘Gemstones’ and know that Gem Lake was tucked in between them. I’ve climbed ‘East Gemstone’ in the past, so now I will have to do the middle one to make it complete.
Manuel and I didn’t stay too long at the summit, so we could get back down to our lovely wives. We picked up Frédérique on the way and when we made it back down to our packs, Manuel had to wake Mary up from a little nap. From there, we descended down the widening gap to the south. The descent was steep and rocky, but all class 3 or easier. At the bottom we found ourselves in a nice valley full of aspens (N40.41100 W105.50690). It was an easy hike through the valley, as we headed south and we soon reached the trail, interestingly right at Paul Bunyan’s Boot (N40.40859 W105.50581). We then followed the icy trail back down to the trailhead.
This was yet another great hike and one worth doing again.
Link to Photos
If you would like to see photos from this and other hikes in the Gem Lake area, you can go to: http://www.joeandfrede.com/colorado/gem_lake/gem_lake.htm
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