West Slopes

Page Type
Colorado, United States, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
Most of a day
Class 2-3

Route Quality: 3 Votes

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Page By:
West Slopes
Created On: Aug 29, 2004
Last Edited On: Mar 9, 2006

Getting to the turnoff near Broken Hand Pass

Please refer to the Trailhead and Approach sections on the main page for directions to Cottonwood Lake or the South Colony Lakes 4WD Trailhead.

From Cottonwood Lake, the hike up to Broken Hand Pass has become substantially easier thanks to some more great work by the RMFI. Hike up the newly completed trail until you're about 100' below the pass. Keep looking to the rock ribs on the right for a cairn that will let you know it's time to leave the trail for Broken Hand Peak.

From the South Colony Lakes 4WD Trailhead, hike 1.5 miles to the lower South Colony Lake. Begin a cairned traverse across Broken Hand Peak's talus-covered north slopes and into a bowl that points southwest toward Broken Hand Pass. Hike up to the 13,100' pass, following cairns as you go. You may encounter some light scrambling as you near the pass. Reaching the pass is getting easier thanks to work by the Rocky Mountain Field Institute. Their eventual goal is to complete a sustainable trail all the way to South Colony Lakes. From the pass, descend about 100' on the western side, looking left to the rock ribs for a cairn that will let you know to leave the trail for Broken Hand Peak.

Route Description

A key to this route is determining where to leave the Broken Hand Pass trail west of the pass. It's at approximately 13,000', one-hundred feet below the pass, but another way to help you figure it out is to know that you need to stay below some of the large spires and pinnacles on Broken Hand's northwest ridge. Much of your climb will be on comfortable grassy slopes, and you'll do a few slight ups and downs to avoid some rock ribs that jut in your way. Use your best judgment, and you'll end up on the northwest ridge about 2-300' below the summit. Don't be fooled by this spire – it's not the summit, and you still have more to go. Broken Hand's summit appears quite modest compared to some of the formations you've already passed. The small summit structure can require some light scrambling, or there is a small gully on the southwest side that can net you the apex while keeping the difficult at class 2. Return your ascent route.
Broken Hand Peak s West...West Slopes route overlay

Or you can descend via the south slopes route. This route only makes sense if you've come from Cottonwood Lake. It descends to the Broken Hand/Crestolita saddle, and it appears it would be an easy hike on grass and talus. Then you'd descend the gentle slopes northwest from the saddle toward Cottonwood Lake, finishing a small Tour de Broken Hand. The only possible hang-up to this route could be loose rock. It wasn't clear to me whether there'd be some scree to deal with, and we didn't have the time to check it out for ourselves during our afternoon climb.

Essential Gear

Standard hiking gear. Early season climbs would require crampons and an ice axe to attain Broken Hand Pass.