Objects on Ridgeline May Be More Challenging Than They Appear

Grizzly Peak

The hard-won summit of Grizzly Peak with Torreys and Grays behind.

Amy and Joe were away for four days in Atlanta, so I set about going as wild as possible in the high-country. First up; an easy ascent of Grizzly Peak (13,427′) from the high, paved Loveland Pass trailhead (11,990′). On paper, this one looks easy enough: a couple miles each way of ridge walking on the Continental Divide starting high and staying high. Should be a breeze! I haven’t been in the mountains much this winter, so this would be a good refresher for winter mountaineering.

Weather conditions were great and everything looked “go” for a nice, mellow day of peak-bagging. But the starting and ending elevations don’t take into account the three minor summits you have to scale on the way to the main event, and again on the way back! The initial 1000′ climb up from the Pass to where the ridge bifurcates on shoulder (12,915′) of Mt. Sniktau was a bit of a puff, but that’s to be expected. Then I dropped down to a broad saddle (12,714′) and climbed the rounded summit of the unofficially-named Cupid (13,117′). Then down a steep slope to a narrow saddle (12,756′) and up again across some moderately challenging ridge across the unnamed hump (12,936′) and down the heavily-corniced south side (12,720′). Finally, a climb of 600 vertical feet in a linear quarter mile up very steep snow and talus to the nice summit of Grizzly Pk. (13,427′). For those of you keeping score at home (and multiplying by two), that’s 2800′ of climbing and descending, all of it above 12,000′!

Grizzly, Grays, and Torreys from one of the lumps along the ridge

Grizzly, Torreys and Grays from one of the lumps on the ridge. And now, the return. All the steep drops from before became steep climbs and vice-versa. I’d briefly considered running out and tagging Mt. Sniktau from the ridge junction (an easy mile each direction), but it looked like it involved climbing up and over another intervening hump each way. The wind was picking up and I was totally whipped. Time to retreat. I still had three more days of bachelor-hood to survive with after all…

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