Hiking 3:00:00  4.0 mi (1.3 mph) +550m
shoes: Salomon XA Pro 3D (2007, gray)
Morning walk along the Continental Divide from Loveland Pass to Grizzly Peak. Conditions were not good - low drizzly clouds moved in as I climbed Grizzly. Sat at the small stone windbreak on the summit with a guy from Boise and a guy from Chicago. Torrey's Peak was next along the ridge and the last 3 or 400 feet were obscured by clouds, although we could see hikers on the Gray's-Torrey's ridge. Sat for a while and we all decided not to climb up into the fog with worsening conditions. As I returned to the pass, even Grizzly was overtaken by clouds. Topo map
I woke up around 7 AM with no bear incidents to report. Between the mountain air and the overnight rain, it was quite cold and gray. Since I had nothing to pack up, I immediately got going and turned on the heat. Last night I had thought about going up to Mt. Evans and read some about Evans and Bierstadt in the 14er book. Even though you can practically drive to the top of Evans, getting over to Bierstadt (another 14er) is a bit of a challenge due to the ridge they call the "Sawtooth". I think I'll attempt that later next week. Instead I got some breakfast in Idaho Springs and headed up to Loveland Pass.
My original thought was to walk the ridge southeast from the pass and see how far I make it - with luck and enough time, I could even make Torrey's Peak. I packed all my warm clothes, water, and some food into the Golite and headed up. The pass is just a hair over 12,000 ft, and is firmly in the alpine tundra zone which extends up another 1,000 ft. This zone is the area above treeline that is still carpeted with green (in the summer), before it finally gives way to bare rock and lichens. It's a beautiful area to hike. The trail east from the pass immediately climbs up to a three-way peak at about 13,100, and you can continue N to Mount Sniktau or SSE towards Grizzly Peak. The SSE ridge varies up and down a few hundred feet and there are areas of loose rock and talus to negotiate, but the trail is quite distinct and it's not a technical hike by any means.
As I was descending into the last saddle before the climb to Grizzly Peak, I noticed a group of about 25 mountain goats coming up the right-hand (west) slope from Arapahoe Basin. The group as a whole was constantly moving, but every now and then individuals would put their heads down to graze. They moved quite quickly up the 40-degree slope towards the spine of the ridge about halfway up the mountain ahead of me. I stopped to take some pictures, and as the herd saw me they picked up the pace and crossed the ridge from right to left, where I lost sight of them.
After that (well appreciated) rest, I started up Grizzly Peak. The footing was fairly good even though the slope was steep, and I used my hands, more to take some of the effort off my legs than to maintain balance. When climbing at altitude like that, one of the keys is keeping a slow-and-steady pace, rather than rushing ahead, then stopping to rest, over and over. That, and not looking too far up (thus seeing how far you have yet to go.) Before I knew it, the trail flattened out and I was on top of the peak at about 13,400. There was a small windbreak made of rocks, and another hiker resting there. I sat down and talked with him a little while. He was from Boise, Idaho and was visiting some friends out here. We were sitting with our backs to the wind, facing east and looking towards Torrey's and Gray's Peaks, the next mountains along the Continental Divide and two of the most popular 14ers in the state. By this time (shortly before 10 AM), the clouds were lowering and covered the last few hundred feet of Torrey's summit. They weren't quite low enough to obscure the ridge between Torrey's and Gray's though, and I could make out several groups of climbers silhouetted against the gray sky.
There was another hiker about 300 yards east along the next ridge, just standing there looking at Torrey's. There was quite a descent in front of him, which necessitated making at least a 1500 foot climb to Torrey's, probably more. Eventually he came back towards us, and announced his intention not to try the peak today, because of the (relatively) late hour and the iffy weather, and the time he expected he'd need to traverse the ridge. The clouds were low and drizzly, without any sign of development into thunderstorms, but they wouldn't have made the ridge walk a very pleasant experience. I found I had to agree with him. He started back down towards Loveland Pass, and I followed him a few minutes later. I caught up with him at the base of Grizzly Peak and we chatted for a while as we made our way back.
After changing into more suitable clothes, I continued down the back side of Loveland Pass, past the Arapahoe "A-Basin" ski resort. Just after the resort there's a small pulloff on the north side of the road with a water pipe, apparently from a spring or permanent stream. Nothing but pure mountain water. I filled up and parked the car in the shade while I took a short nap. I was awakened about 45 minutes later by a truck full of highway workers who pulled into the turnoff, grabbed a 10 gallon jug out of the back of the pickup, and proceeded to fill it for the day's needs. I guess everyone knows just where to go.
TO BE CONTINUED...