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I'd spent the night camped at a large turnout on US6 overlooking the Arapahoe Ski Area. The road sees little traffic during the night and early morning, with the exception of fuel trucks that aren't allowed in the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 and must use the old highway as a detour. Still, I slept well and had no real complaints for this dirtbag campsite. In the morning I was up early to drive the few remaining miles north to Loveland Pass where I was to start my day. My plan involved a half dozen summits on a long north-south ridgeline just east of the pass. Unlike the previous day's difficult ridge traverse, today's was much more benign. The first half was completely on trail, making for an easy stroll. The off-trail portion had no serious difficulties and was fairly enjoyable. The last segments took advantage of a ski lift and a ride from the ski area back to the pass.
Loveland Pass is fairly popular with hikers and there were already about a dozen cars parked there when I started off at 6a. There are no trail signs that I could find on the east side of the pass, but the Grizzly Peak Trail was well-used and easy to follow. Well above treeline from the start, the views are open as one climbs alpine slopes along the Continental Divide. The south side of the pass flows into the Snake River and then to the Colorado River (this is not the more famous Snake River that flows into the Columbia River and out through Portland, OR), while the north side drains into Clear Creek, east through Denver to the Platt River, and eventually the Mississippi. The trail reaches Pt. 12,915ft in less than a mile, then turns south towards Grizzly Peak. I turned northeast to follow a use trail up to Mt. Sniktau, my first stop. It's about a mile to Sniktau from the turnoff, going over a false summit along the way, all class 1-2. The summit overlooks Interstate 70 to the north with a view west to the Eisenhower Tunnel.
I returned to the trail and continued south to Grizzly Peak, going over unofficially named Cupid along the way. Cupid offers a good view of the Arapahoe Ski Area at the south end of the ridge, through which I would travel towards the end of the outing. At over 13,400ft and with more than 800ft of prominence, Grizzly was the highest and most dominant of the peaks I climbed today. The last 400ft of the trail up Grizzly's NW Ridge are devoid of most vegetation, composed of vast acreage of loose talus. The trail makes passage much easier than it would be otherwise. I reached the summit of Grizzly at the three hour mark, around 9a, finding a couple quietly occupying the highpoint with their canine companion. I apologized for interrupting their moment as I took a few pictures and then retreated. I wandered over to the SW Ridge where the more interesting part of the outing would begin.
I would spend the most of the next two hours traversing the class 2-3 ridgeline to Black Mtn, Lenawee Mtn and Southwest Lenawee, an enjoyable effort made easier in places with a use trail. The more difficult sections were found getting to Black Mtn and then to Lenawee, though nothing harder than easy class 3. The ridge continues to get easier as one travels south. At Southwest Lenawee, the ridge turns west to connect with the Arapahoe Ski Area. I was made aware of the ski area by the sight of a ski patrol sled stashed in the rocks near its boundary. Just beyond, I spotted a red fox at a saddle with its back to me - not often I find one before it finds me. It must have been watching a pika or ground squirrel as I approached, but as soon as it caught sight of me, it fled. Once at the ski area, I used a combination of use trails, cross-country travel and roads to make my way down to the Black Mtn Lodge at the top of the Black Mtn Express Chair. As luck would have it, the lodge was open for lunch business as was the chairlift. This allowed me to ride the chair the rest of the way back down the mountain to the main lodge and parking area. I then walked out to US6 and stuck out my thumb for a ride back up to Loveland Pass. Five or six cars went by without stopping before a guy in a work truck parked nearby asked me where I was heading. He seemed happy to oblige when I told him I was just going up to the pass. Jeff worked for a private forestry company, having been called in to cut down a few trees on the ski area property. During the drive, he had lots to tell me about the state of forestry in Colorado, some of which was interesting, and I was happy to let him talk all he wanted since he was giving me a lift. It seemed important to tell me he was a 4th or 5th generation Coloradan, giving credence to his assertion that outsiders have messed up the Colorado he once knew.
It was noon when Jeff dropped me off at Loveland Pass, the sky now growing darker with the threat of afternoon thunderstorms. I wanted to get one last summit in, Peak 12,585ft on the west side of the pass. Knowing it would be an uncomfortably exposed place to find myself should lightning start up, I made haste to get to the summit and back in less than 35min, a roundtrip distance of just over a mile. A good trail from the pass follows the Continental Divide westward, but it bypasses Peak 12,585ft on its north side. There are various spur trails for at least portions of the route to the summit and I was happy to make it up and back without incident. A few drops began to fall as I returned to the pass, but the real rain would hold out for another hour or so.
I was due in Steamboat Springs that evening, with a few hours' worth of driving to get there. I first drove to Silverthorne at the junction of I-70 and SR9 where I stopped for an early dinner and some supplies. The rain came down in force while I was eating, pounding the ground with a force rarely seen in California. It was still coming down when I went back to Jeep to continue my drive, and I have to admit that the driving was a bit scary, at least for the first twenty minutes or so. Eventually the rain lightened as I continued north, stopping altogether before I reached US40. It would be 85F and smoky when I reached Steamboat - if one doesn't like the weather, it seems a short drive is all that's needed to something different in this state...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Sniktau - Cupid - Grizzly Peak - Peak 12,585ft
This page last updated: Wed Aug 25 13:28:55 2021
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