Friday, October 5, 2012

Thursday Adventure: Grizzly Peak, Colorado

It's funny how people get so excited over arbitrary numbers. Here in Colorado, every outdoor enthusiast is obsessed with the Fourteeners: the state's 54 peaks with summits over 14,000 ft in elevation.  Seriously, one of the most common questions asked in casual conversation (right after "Which are you, skier or snowboarder?") is "How many 14ers have you done?" Climb a 14er near Denver on a weekend, and you'll share the trail with hundreds of people.  Whereas if you instead climb one of the 700+ Colorado peaks with summits between 13,000 and 14,000 ft, you can enjoy near total solitude.  

So for this week's adventure, I'll share a few pics from a hike I did up a 13er only an hour's drive from Boulder: 13,427 ft. Grizzly Peak.  Grizzly sits right on the Continental Divide, not far from Loveland Pass.  There's no actual trail; you just drive up to the top of Loveland Pass, park, and start trekking along the ridge over several unnamed smaller peaks until you reach Grizzly's summit.  First you travel flowering tundra:

The alpine flowers are as beautiful as the views
As the ridge goes on, in the early season you have your choice of tromping on snow or scrambling over easy class 2 talus:

My husband Robert (left) and the rest of our group; Grizzly is the peak in the background

A patch of alpine forget-me-not (one of my favorite tundra flowers)

Me and Robert, enjoying the day
As you get higher, the ridge narrows and gets a bit more "sporty":

Ridge below Grizzly's summit
The summit itself is nice and broad and has wonderful views of the surrounding peaks (including 14ers Grays and Torreys).  
View from Grizzly Peak's summit
All in all, it's a lovely hike.  The only concern is exposure to thunderstorms, since the entire trek is above timberline.  Start early in the summer months!  Wind can be a factor, too - Loveland Pass is notorious for high winds, and it's no fun to have to crawl along a ridge to avoid being knocked flat.  We lucked out with a nearly calm day - always nice when above timberline.


  1. Your pictures are beautiful, and the view looks awesome, but I have to admit I really like the forget-me-nots. I have one preserved in resin, and I'd love to see them live some day, but DEFINITELY not enough to climb a mountain.

    So it's great that you like the crazy mountain bits and are willing to share the pictures with those of us who are more faint of heart.

    1. Wait, the climbing is the fun part...! :) But if you want to see forget-me-nots without having to pant up a peak, I recommend one day taking a summer drive along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mtn National Park - the road traverses alpine tundra and has many viewpoint pullouts where you can easily stroll along admiring flowers.

      My own personal favorite alpine flower is spring gentian, which I've only ever seen in the Alps. It's the most intense blue I've ever seen in a flower: When we were in Austria we saw spring gentians everywhere above timberline - wish they'd grow here in Colorado.

    2. They're blue because they're gasping for air. It's the only explanation that makes any sense.

      Bet you're glad you got out on your hike before the snow rolled in.

    3. And here I thought it was just that spring gentians took inspiration from the sky, being so much closer to it and all....but yeah, your explanation makes more sense. :P

      Actually, this hike was from early summer several years ago - I only WISH I could've gotten out a few more times before the snow came this year! But that's okay. I'm salivating for ski season, so bring on the powder...

  2. It's funny how people get so excited over arbitrary numbers

    I got excited when I cracked 10,000 on a drive out of Yellowstone. My first time that high. (not counting airplanes)

    The alpine meadow is particularly beautiful!

    1. Hey, it's always cool to set a new personal elevation record. I'm really looking forward to climbing above 14,505 ft one day (that's the height of Mt Whitney's summit, the highest peak in the contiguous US, and one of my favorite climbs). I just need to get to either Alaska or South America...

  3. 700+ peaks over 13,000 ft? Whoa.

    It's far easier hiking here in Maine - just fourteen peaks over 4,000 ft. One group of hikers did them all in 24 hrs, and most of that was riding around in a van.

    And wonderful forget-me-nots and spring gentians - it's like a bit of sky rubbed off on them.

    1. I think the speed record for doing all 54 14ers is just under 11 days (and yeah, it involves a fair amount of driving - but also some crazy 4th class connecting ridges, woo!). I hear there's actually a record for "self-powered" 14ers in which you bike between them instead - I think current record is more like 20 days for that one.

      Oh, and I'm with you on the "sky rubbing off" explanation for gentians. :)