1/2/13: Loveland Pass Winter Hike

After skiing yesterday in frigidly cold weather (-5 at the summit of Keystone to 5 at the base), this morning I decided I might as well hike towards Grizzly Peak and see how far I could get. This morning’s temperatures were little different, and I left the car on top of Loveland Pass (11,990′ MSL) at about 1045 hrs.; the temperature was -1 degree F, winds were 15 gusting 35-ish out of the WNW. I was hoping that the weather disturbance that came down from Wyoming last night would dissipate enough to get some of the intermittent blue skies that we had yesterday, possibly allowing me to summit Grizzly Peak.

The conditions ultimately proved to be less than acceptable, especially given that I was hiking solo (this route is commonly traveled even in the winter, especially for people training for mountaineering endeavors in other parts of the world). I made it beyond the high point at 13,117′ named Cupid, to a stack of rocks that is the ‘crux’ of the Grizzly climb, that is, the hardest part to negotiate. Although Grizzly isn’t particularly difficult (a Class I hike, really), in these conditions I chose not to go any further, for obvious reasons. The weather wasn’t getting much better, and due to the abundant blowing snow and clouds rolling in and out, the images I was taking were all going to be low-contrast mush. Fortunately on the way back the sun occasionally peeked out for three or four minutes, only to disappear again into the clouds.

At 1100 hrs when I started, at 11,990′ the temp was -1 (car thermometer), A-Basin’s summit reporting station was reporting -6 at 12,462′, so at 13,000′ feet the temp was probably closer to -10 degrees. Assuming the temp was about -7, add in 15 miles an hour of wind, and the wind chill was probably around -29°F. My Canon 5D MkIII (which I didn’t bother to try and keep warm, and stayed outside of my jacket) performed perfectly throughout. My Garmin GPS didn’t fare so well, and cannot start up past the boot screen. The warm water in the Camelback worked fine for the first 2.5 hours, until I inadvertently pulled the bite valve and insulated cover off. If you find it up there, give me a ring.
A bit over 4 miles and 2000′ feet of climbing took about 3 hours. It was a good test of equipment and intestinal fortitude, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that again anytime soon, at least not on purpose. It’s good to know your limits out there, what does and doesn’t work, what’s ‘worth it’ and what is not. Not sure if it was ‘worth it’ to capture these pictures, but here they are…