1/20/13: Solo winter ascent of Grizzly Peak, CO

With Colorado’s snowpack slowly dwindling in the long-term high pressure system we’ve been ‘enjoying’, instead of skiing Keystone with the family I took advantage of the stellar bluebird skies to attempt a winter ascent of 13,427′ Grizzly Peak, off Loveland Pass. Grizzly is a popular winter mountaineering training route that I’ve climbed quite a few times in winter, though this was my first solo ascent. On the way up the ridge from the pass, there were two people ahead of me who hung a left to Mt. Sniktau, and I never saw anyone else up there the entire day, a bit unusual, especially due to the marginal skiing conditions. Winds were fairly calm for up there, 15 gusting 35, with temps in the mid-teens to low-twenties when I got back to the car. Pretty benign for January in CO.

This was the first time I’ve ever wished for crampons on this route, as usually you are ascending a wind-scoured rocky ridge with pockets of recent soft snow. What normally would be pockets of somewhat stable snow was rock-hard boilerplate that I had to kick-step through for many sections of the last 600′ to the summit, the steepest part of the climb (see image below with red line showing route). The summit was calm and tranquil, the nearest people about a mile below at Arapahoe Basin ski area. The hike took 4:45 round trip, 6 miles and 3000′ of elevation gain. More tired than I might have liked afterwards, but a great day on the Continental Divide.