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Thursday, August 26,2010

Two for the price of One

By James Dziezynski

Exploring the Colorado ridgelines between peaks
To modify the quote made famous by Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks, it’s a great day for a summit hike, let’s grab two!

Linking together peaks on Colorado’s mountains is a great way to double — or triple or quadruple — your fun in the high country. Whether combining the lofty summits of 14ers or traversing humble hometown hills in Boulder, bagging bonus peaks gives added value to your wilderness excursions.

Of course, tacking on extra miles can be a physically demanding challenge, especially at altitude. The good news is many nearby classic traverses have modest elevation drops between peaks, meaning you’ll have already done the bulk of your vertical work by the time you’ve topped out on your first mountain. Weather is also a major concern, so if you’re going to go big, wake up early and be on the trail at dawn (or ideally, pre-dawn). Make a point to research your route to determine the difficulty of the terrain. Sometimes what looks good on a map can be beastly in person. Don’t be afraid to think big, but definitely take the time to get your mind and body in the right place to push for longer days.

How and where to start

A good base level of fitness is required — that’s certainly not a secret. Beyond that, it’s good to have some hiking experience under your boots so you can gauge your individual water and nutritional needs. Perhaps the best secret weapon when combining peaks is in your mind; mentally preparing for the ups and downs of saddles, ridges and false summits helps keep your body focused. Starting with modest traverses helps prevent both mental and physical fatigue when you decide to tackle more dramatic topography. Climbing mountains is as much in your head as it is in your lungs and legs.

Boulder’s mountain parks just so happen to be the perfect training ground for hikers of all levels. Get your legs into shape by hitting up Mount Sanitas or the less crowded Anemone Trail. Green Mountain, Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak not only offer longer, steeper hikes, they can also be linked together for a great multi-peak day in your own backyard. This trio can be done as a long 12-mile loop or as an approximately seven-mile point-topoint starting at Gregory Canyon and ending at the Shadow Canyon Trailhead in Eldorado Springs. When you feel ready to go for bigger projects, here’s a sampler of some of the best big ridgewalks within three driving hours of Boulder.


For more information, check out www.summitpost.org and www.14ers.com for route descriptions and driving directions. Boulder open parks info can be found at www.bouldercolorado.gov or by calling 303-441-3440.

Classic nearby ridgewalks, traverses

One of the most famous and welltraveled duos is the combo of Grays and Torreys, a pair of 14ers whose summits are a mere .75 miles apart. The solid and well-maintained standard trail, easy access from I-70 and non-technical route make this a classic Colorado hike. If it’s three 14ers you want, you are in luck. Mount Democrat/Mount Lincoln/Mount Bross make up a three-peak route that has the advantage of starting at above 12,000 feet from the Kite Lake Trailhead near Alma — perfect for intermediate to strong hikers. Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak out of the Buena Vista/Poncha Springs area are similar to Grays and Torreys, with both peaks topping 14,000 feet and roughly a mile apart. Mount Belford/ Mount Oxford, also near Buena Vista, are two more 14ers that are non-technical but involve more mileage than the previous routes. Strong hikers can add in Mount Missouri to the two peaks for an epic 14er trio. Mount Sherman is another 14er that has great link-ups with two high 13,000foot peaks: Gemini Peak to the north and Sheridan to the south. The nontechnical traverse of 13ers Ypsilon Mountain/Mount Chiquita and 12er Mount Chapin is a breathtakingly scenic route in Rocky Mountain National Park. Finally, Peak One/Tenmile Peak, high 12ers outside of Frisco, are connected by a moderate ridgewalk with a few fun class 3 scrambles along a solid spine of rock.

For the more experienced

For advanced climbers and hikers who have honed their off-trail skills and are comfortable with more challenging terrain, even more adventure awaits. These class 3 routes do not require ropes, but are recommended for experienced and strong scramblers who are good at route finding. Check out French Mountain/Frasco Benchmark/ Casco Peak — all high Sawatch Range 13ers — just west of the state’s highest summits of Mount Elbert and Mount Massive. Mount Oklahoma/Deer Mountain/Mount Champion are in the same neighborhood and make for an epic day, with stunning views for hours on end.

If you want a variation on the aforementioned Grays and Torreys route, start from Loveland Pass to the west and add in the 13ers Mount Sniktau and Grizzly Peak, which shares a class 2 ridge with Torreys. And for those who like big hills and long days, link up the 13ers Mount Parnassus/ Bard Peak/Pettingell Peak out of Herman Gulch for a huge day playing along the Continental Divide.

These are just a sampling of the peak combos out there — others, such as 13ers Pacific Peak/Atlantic Peak/ Crystal Mountain are just waiting to be climbed. Get your legs ready to roll and start checking off those summits.

But get you better hit the trail soon, because there have already been reports of snow dusting some of Colorado’s highest peaks.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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