This was intended to be a hike of Grizzly Peak above Loveland Pass just to get my "mountain legs" back, but the weather ended up being a problem.
It had been quite windy in spots on the drive from Boulder (Rocky Flats, the Morrison exit on I-70, and just above Idaho Springs). I arrived at Loveland Pass shortly before 5am and the wind didn't seem too bad. For the first few minutes anyway. After that, the wind really started hauling, or more likely, I just happened to hit a lull when I first got there. As I gearing up, about 3 or 4 times a minute, the wind would raise a cloud of dust and small particles which would wash over me and my car.
I started hiking at 0526, and after a minute I was on top of a little flat spot just above the parking lot. It was very windy here, so I got out my wind gauge. The average speed was 50 mph, but it took a while to register a gust to 60 mph. Considering that I was expecting the wind to be even stronger at the top of this first 900-foot climb, I was expecting to turn around and come back at that point. Since the wind was essentially a crosswind (with a slight component from behind) it was hard at times to walk in a straight line.
Ironically enough, the wind never was any worse than at that point. The wind was more typically 30-40 mph, and only occasionally was averaging in the 40s. But, with temperatures in the mid-20s, the wind chill was still around -10 to -15. I didn't have much safety margin with my clothing in such conditions, so I decided to mosey over to Mt. Sniktau instead of Grizzly. This would give me more-or-less a headwind on ascent, so if conditions got really bad I could immediately turn around and descend with the wind. The were a few standing wave clouds developing in the lee of the the main ridgeline, but it was otherwise sunny.
The route from here isn't very steep although you have to descend to a saddle and go over a false summit. Past the false summit there was still a ribbon of snow on the lee side of the ridge which was wide enough for safe travel. Plus, with the sub-freezing temperature, the snow was very hard and stable. So, I unhitched my ice axe and hiked down to the saddle below the false summit, then up to the main summit. This ascent was barely steep enough for me to be able to plant the axe, although there was one very short steeper section.
The summit itself isn't anything special; it's main claim to fame is the view of the east entrance of the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 about 2 miles away. It also gives good views of the surrounding mountains and there is still quite a bit of snow around on most peaks.
The hike down went well, ending a short day. (Sorry; it's already been 3 months since I actually did this hike and at that pace a "full" report wouldn't be done until about Christmas.)
To the chronological trip index
To the Mount Sniktau page
File last modified: 24 November 2005