Gray Wolf Mountain (13,602′) | Colorado | 06/29/19


Gray Wolf Mountain (13,602′)  | Front Range | CO Rank: 190/637

Summit Lake Trailhead | Arapahoe National Forest & Mount Evans Wilderness | Idaho Springs, CO

06/29/19 | 5.10 miles | 2,188′ gain | Class 2


FINALLY! It has been a long time coming this year with the large amount of snow we’ve had, but I FINALLY made it up a 13er, and have plans next weekend for a 14er. Yass!!!

One of my goals for this coming winter is to purchase (and learn how to use) winter gear so I can do more during the winter months. (Better spikes & snowshoes, ice ax, etc.) My heart has been hurting that I haven’t gotten up high much sooner than the end of JUNE. And I desperately need to change that.

I had a bit of a scare last week after my Threemile Creek hike. That night, a bunch of us went out dancing to celebrate my friend Steph leaving for grad school. I woke up the next morning with a strange foot pain that I’d never felt before. (I have foot issues but even this was new to me!) I couldn’t put pressure on the ball of my foot, so I limped around for a few days until I could get into the doctor. By then, the pain had nearly completely gone away, but I still wanted to get things checked out. She felt my foot and determined that I likely popped a joint capsule out of place, and that it had just gone back into place as the swelling went down. So I should be fine! I was still a little worried, but decided to just be cautious about how far I went if my foot started to hurt again. And as luck would have it, I would have NO foot pain the entire hike! Yay!

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Mount Evans (14,264′) above Summit Lake

I arrived to a nearly full Summit Lake parking lot at 6:45am. I was shocked at how many people were climbing Mount Evans this morning. I don’t remember it being this busy in the past! (At least not this early!) I followed the flat, easy trail to the Chicago Lakes overlook and turned left to follow the Mount Evans trail. Although Mount Evans wasn’t my destination today, I did follow the trail for about a mile before I turned off to head to Gray Wolf Mountain.

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Chicago Lakes

Fun fact: Gray Wolf Mountain is the last high peak (above 13k’) that I had to summit in the Mount Evans area. I’ve now summited all 11! It also makes my 16th unique 13er overall and #1 for 2019. My original 2019 goal was to complete 25 new 13ers. With such a late start, I’m unsure if I’ll get 24 more but it’s always worth a try!

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The summit of Gray Wolf is just visible beyond the cliffs (center)

After the Chicago Lakes overlook, the Mount Evans trail becomes much steeper. It climbs up Mount Spalding (13,842′) before cutting over to Mount Evans. I didn’t need to summit Spalding today, but I did need to climb high enough that I could cut above the cliffs (pictured above). I was hoping that I could turn off the trail right above the cliffs and walk along the edge, saving myself from any extra elevation gain.

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Summit Lake, parking area visible below.

Unfortunately there was a steep snowfield above the cliffs that I wasn’t comfortable traversing with my minimal (and honestly not up to par) winter gear. So I continued to climb up Mount Spalding until I reached a more snow-free area.

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Gray Wolf Mountain (center), near where I cut off the main trail.

I descended on grass and rock, cringing at the thought of having to climb back up later. I was able to link up bare areas most of the way, with only a few short sections of easy snow. I could see people watching me from the main trail, probably wondering where the heck this stupid girl was going. There is no trail over to Gray Wolf, so I imagine most people don’t even know Gray Wolf exists.

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Gray Wolf on the left

I needed to head down Spalding to the saddle between it and Gray Wolf. I had read that the saddle is very marshy and that you should keep high towards the right to avoid standing water as much as possible. So that’s what I did, at least on my ascent. I kept right, avoiding most of the snow and most of the marsh. Even on the slopes, there were wet spots. I couldn’t avoid getting wet feet, but it wasn’t too bad.

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See how marshy it is?

I was doing pretty well so far, although I was moving pretty slow due to the altitude. I’m hoping that I can get better and faster this year!

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Heading up to the base of Gray Wolf, summit hidden behind this false summit.

There is a false summit on Gray Wolf, but I was expecting it and it really wasn’t too bad. Again I kept right as I ascended, avoiding most of the snow. I hadn’t seen many wildflowers so far, but a few of my favorites were starting to pop up.

Gray Wolf was steeper than expected, and I slowly picked my way through the rocks and small patches of snow.

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Finally the true summit is visible!

I was SO happy to have made it! The weather had been perfect, just a little cold and windy at the summit, but otherwise sunny and warm! The views were incredible. I found the summit register hidden in the summit cairn and signed it. The last entry was from September, and the oldest entries were only from 2018? I wondered what happened to everything from before then. I took a picture of the register and didn’t realize until I got home that I’d dated my summit as 2018. Seriously? What the heck was I thinking! Hahah, oh boy. Hopefully the next person can correct that for me.

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Summit views, 14ers Grays and Torreys Peaks visible.
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Mounts Evans (left), Spalding (center), Bierstadt (right)
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Summit cairn with 13ers Rogers and Warren in the background.

After a quick pit-stop at the summit (only about 10 minutes) I started my descent back to the saddle. I didn’t descend the exact same way and ended up on steeper ground than earlier. It was okay, but I much prefer the security of more gradual terrain.

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Nearing the saddle looking back at the route over to Spalding. Once on the slopes of Spalding, I followed the dry patches towards the left.

I had the entire route (off the main trail) to myself so far, but I did pass a few others attempting Gray Wolf on my way out.

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There has to be buried treasure here!

I made the decision to cut straight across the saddle instead of the higher route I took earlier. I already had wet feet so I didn’t think the marshy area would really be that bad. Yeah. Big mistake.

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Marshy

Most of the saddle was wet but not terrible cold. My wet feet somehow got wetter but it wasn’t terrible. I crossed a flat snowfield which supported my weight wonderfully until I got about halfway across. The snow became softer and then all of a sudden my feet plunged into more than 6 inches of snowy water. I can’t even describe to you how cold it was. As soon as I realized what was happening, it was too late to turn around. My feet were already submerged. I continued on as fast as I possibly could, trudging through the freezing watery slush. I knew I needed to keep my feet moving, not only to get through, but afterwards to keep my circulation going. I continued to walk as fast as I could as my feet continued to burn for minutes after I was out of the water. Finally they started to warm up as I reached the steep slopes of Mount Spalding.

I followed the same route up as I did down, eventually ending up back on the main trail. Finally! So my wet feet and I trudged back down the trail. It was getting busier and busier. Dozens of people were attempting to climb Mount Evans as I was heading down. I don’t know why, but I always get loads of questions on these type of hikes. Maybe because as a solo female, I seem approachable? Many asked me if I’d summited Evans/Spalding/etc, and my answer of “no, I actually went over to Gray Wolf today” was met with confused stares. Oh well!

Our time on the main trail had been pretty uneventful thus far. I did have my dog Otis with me but he had been doing great, such a good boy! When we got to the one part on the trail that I truly believe to be Class 3 and NOT 2, we had a little problem. A man had stopped right below (in the trail) and so we pulled off to let him come up. He evidently had no intention of that, however, and just sort of milled around for a bit before moving slightly out of the way, only to watch us from a distance of approximately 3 feet away. Ugh! I tried to get us down as quickly as possible, to get out of this guy’s way, but it’s easier said than done when there’s a dude breathing down your neck. It was nearly a 4 foot drop, and although Otis had no problem jumping up earlier, getting down was more difficult. I tried to guide him down the easiest part but he just jumped and took a little tumble. He wasn’t injured, but a little spooked, and needed a little extra help at the next (though easier) downclimb.

Shortly after, we came around a corner and were face to face with two mountain goats. Oh, hello. Normally I’d get a picture but I’d already put my camera away and Otis was way too interested in the goats for my liking. We were too close (unintentionally, but still) and the goats really didn’t like it. They gave us the stare down and eventually moved out of the way enough that we could safely pass.  I tried to keep Otis from looking at them, and that seemed to help!

Eventually we made it back to the flat trail at Summit Lake and back to the car. Otis was very excited for his doggie bed. I couldn’t believe the number of people! People were parking down both sides of the road, ON THE TUNDRA (not even on gravel!) and it was just insane. I was happy to get away from the commotion and have a nice drive home.

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Otis was very tired after our adventure!

Chelsea


 

26 thoughts on “Gray Wolf Mountain (13,602′) | Colorado | 06/29/19

  1. Andrea Frazer

    I like your goals and motivation to follow up on them. What do you love most about hiking? (I ask because I like to hike every day during the summer but not huge mountains like yours.)

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    1. I love everything about hiking! It’s a different world where I don’t have to worry about work, stress, or normal life things. I can just BE and focus on getting to my destination. I feel more like I “belong” when I’m in the mountains than anywhere else, and I am at peace.

      Summiting is different altogether. Most summits are pretty difficult to get to, and so when you do get there, it feels like a big accomplishment. Only a strong (mentally and physically) person could do this, and it gives me a sort of “high”.

      Hiking also gets me into really good shape which I like as well. I like to feel strong and can definitely feel myself get stronger/faster/etc.

      Often I feel like I don’t hike because I “like it”, I hike because I need to! A very large part of me needs to get out as often as possible to remain in a normal state of happiness.

      Sorry for the really long answer, but I hope that answers your question!

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      1. Andrea Frazer

        Yes, that makes perfect sense. For me this is writing. I can’t NOT do it. I love the high and the connection and the feeling of peace. I feel like all of us are on different life terrains all reaching the ultimate summit of growth and connection. We just have different landscapes to do it in! Enjoy your week and all your hiking!

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      1. The Spaulding to Evans hike is pretty cool. Did that one a few years back. Like the idea of heading over to a 13er no one really goes to.

        Another fave: The Loveland Pass 13ers. Cupid to Grizzly D was a good one. Given more time and better conditioning, I’d like to have added Torreys to that one.

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      2. Definitely! It’s always fun to have the place to yourself!

        Also look into Sniktau (Loveland Pass), Flora (Berthoud Pass), James (St Marys Glacier), Rosalie/Epaulie/Epaulet (Mt Evans Rd). All will likely have loads of people (except the Rosalie trio) but are all close to Denver and super fun & beautiful!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi,

    I loved this 🙂 The photos are awesome too, especially the one of all the summits. I love hiking. It makes me feel like “I own” because there’s not too many people, let alone women, who do the things I do. In fact, I don’t know anyone, male or female, who hike long distances solo. I love the looks I get when I say, “I walked here.” I just got a t-shirt made up that says exactly that. I can’t wait to wear it to the Metallica concert in October. I’m walking 445km to get there. Another cool t-shirt I came up with is a play on Straight outa Compton. It says Straight outa Hiking.

    Is your dog an Australian Red Cattle Dog? He looks like it! I’ve got one of those. His name is Biggie (after Biggie Smalls).

    Like

  3. Pingback: Horseshoe Mountain (13,898′) & Peerless Mountain (13,348′) | Colorado | 07/14/19 – Colorado Chelsea

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