Whale Peak (13,078′) | CO Rank: 586/637
Front Range | Pike National Forest | Grant, CO
08/30/20 | 6.87 miles | 2,899′ gain | Class 2
WHALE! Who names a mountain in Colorado “Whale” anyway? At any rate, I like climbing peaks with animal names so Whale Peak was a natural next choice. (Other peaks I’ve climbed are named after wolves, bears, and buffaloes; names that fit a little better with Colorado’s native fauna.)
Allie and I decided to climb Whale via the Gibson Lake Trail. The road in was rough but Subaru-able with some care. There were a number of cars already at the trailhead when we arrived at 8am. (Most people were also summiting Whale and not just hiking to Gibson Lake like we first assumed.) The Gibson Lake Trail starts in a lush forest and immediately crosses the North Fork of the South Platte River before heading south and then west to parallel Lake Fork.
The trail was a steady incline all the way to treeline but it flattened slightly as we entered the upper basin.
We found ourselves at the small but pretty Gibson Lake after about 2.5 miles. The trail ends here. We aimed roughly for a willow-filled gully northwest of the lake, keeping to the hillside above the willows on grass and dirt.
Everything above Gibson Lake was steep and occasionally loose, but navigation was straightforward. Once we’d gotten above the willows, we crossed the gully and started up Whale’s northeastern slopes.
The last 500′ was very steep and slow-going on a mix of grass, dirt, and talus.
It was super windy on top so we quickly got our pictures and found a sheltered spot out of the wind for our snack. It was beginning to feel (and look) like fall.
Our descent back down to Gibson Lake was painfully slow. I tweaked my knee somehow (thankfully not seriously) and I could only descend on one leg instead of switching back and forth like normal, so I had to stop more often to rest.
By the time we made it to the lake, the winds had picked up in the basin. We stopped near the water’s edge for a quick break and were subsequently soaked by lake water picked up by a gust of wind. Oh well, it was time to get moving anyways.
Walking down the trail was a lot easier on my knee than the steep slopes and we made decent time back to the car. Whale was a fun little peak and I’m glad we snuck it into an often crappy 2020. And I learned an important lesson, don’t sit near a body of water when it’s windy.