Grizzly Peak D (13,427′) | CO Rank: 302/637
“Cupid” (13,117′) | CO Rank: 555/637
Front Range | White River National Forest | Dillon, CO
03/06/21 | 6.12 miles | 2,951′ gain | Class 2
Some mountains climb easy and some make us work for it. Some of the easiest mountains can be the most mentally challenging, while the more difficult mountains may grant us safe and easy passage. Years ago, way before I started this blog, I began my journey to climb Grizzly Peak D. What should, in theory, be a straightforward hike, turned into a multi-attempt summit bid. Crazy winds, thick fog, and sudden storms always turned me around at or before the summit of Cupid, another 13er on the way to Grizzly. Well I finally had a bluebird summer day and I was able to summit totally solo, with nothing but howling coyotes to keep me company. (Yes, really.) It was a wonderful day and I was happy to have finally summited.
Allie was now in the same boat I was in a few years ago. She’d summited Cupid a couple times en route to Grizzly, but was always turned around by weather. And she and I aren’t the only ones, I can think of a few other people who have had similar experiences in this area. It seems Grizzly wants to make you work for it.
We were pretty intent on summiting Grizzly as long as the weather stayed good. Allie wanted redemption and while this was a repeat for me, I was content with getting my first two snowflakes. (Snowflakes are peaks climbed in calendar winter. For some reason unknown to me, this is a big deal in the Colorado mountaineering community.) Grizzly and Cupid are most easily accessed from Loveland Pass. This area is accessible year-round and in winter, the route is almost always windblown with little danger of avalanches or postholing. This would be a great winter option for us: no snowshoeing, no misery, no sliding to our deaths.
From Loveland Pass, we headed straight up, and I do mean straight up on a very wide, braided, and somewhat loose trail. There is no warm-up here, you are simply thrown into a steep climb with the hope that your legs eventually catch up. After climbing 900′ in 0.85 miles, we reached the top of PT 12915, the first of many bumps along this hike.
From PT 12915, we turned south and followed the ridge to Cupid. This section is the easiest part of the hike and keeps pretty gradual, losing 200′ and then gaining 400′ over 0.82 miles.
From Cupid, we continued along the ridge to Grizzly Peak, the remainder of our route fully visible now. The backside of Cupid is steep once again and that steepness doesn’t much let up the rest of the hike. There is one more prominent bump on the way to Grizzly that adds about 150-200′ in each direction. We slowly worked our way along the ridge, following a good bootpack and careful to stay away from the cornices.
I was awed by the beauty of my surroundings and impressed that we had such good weather. Even so, the altitude and exertion were starting to catch up to me. I typically stay low in the winters and so hadn’t been to 13,000′ in a few months, nor had I really been hiking much, especially not anything difficult. I was feeling very tired and moving slowly.
After dropping off the last bump, there is a final 650′ climb to the summit of Grizzly. It’s steep, it’s loose, and it kicked my butt. By the time we reached the summit, I was nauseous and my head was pounding. Super.
I felt better after a break, some snacks, and ibuprofen, but we still had to hike the 3 miles back to the car with all the ups and downs along the way. I made okay time at first, but the further I hiked, the slower I became, even on the downhill sections.
I practically crawled back up Cupid and PT 12915, and considered just rolling myself back down to Loveland Pass. 8.5 hours after we left the car (an insanely long time) we finally made it back down. My headache and nausea hadn’t subsided and didn’t until the next day, when I also found out that my sunscreen hadn’t worked and I looked more like a tomato than a human person.
This certainly wasn’t my favorite day in the mountains, and one I’m not likely to reenact anytime soon. I’m pretty prone to altitude sickness as it is, and I guess I simply wasn’t acclimated or in good enough shape to really tackle this hike. Thankfully I made it home safely, but I need to remember to listen to my body sooner and not push things too much. I may have summited Grizzly, but it definitely made me work for it. Oh, and I also immediately replaced my defective sunscreen and I am happy to report no further issues since, with sunburn or otherwise.
Thanks for reading and happy hiking!