| The Beauty of Indian Peaks - A Mount Neva Snow Climb
O' Great Spirit, help me always to speak the truth quietly,
to listen with an open mind when others speak,
and to remember the peace that may be found in silence.
- Cherokee Prayer
I've had my eye on Mt. Neva for a few years now. Perhaps it has had its eye on me.
I hiked to Arapaho Pass for the first time in the summer of 2008. As I approached the pass, Mt. Neva's powerful presence grabbed my attention like an eagle on the attack. I've returned to the area a few times since and Mount Neva always commands my respect. The mountain is a proud and distinguished monarch at the head of the Middle Boulder Creek drainage.
I could say more about what this region means to me but the photos should do the real talking. I've made it no secret in previous reports and postings that I love the Indian Peaks. After too many cold and snowy months apart, this adventure to the top of Mt. Neva reaffirmed my passion.
Mount Neva, 12814 ft. (ranked 773rd in Colorado)
Climb date: Saturday, July 2, 2011
Trailhead name:Fourth of July, approx. elevation 10,160 ft.
Distance: Approx. 9 miles round-trip
Gain: Approx. 2700 ft.
Here are some resources for additional Mt. Neva beta:
Colorado's Indian Peaks by Gerry Roach
Colorado Snow Climbs by Dave Cooper
Captions on top of photos.
Ascent route shown in red. Descent through the North Fork drainage is shown in blue.
Mt. Neva's northeast cirque is shown in the photo below. There are multiple lines to the summit ridge. Juliet is shown in blue, Desdemona is shown in red. I choose the line in green - the northeast slope. It has no cornice. Every line is about the same slope angle, 45 degrees. The northeast slope is the longest line (about 500') but the least aesthetic (the other lines are nicely inset).
I start up the trail at 5 AM. Mt. Neva comes into view thirty minutes later.
Alpenglow illuminates the summit of Mt. Jasper at 5:45 AM.
Mt. Neva receives its sun hit at 6 AM.
I circle around the southeast side of still-frozen Lake Dorothy. A cairn shows the way. The northeast cirque comes into clear view.
I contour across easy snow slopes into the northeast cirque. This is the start of the climb. Steps have been kicked into the northeast slope (shown in green). The Juliet line is to the immediate right with the small cornice above it. Further to the right is Desdemona, guarded by a massive cornice. It's 7:30 AM - an hour later than I would prefer.
I get on the slope. The snow is soft but the steps hold. I start up the slope, at first cautiously, and then quickly.
I look straight ahead, into the slope. Sink axe, left step, right step, sink axe, left step, right step. I become like a machine, stopping just a few times for a breather but I do not linger. I use my angle gauge to measure the slope at 45 degrees.
The top of the slope rolls over gracefully. I've taken exactly thirty minutes to ascend the line. It's now 8 AM.
Four ranked 13ers fill the view to the northeast. From left to right are Apache Peak, Navajo Peak, Arikaree Peak, North Arapaho Peak, and Old Baldy.
The view to the north is just as impressive. In the distance are Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker. The nearest ridgeline is formed by Hopi on the left and the distinctive summit of Iroquois on the right.
A skier climbs the steps up the northeast slope.
A wide view to the east. The summit of Mt. Neva is the prominent point on the right.
After ten minutes on the summit, the skier descends the northeast slope.
I climb easy talus to the summit proper and take a look down the skier's descent line. I'm jealous.
I turn to the south where I locate my descent route shown in green. It's a low-angle snow slope that drops from the ridge with Mt. Jasper.
The descent from the summit of Mt. Neva is across a mild tundra and talus slope. It doesn't take long before I reach the low-point in the connecting ridge to Mt. Jasper (seen here at top left). I drop into the notch.
I love what I see. The snow is firm and never-ending. I can walk on snow all the way back to the 4th of July Mine and the main trail (shown in blue). I'm happy, and I smile. I take hold of my axe and glissade the slope.
I reach the frozen lakes and turn to look back at Mt. Neva. My track from the ridge is visible on the left.
I'm subdued by the size of the snow blocks - some 4 feet across - that fell in the collapsed cornice. I imagine the injury that would occur if caught in the fall line.
I walk across a mile of firm snow and do not posthole once. I look back - it's a perfect day. Mt. Jasper is on the left, Mt. Neva is on the right.
I see movement in my periphery. A coyote watches over my movements. It appears to be one of the largest and healthiest coyotes I have seen.
The descent from Mt. Neva is an absolute pleasure. Flowers, birds, ponds, coyote, firm snow - I look back and say thanks to this most-impressive little mountain.
I regain the summer trail at the Fourth of July Mine where I encounter many day hikers out for a stroll. Needless to say I look a bit crazy with ice axe, helmet, and crampons hanging from pack, gaiters on my legs, and silvery sunscreen smeared all over my face. The questions come from many - where did you come from? - what do you have that for? - did you go up there alone? - are there any 14ers around here? I laugh and chuckle at their innocence and good hearts.
It could be a quick descent to the car but I linger a bit. The weather is good and the flowers are out. The next six weeks of brilliant color should be savored. It only happens once a year.
I reach the car, replace polyester with cotton, and drink a quart of chocolate milk. I start the car and head down the road, carefully navigating through a mash-up of a hundred vehicles, dogs, children, and adults. I'm happy that I got an early start. There were only 3 cars parked in the lot at 5 AM.
I stop off the road a few times to explore some curiosities, like this field of purple flowers.
One of my favorite waterfalls is just below the road, out-of-view of passerbys. I stop to take some photos but the sun is high and bright and the photos are blown-out. I put the camera away, take a seat on a warm boulder, and just drink it in. It doesn't take much to become thoroughly intoxicated. Here is a toast to the Indian Peaks! Cheers.
Photos of the waterfall were taken on June 12, 2011.