Having only gotten one summit this summer (Pikes Peak back in July) I was really wanting to get in one more hike this year before winter set in. As luck had it, a family wedding invitation showed up at the house late this summer...the location, Golden, CO! Since neither myself or my wife were in the wedding, we were going to have a couple of extra days that weren't all booked up with activites. I thought about getting up early and heading to Breck and trying Quandary, but I really want to save that one and summit it with my youngest daughter. (We had an unsuccessful attempt at San Luis Peak back in August and I think Quandary might be a good one for her.) I also thought about Evans or Bierstadt, but I want to do both and I think time constraints would make it too hard.
A little research led me to decide that Loveland Pass wasn't too far away, had some good 13ers and I needed to start a 13er summit list anyways, so my plan was set to head to the pass on Friday morning to bag Mt. Sniktau, Cupid and Grizzly Peak D.
I woke up at the hotel in Golden at 4:30 and was in the car on my way to Loveland Pass at 5:00. Arrived at the pass at 5:50 and started my hike at straight up 6 AM. The only sign of life I saw before daylight came was about 10 sets of glowing eyes off to the right of the trail down the side. I have a feeling it may have been goats but I never did see what it was once it was light enough. Besides the marmots and pika that was all I saw the whole day.
The trail from Loveland Pass immediately starts up hill at a pretty steady rate until you reach PT 12,915. The trail is easy to follow and is not too slippery or loose.
Sunrise over the Front Range!
Early morning shot to the SW.
Once on the top of PT 12,915 you can choose to either go right to Cupid and then on to Grizzly Peak D or go left to Mt. Sniktau. I chose to go left and bag Mt. Sniktau first and then see how I felt before deciding wether or not to go any further. You also get to see that a lot of elevation gain has already been accomplished.
Looking back down towards Loveland Pass from just under the summit of PT 12,915
Alpenglow views from PT 12,915
I reached PT 12,915 at about 6:45...slow....and looked over at what I thought was Mt. Sniktau and started over to it. I soon found out that the peak I had been looking at was not Mt. Sniktau at all, but PT 13,152. This point did a fantastic job at not only completely blocking the view of Sniktau during the hike over from PT 12,915, but also at diminishing my morale as to the pace I thought I was getting.
Looking over at Mt. Sniktau from PT 13,152.
Looking down at Loveland Pass from PT 13,152
The remaining trail from PT 13,152 to Sniktau is well defined and not too hard at all...it looks worse than it is.
Looking up the trail at Sniktau's summit
Looking up the trail to Mt. Sniktau
A rockier part of the hike on Mt. Sniktau.
I got to Mt Sniktau's summit at about 7:15 and enjoyed the views for about 10 minutes and enjoyed some Gatorade, gummi worms and a Clif bar.
Eisenhower Tunnel from just below Sniktau's summit.
Mt. Sniktau's beat-up USGS summit marker.
I decided that I was feeling well enough to continue on, so I headed down the saddle back to PT 13,152 and then back down and up to PT 12,915. Once back on PT 12,915 the view over to Cupid shows a distinct trail that was on mostly gentle terrain.
Looking up at the remaining trail to Cupid
Well defined trail up Cupid
A look back at all the trail that I had already covered. I took this from the Cupid/PT12,915 saddle.
It was 8:25 when I started off to Cupid and I enjoyed the gentle slope and views.
Looking up towards Cupid's nearby summit!!!
I got to Cupid's summit just before 9:00. The views from here were amazing!!! 8)
Great view of the majestic Grays and Torreys from Cupid.
Quandary and Breck from the summit of Cupid.
Mt. of the Holy Cross from Cupid.
Another shot of Holy Cross...looks amazing!
Views from the summit of Cupid.
At this point it was decision time...looking over at Grizzly Peak D. I decided that because I had an appointment just after lunch, Grizzly Peak would have to wait. It looked a little more exposed than what I had done so far and also a little steeper and further. So I knew it would be more time consuming than I could handle today, but just like Meatloaf said many years ago, "Two out of three ain't bad!" Besides that peak isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
I looked over to my return route and I noticed a well defined trail that skirted across the side of PT 12,915 far below the summit that looked like it intersected the initial trail up from Loveland Pass. I dropped down to the saddle between Cupid and PT 12,915 and found a cairn that marked where this trail started at the saddle. It was a blessing since I really didn't want to have to summit PT 12,915 for a third time today and this trail would help knock off some time. The entire trail is on gentle terrain, except for a little while that it is a little steep, but not loose.
Some typical trail conditions for the entire hike
Looking down at Arapahoe Basin
Trail conditions on the PT 12,915 by-pass trail
Another look at I-70 far below
Self portrait. Had to do it all myself since no one else was to be seen!
Looking up at Cupid from the lower trail that by-passes PT 12,915's summit
After about half an hour I came to the point that the lower trail intersected with the trail that goes straight up to PT 12,915 from Loveland Pass. I had walked right past this intersection in the dark of the morning and never even knew it was there. If you happen to see this intersection you can go to the right and avoid having to summit PT 12,915 three times if you are planning what I had planned...very handy. I can't remember for sure, but I think this intersection is about 1/3 of a mile up from the TH.
The intersection that you can take early in the hike depending on what you want to do first.
Just a few more short minutes and I was back at the Loveland Pass parking area!
Almost back to the car!
Loveland Pass sign, 11,990 feet above sea level
Watch out for long range weapons!!!!
Time to head back to Golden for a great lunch at Old Capitol Grill and then some free beer at the brewery!!! 8)
My thoughts and observations about this hike: I think I have been so focused on bagging 14ers for the last 4 years that I have been guilty of neglecting the often overlooked 13ers that Colorado offers. This was a great hike and for a Friday was quite secluded. I saw only 3 other people right before I started off towards Cupid and I saw 4 other folks up at PT 12,915 while I was starting my descent down the by-pass. If you are planning to try this hike, start early. You really do end up racking up the elevation gain with all the roller coaster type of ups and downs between Sniktau, PT 13,152, PT 12,915 and Cupid...throw in Grizzly Peak D and you are really gettin' it then!!! The views of Grays and Torreys is amazing...it was cool looking at them and then thinking to myself, "I have been there."
The trail is mostly gentle with just a few steeper sections and a few rocky parts, but exposure is almost absent on this part of the hike. I think Grizzly may quite a bit more exposure...at least it looks like it from Cupid! No loose areas and really no sliding on this one, which was surprising to me. The views are great overall and really, anyone that has any hiking experience should be able to give this one a shot and enjoy it and still get that feeling of accomplishment.