| Snow & Valhalla: Are We There Yet?
ďSnow PeakĒ (13024í)
ďMount ValhallaĒ (13180í)
11.6 miles RT, 6220í gain
Deluge Creek TH (8720í)
June 10, 2012
I hadnít paid a visit to the Gores yet this year, so it was time to continue my 13er pursuit there. I send out a few invites for Snow and Valhalla, but get no takers. Iíve enjoyed the camaraderie of hiking with partners the last few months, but sometimes it feels good to get out on your own and ponder the mysteries and challenges of life by yourself in the mountains. Iíve been hiking in the Gores for just a few years now, and I have fond memories of each hike. This would be my first solo foray into the Gores, where either you bring your A game or go home!
Iím not real motivated to leave my new place in Lafayette too early as I just moved the rest of my stuff from C. Springs the day before and get only a few hours of sleep. My body feels like Iíve been lifting at the gym all day! The forecast looks sublime though, so why waste a bluebird day! I didnít even have time to pack my stuff and donít get going from the Deluge/Gore Creek trailhead until about 6:45. A group of climbers are about to set off, but I donít have time to mingle as I need to take care of business in the trees if you know what I mean! It turns out itís jbchalk, Monster5, and crew heading for the Grand Traverse.
A breakfast of champions of Dunkin Stix and an energy drink are enough to blast me out of the gates. Wonder if thereís such a thing as a gluten free Dunkin Stick? Otina? Caroline? Ah, time to slog up the endless Deluge Creek trail. This trail is perhaps the steepest and most frustrating trail Iíve been on in the Gores. Whoever designed this trail didnít believe in switchbacks, although you get a ridiculously and unnecessarily long one right at the start that goes downhill. Go figure! I remember dropping a few Nazarene f bombs (fricken) when stumbling down this steep, loose trail after the Grand Traverse. I wasnít looking forward to the descent!
I donít mind a steep trail on the ascent as I would rather knock out a lot of vertical when Iím fresh. Treeline comes quickly, and itís apparent thereís not a lot of snow left on Snow Peak. Amazing how little snow there is in the Gores, which is one of COís snowiest ranges. The patches of snow on the trail are trivial.
Profile of the s.w. ridge of Snow
Valhalla at the head of the Deluge Creek drainage:
Some years you would still be using snowshoes in June! I leave the trail as it crosses the creek at 11060í and study Snowís southwest slopes for a line up to the southwest ridge. I take the path of least resistance and go up a low angle gully of grass and snow southeast of the trail. A more direct line is there by going due east, but thereís more talus to deal with. Itís mostly grass for me up to the s.w. ridge, which I hit at 12460í. Itís only about a quarter mile to the summit from here, but thereís lots of fun scrambling and ups and downs to be had!
Snow's s.w. ridge:
The southwest ridge can be kept at 3rd class with careful routefinding. The wind is making its presence felt, and I have to don the soft shell in June. Itís probably gusting at 30-35 and gets a little worse later on. The ridge has a few false summits and towers to deal with.
The crux is a surprising notch that takes me a bit to find a good line down. I find an exposed ledge on the northeast side that works well.
Your routefinding skills must be dialed in in the Gores or youíll be on sketch terrain pretty quick! Once down to the notch, another tower presents itself. It looks intimidating from the bottom, but thereís a 3rd class line to be had on the crest of the ridge, then angling right when it gets stiff.
One more false summit, a cool little catwalk, and Iím finally on the summit of Snow at 11:40.
The last false summit to scale, anywhere from 3rd to 5th class:
I enjoy a long break here as itís a 4700í haul just to get to Snow. The views are exquisite to say the least.
Gore Lake from Snow:
Silverthorne and company:
I really didnít take time to research the ridge traverse to Valhalla. My friends Dwight and Sarah did a low traverse of it a few years ago with snow and Derek Wolfe reports that it does go at 3rd class skirting around towers when itís dry.
The traverse to Valhalla.
It doesnít look that bad from Snow, but there are hidden difficulties. The north ridge of Snow down to the saddle is easy other than a brief stretch where I have to break out the axe to skirt a steep section in the ridge on snow.
Snow's north ridge descent:
I decide to get a closer look of the traverse and climb 300í up to Point 12835. I can only see the east side of the ridge and it looks like a no go solo, too much steep snow to traverse below the towers. The west side may be dry, but I donít want to waste time climbing higher to check it out.
I cut my losses and drop to the saddle where I find a decent trail cutting across the scree! I lose it in a snowfield and end up dropping all the way down to 12K feet before cutting the corner around the lowest cliff band. A depressing view awaits as I now have a slip n slide fest back up to the ridge on loose scree and talus. Luckily, I spot a grassy gully a ways up that is my savior.
Heck of a slog back to the ridge!
I angle northeast and crest the ridge at around 12900í. It would have been easier physically to try to run the ridge, but the wind is now in beat down mode, pretty stiff for June. The last of the towers are avoided on the west side, then itís just a talus slog in the wind to the summit. Valhalla has some fine views to be had as well, especially over to the Grand Traverse. It brings back fond memories.
The Grand Traverse from Valhalla:
I refuel for the long slog back to the car. The descent of Valhalla is a knee buster down a nasty gully on its northwest side. Once out of the gully, I traverse steep grass due east until I find a break in the lowest cliff bands. Itís smooth sailing on firm snow with just a few postholes to meet up with the trail at Deluge Lake. It looks like traversing below the towers on the west side of the ridge may have worked from below, but hard to tell how steep the snow is.
The descent is not as bad as it was the first time, but it is annoying to say the least. An extra 200í vertical awaits as the trail climbs back out of the creek. The best thing to do in the Gores is never look at your GPS on the way down. Itís just too depressing! I hear the drone of I-70 traffic a long way from the trailhead, but it seems to never get closer. Did you ever ask your parents ďAre we there yet?Ē on a long road trip? Thatís about how you feel on this trail. Iím finally back to the truck at 6:10 and feel pretty good despite the endless knee busting descent. Another Gore 13er adventure in the books and itís a great one!
Parting shot of Snow:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):