| Taking Our Lumps As They Come: The Lumpy Ridge Traverse.
“Taking your lumps” is an expression originally rooted in rough physical play that leaves people battered and bruised.
If someone accepts injury without complaint, then that person has taken their lumps.
In life everyone takes their lumps.
Anna and I planned to hike Culebra Peak on Saturday with the 14ers.com group. As the day moved closer we chose to cancel
due to a slow-healing foot laceration that I suffered while swimming on New Years day. Due to the injury, snowshoes are not
in my cards for some time yet, but you won’t hear me complain. We have plenty of lower options that don’t require snowshoes
in winter, or a long drive to reach.
With that in mind, we hook up with Scot to hit some lower peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park. Scot loves great adventures
in wild places, and has solid experience with cross-country off-trail travel. We bounce between two excellent options while
planning the adventure, eventually agreeing to meet in Estes Park on Saturday morning to choose our destination based on
what we see. Once we arrive, the dry golden rock of Lumpy Ridge is an easy winner.
Lumpy Ridge is a series of granite domes, slabs, and spires within Rocky Mountain National Park north of Estes Park. The Lumpies
are known primarily for technical climbing on routes made famous by luminaries like Layton Kor, Bob Culp, and Jeff Lowe. The area
is lesser known for two modest (yet still mighty) ranked peaks that form the bookends of the ridge. At the eastern end is Gem Peak
and at the western end is The Needles. In between are miles of rugged trail-less terrain that can deal some serious punishment.
The route in between is called the Lumpy Ridge Traverse.
We head into the hills armed with a map, some insight, and a great sense of adventure. We are ready to take our lumps as
Summit elevation and rank: 9,140 feet, 89th highest in RMNP
Summit elevation and rank: 9,606 feet, unranked with 146 feet of prominence
Summit elevation and rank: 10,068 feet, 85th highest in RMNP
Trailhead and elevation: Lumpy Ridge, 7,850 feet
Round trip distance: Approximately 12.2 miles
Vertical gain: Somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 feet
Difficulty: Route-finding required. 7 miles of class 2/3 bushwacking with a few class 4 moves. 5 miles of class 1 trail.
Climb date: February 2, 2013
Our GPS track...
...and elevation profile:
Captions on top of photos.
We park at the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and start hiking towards Gem Lake.
We gain elevation and the views open up. Longs Peak takes center stage.
After 1.6 miles and 1000 vertical of easy hiking, we arrive at Gem Lake.
We continue past the lake for a few hundred yards and then leave the trail at a spot that just feels right. Gem Peak
comes into view.
We follow the natural flow of the landscape toward an obvious saddle. Here, Scot scrambles past some big boulders.
Anna walks a narrow ledge past granite slabs.
And then she takes a tree belay on the exit.
We reach the saddle between Gem Peak and the Middle Gemstone. We turn left and walk toward
the unranked but tough Middle Gemstone.
The summit is well guarded. Scot makes some awkward moves to get on top.
As Scot climbs to the top of the Middle Gemstone, Anna and I turn and take a good long look at Gem Peak. The most
obvious line is to drop to the saddle, scramble up some slabs, and then gain the south ridge to the summit (from left
side of photo).
We descend toward the saddle on lumpy terrain. This rock is something special.
Scot starts up boiler plate ledges after crossing the saddle.
Anna scoots past one of a dozen random cairns we will find today.
Scot heads toward the ridge.
Longs Peak continues to dominate the view.
We gain the ridge and smile. Today, we get to be big kids.
Let the good times roll.
The fun scramble ends much too soon. Here, Scot approaches the summit boulder.
On the summit of Gem Peak.
The spectacular view to the south and the Continental Divide.
We turn toward the west. The Needles is the dark and distant "sharktooth" peak to the left of center.
We take a hard look at our destination and the difficult terrain ahead of us. The granite dome on photo left is called
Lumpy Ridge. At center, in the back, is MacGregor Mountain. The prominent craggy knob to its right is The Needles.
The snow-capped Mummy Range is further back. We stare at the trees and granite. The traverse will not be easy.
We descend from Gem Peak.
The fun continues.
Down climbing these ledges is easier than it might seem.
This was the trickiest move of the day.
Rock becomes trees. Our next destination is the high point on the left of the photo: the top of Lumpy Ridge.
We 'shwack through rugged terrain on our way to Lumpy Ridge.
It gets thick and the travel is slow. We turn back and see Gem Peak in the distance (craggy peak at far right).
From where we came: Gem Peak.
Scot takes in the view.
Anna with Estes Park below.
We continue up steep rock.
We reach the top of Lumpy Ridge. The view to the west is breathtaking. The Needles is still a long ways away.
The sun starts its downward arc. We move a little faster.
We opt to go up and over lumps rather than around them.
The view behind us.
The rock is a joy to scramble over.
I guess snow is inevitable. This is winter after all.
And after countless stumbles, bruises, smiles, and muses, we reach The Needles summit block. The wind is RIPPING
The summit is guarded by short vertical walls. Anna finds a weakness in the east face and goes for it.
We reach the short summit ridge. The wind rushes over the summit with the force of an ocean. We crouch low to avoid
being swept off our feet.
At last: the summit.
Three Philosophers in one.
To the west is the Mummy Range and a vanishing sun.
We descend the northwest ridge toward the Black Canyon Trail.
Ypsilon and Fairchild soak in the warm afternoon light.
We scamper around deadfall and boulders for 1200 vertical feet.
We reach the trail, a bittersweet return to civilization.
On our way out we pass below Sundance Butress at the base of The Needles.
Night overtakes us.
We stop in the dark and listen to the calm whooo whooo of a nearby owl. In ancient cultures, the owl guarded the underworld,
was ruler of night, and a seer of souls. Some cultures believed the owl was a bad omen. I believe otherwise. The owl should
be honored for its abilities. In Hawaiian culture, the owl (pueo) is considered sacred as a guardian and protector.
Tonight, I feel very fortunate to hear this owl hoot.
We head to the Wapiti Pub in downtown Estes Park for our due reward. The day offered up a great route, good food, and
first-rate company. It's one for the books.
I feel very fortunate indeed.