A ridgeline range traverse over several unnamed peaks to Clark Peak in the Rawahs.
- 8 summits : PT 11161, PT 11622, PT 12170, PT 12184, PT 12386, PT 12390, PT 12433, Clark Peak (12,951 ft - highpoint of Medicine Bow Range)
- Total mileage: 17 miles round trip. Total elevation gain: 6300 ft. Round trip time: 9 hours.
Elevation gain from trailhead to Clark Peak - ~5000 ft. Time: 4 hrs.
Return time from Clark Peak: 5 hrs
A week after climing Longs and Meeker, I opted for what I figured would be an 'easier' day, based on finger spacing and looking at a topo map. Figured on an 8 mile RT day and 2-3k vertical looking at the topo. I didn't find any information on this route but had been eyeing this ridgeline traverse for a while. Anyway, it ended up being much tougher, especially breaking in a new pair of boots.
Most of the traverse seen this past winter from Long Draw Rd:
the peaks seen in winter
View from the trailhead (Zimmerman Lake)
view from trailhead
I started from the Zimmerman Lake trailhead around 11am or so, after being out late drinking the night before, and the long drive up Poudre Canyon, and thinking this would be a shorter day. The weather forecast that day was great - cold front had moved in and there was no monsoon, just a crisp, breezy day. I headed up the Montgomery Pass trail and made good time to the pass in 45 minutes or so. At which point I realized Clark Peak was over 6 miles away and not the 2 miles I estimated from the map. Undeterred, I proceeded onward.
I saw one guy camping up there at the pass, and no one else the whole day. I headed up towards a weather station atop the second mountain, a bit of a surprise to see in this area.
Most of the hiking was on soft, spongy class 2 tundra, with a bit firmer ground earlier on. Past the weather station, the ground got softer, with less gravel. Before that, it's a faint jeep road hitting the pass from both sides and to service the station. There were signs of previous travels up here, and very faint paths. Each of the unnamed summits had a substantial cairn. The beetle kill in the Rawahs below and to the east is really bad.
Each peak in succession had more vertical and was steeper than the last. Towards the middle they became pretty challenging - the soft ground didn't help for my traction. But I kept pushing on, following the ridgeline proper each way, circling a couple bowls, and eventually hit some firmer ground and rocks a peak or so before Clark Peak. I made the Clark Peak summit at about 3pm, 4 hours after starting. After the usual summit rituals of views, signing register, taking photos and eating, I started to head back. I looked over at Lewis Peak but decided to save that for another day given how late it was and how much I did already.
Heading back down south off Clark Peak, I spotted a faint trail that seemed to bypass one of the mountains and skirt around it. I took this, figuring it was indeed a bypass and would save me re-gaining all that elevation. Well, it started to funnel down west towards Colorado State Forest after a while, and i realized it seemed to be heading down that way and not back to where I needed to go. I ended up below treeline, and felt I had to go back up and turn back east. Here I encountered rougher terrain and bushwhacking, and a trail of sorts that seemed to go down to a campground in the State Forest. I headed the other way, rounded a corner, and spotted the weather station on the ridge - waayyy off in the distance, seemed like 3 miles. Great! I was much farther off route than I expected, but at least I had a landmark to aim for.
The traverse over was a bit rugged - I lost quite a bit of elevation, bottoming out around 10,700 ft or so, having to find a way down across a deep gully/old streambed, across talus, then up through thick forest back to treeline. It was a scenic area but slow going. I felt I was following moose trails much of the way. Wary of startling a moose in the thick forest, I eventually made it back around treeline, below the ridge I had climbed on the way up. I found my way back to the ridge and the weather station, and sucked up the remaining minor uphills on the way back to the pass. Within sight of Montgomery Pass, I ran downhill the last couple miles to make it back to the trailhead around 8pm, just before dark. I had run out of water but got a bottle on the way back. I got home to find my feet a bloody mess in new boots that would take months to really break in, was tired, but otherwise ok.
Aside from all this, I really enjoyed the traverse and would recommend it for a challenging day. A bit like Mummy Mania, but a bit lower elevation and a bunch of unnamed points. The routefinding up to Clark Peak is straightforward class 2 tundra. I'd recommend doing this with a car shuttle at the Blue Lake trailhead though, or in State Forest. From Clark Peak you could drop down to that trail and take it back out instead of re-climbing all the ridge twice (and have time to bag Lewis Peak). It's also possible to start from Cameron Pass and add on the Diamond Peaks. Granted, parts of that forest are thick for bushwhacking. And as I found out, skirting the peaks on the way back took more time and energy than just going back up and over them.
Partway along the traverse, looking back:
typical terrain for most of the day
More of what I traversed so far:
a look back partway through the traverse
Mt Ricthofen and the Never Summers:
Mt Richthofen in the distance
Clark Peak - still a long way away:
Clark Peak way back there
View from Clark Peak summit:
Rawah lakes and peaks from Clark Peak summit
View looking back:
my GPS track:
my GPS track
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):