Colorado Mines Peak, Mt Flora, Witter Peak, Mt Eva
TH: Berthoud Pass
RT distance: ~10.5 mi (GPS)
elevation: 4100 ft
Cornice viewed on the descent from Colorado Mines Peak en route to Mt Flora.
I was pretty tired from our rock climbing trip last weekend, but I couldn't pass up the wind forecast for Tuesday (and I'm not sure when I'll get back out, given the snow forecast). After considering several options, I decided to go for a long day on the Divide. Turned out to be a good choice, with the probably the lowest wind speeds I've encountered this winter.
While I've gone snowshoeing at Berthoud Pass, I'd never hiked up to Colorado Mines Peak, so I decided to start with that. The snow was pretty deep on the initial slope, and I'd recommend snowshoes (note: there is a road up to the buildings on CO Mines Peak that has a nice packed snowcat or such track on it that may be an alternative--I didn't try it).
Looking up the initial slope to Colorado Mines Peak.
Once I got above treeline, the slope was nicely windblown. I kept my snowshoes on for added traction on the way up, and on the way down, I wore my microspikes on this section.
Looking down the initial slope towards the parking area; boy the cars look small!
Great day for views! I tried to get reference points in my photos so that I could go back and identify peaks at home--Engelmann is at the left side of the photo.
The way to Mt Flora looked good--I avoided the windblown snow by staying on the talus to the left.
Ridge to Cone Mtn (I believe) on the right
And then I started catching glimpses of cornices. Wow. I was glad that I was able to avoid the snow associated with the cornices, but I found myself stopping frequently to take pictures:
Slightly different vantage than the first photo.
I was happy to see the trail avoiding the windblown snow.
Flora, Eva, Parry and Bancroft peaking out
The trail was quite nice and went quickly:
A look back at the trail.
Soon, I was on the summit of Flora:
Looking west from the summit of Flora.
It was a beautiful day, so I decided to keep going. On my way to the drop-off between Flora and Eva:
Heading towards Eva and (unbeknownst to me at the time) the crux of the day
Now, I didn't realize how steeply my route off Flora towards Eva would descend (should have taken a closer look at the topo map and GPS). I didn't put on my microspikes before starting my descent, which was a mistake. I carefully picked my way down, avoiding the windblown snow as much as possible. I slid more than I would have liked and would have been more comfortable in my microspikes. There wasn't a good stopping point, so I just went for it. Given the slope steepness, I only took one photo looking down:
A look down the steep slope.
Boy was I glad to reach the saddle! A look back up the slope I just came down (I stayed to the right of the windblown snow):
I was glad I could avoid most of the windblown snow.
Looking ahead, I was impressed by the cliffs on Witter Peak and decided I needed a closer look:
Looking at Witter.
The large plateau to Witter was quite gentle, and I reached the summit fairly quickly. I just had to look over the edge:
You know you're a rock climber when...
Flora looks impressive from this side.
Okay, so I learned a valuable lesson from this trip--spend more time evaluating your topo map. Somehow, I mixed up Eva and Parry in my head, so when I started heading down from Witter, I was disappointed by the amount of distance left to cover (I thought Eva was the middle summit, while in actuality Eva is the snowy peak to the left, Parry is in the middle and Bancroft is to the right):
That snowy bump to the left can't be an actual peak, can it?
I didn't spot the building until I was nearing the summit, which is when I realized I was approaching Eva's summit. The peak I had been excited about (even though it looked pretty far away) was Parry. Oops. Well, the ridge between Bancroft and Parry looks pretty pleasant, so I'll have to come back for them.
Heading down from Witter's summit--the ridge to the right leads to Eva.
Love these open alpine areas!
Not much snow up here! The building just below Eva's summit comes into view:
Parry looked tempting, but it was getting late so I decided to head back (I also didn't want to have to go back up and over Eva):
Parry with James just poking out to the right.
More clouds started coming in on the way back, making for a nice photo of my trip:
I made sure to get out my microspikes and my ice axe for the trip back up the crux slope. Even though I mostly stayed off the windblown snow, I found the axe was useful for balance. From there, it just felt like a long hike back to the car. Definitely enjoyed this trip, although I'm not sure I would have felt comfortable had the snow been more continuous. I was happy that I could avoid the snow associated with the cornices! I'll leave you with a picture I took when I first arrived at the trailhead:
Looking towards RMNP and IPW
And if you don't want to be surprised by some of the elevation loss (like I was):
A look at the ups and downs of the route.