| The Grand Traverse
The Gore Range has been on my list for atleast 3 years now and I finally sacked up and got a few good ones in, this weekend it was the two that make up the Grand Traverse, North Traverse Pk and Grand Traverse Pk. I was unable to join Sarah and Kiefer the day before, they climbed it on a Friday, but I'm depleted for vacation days and I've run out of good excuses (If anyone has any ideas for some convincing stuff, please let me in on it, thanks).
I drove up to Vail friday after work, got the standard Quiznos in Silverthorne and loaded up on stuff. It was dark by the time I got to the trailhead(s). Cooper describes in his book to follow the frontage road East but the assmuncher doesn't mention that to follow the road East from the East Vail exit (#180), it turns into Bighorn Creek Rd, just a little heads up, its a tad confusing. Take the left off the exit, go under the highway and then head east(left) through east Vail apartments. The logical way to approach this traverse is to go from North to Grand so if your in a group or have a bike with you, park one at the Deluge Trail (accuratley described in Cooper's book, little over 2 miles on the left side right after you go back under the highway overpass). Park a car or a bike there and then head back about 1.5 miles to the Bighorn Creek Trailhead. This is off Columbine Dr on the right, there is a wooden pole for a road sign and its kind of lit up (not really). Drive up through a narrow tunnel and then about 20 yds on the left is the very small parking lot for BC, right as you begin to veer right on the road.
Enough of the description, now for the route. I hit the trail at around 4:30am from Bighorn Creek. The very good trail goes through the forest for a good amount of time, I kept on yelling "hey bear" every so often like there'd really be one around. That aside, the light hit the Vail valley as I caught my first sights of the south side of the traverse. To be blunt, it looks a lot worse than it really is, but its quite a sight nevertheless.
Here is a good look at my intro to the ridge :
This was right before I reached the cabin described in most TR's :
You head left passed the cabin and its time to say goodbye to any maintained trail for about 6 hours. I reached a basin on the southwest side of North Traverse that looked something like this :
And as a got further into the basin, I looked back and saw this :
Can't really tell you why, but the only thing that came to my mind while navigating through this basin was Clark W Griswold and the search for the perfect Christmas Tree.
"Oh, the silent majesty of a winter's morn... the clean, cool chill of the holiday air... an asshole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer... "
Anyways, what was really on my mind was the scree filled slog up to the west ridge of N. Traverse. Given there is no route and my route finding skills already suck, it was no surprise I picked the most difficult way up the slope. You hear a lot about 2 steps foward, 1 step back, but you rarely hear about 1 step foward 5 foot slide back and for good reason, most people aren't as incompetant as me. I'm done with this description though, if you get here, it sucks, just get up it and thats what i finally did.
This is the northern view of the remaining route to N.Traverse's summit :
The rest of the route is an easy scramble up to the summit. Here's an idea of the view to the northwest of the Gore Range :
The summit of N.Traverse was pretty cool, a big stick protrudes out from the top and the summit register is an old cool aid mix bottle. On it, I saw a few familiar names (Kiefer Thomas, Sarah Thompson, Gerry/Jennifer Roach, my buddy Chris). After taking a shot of the Ridge over to Grand :
I began the traverse. To make a long story short, this is a moderate traverse w/ a lot of opportunities for some really fun scrambling. Its similar to the Bells Traverse, except the easier route is much easier. There are two tough parts on the ridge (3 or 4, even 5 if you want) and they are tougher than any single move on one of the 4 classic traverses on a 14er. But they are all avoidable if you so please, but whats the fun of that?? Here are 2 scenic shots of the traverse and two of the tougher moves :
The North side
The South side
This section was probably the steepest and had 2, maybe 3 consecutive class 4/low 5 pitches w/ some really exciting exposure (this really couldn't be avoided actually) Once over this, it luckily levels out and then the next tough part is right under Grand's summit
Right before the Grand's summit, this wasn't too difficult, but this notch is pretty narrow, I'm 5'11 190 and my chode ass(one who is wider than taller) had a hard time fitting through.
Here is the view I had of the ski resort :
And this is the view I had North towards Steamboat :
The traverse took around 1 hr 40 min give or take a few. To sum it up, its as difficult as you make it and as fun as you make it as well. You can skirt around some of these really fun class 4/low 5 towers and bitch out, or you can experience one of the more fun ridge traverses around and get a few hours of scrambling in. By the way, the day, as you can see in the pictures, couldn't have treated me any better.
The downclimb goes by real quick and your at Deluge Lake before you know it, which is a beautiful area by the way. I took the pic looking south from the lake (and then jumped in, wasn't too too cold but it was pretty windy) :
And then a view along the Deluge trail south :
To end, this is a really fun route and very remote which adds to the day. Keep in mind though, it is pretty long for a one day endeavor, but worth it in every way, the Gore Range really is a unique, special place.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):