Peak(s):  "Drift Pk"  -  13,900 feet
Date Posted:  07/06/2014
Date Climbed:   07/03/2014
Author:  rajz06
 Drift by Northwest  

Starting Point: CO-91 (10,960')
Peak Climbed: "Drift Peak" (13,900')
Route: Northwest ridge
RT Distance: 7.2 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 3,060 feet
Group: Solo

Having gazed at the majestic Tenmile range just two weeks ago on my excursion to Bald Mountain, I had a yen to visit one of its 13ers. "Drift Peak" got the nod today.

Tenmile Peaks from Bald Mtn A

I started from the 2WD parking lot 6 miles south of the I-70/CO-91 junction. Any hike that you can start right off a major highway is alright in my book; Roach was right - we need more mountain, not less.


The 4WD road made for an easy way to stretch the legs and get warmed up, climbing gently for the first 1.4 miles to a junction where another road leads you into the beautiful valley northwest of Drift.

Trail branches off to the right

In the basin

Studying the ridge route up to the summit, I figured that there would be places where the snow on the ridge would require some navigating.

Ridge route to Drift Peak

What I didn't expect as I turned the corner to make my way to the bottom of the ridge was the snow that had filled the lower northwest slopes and completely swamped the trail.

Trail disappears under the snow bank

I had microspikes but without crampons or an ice axe, my attempts to continue farther along the bank or to scale the northwest wall were in vain.

No dice on either approach

I decided to drop down below the snow field and skirt along its edge till I found a spot to crest the lower ridge. Fortunately, this worked out.

Skirting the snow bank

Easier climb over the snow field

Once atop the lower grassy knoll, the ridge route to the summit became fairly obvious.

Studying the ridge from the knoll

Any notions that I might've had about this being a relaxing hike basically ended at the bottom of the first mound with about 1,900 feet of elevation gain left. Unlike the ridge traverses between Drift Peak and its nearest neighbors, the southwest ridge to Drift is not technical. But it has a bit of everything - loose scree, narrow sections with drop-offs, stable talus and ledges for a bit of scrambling, a hint of exposure in spots, and even a class 3 tower near the top. Throw in some questionable snow and ice and this ridge had my attention the whole time, possibly more so on the descent.

First bump on the ridge

A trail is present most of the way up this first bump so the scree wasn't terrible to negotiate.

Looking down the first bump

The snow for the most part was off the ridge so staying on the ridge crest proved to be the best option.

Atop the first bump

More bumps on the ridge

Snow on the northwest face

Navigating through the snow

Around 12,900' I encountered the largest of the snow fields on the ridge. The white stuff was somewhat inconsistent and there were spots where I sank more than knee-deep so I took my time crossing this bit.

The white stuff is deep in spots

Looking back down the ridge

Just past this point, at 13,200' I bypassed a tower to the right on stable rock.

Skirting a tower

The final hurdle came around 13,600'. The presence of snow on the slope to climber's left of this tower forced me to skirt this to the right, presenting a brief moment of exposure. I tried to capture this in the next shoot looking back at the move.

A bit of exposure

Past that hurdle, I climbed back on the ridge choosing to trudge through the snow which was fairly firm at this stage.

My tracks

On my descent, I chose to just stay on the ridge proper and climb the tower directly.

Two and a half hours after leaving my car, I was on the summit. Both the elevation gain and the Roach rating points (RP system) belie the effort involved in this traverse from my standpoint. At least on this day and under these conditions, this route outperformed its spec sheet, so to speak. And as always after reaching the summit, I was fully mindful that I was only half done, but I'd cross that (b)ridge after I'd enjoyed the fruits of my labor.

The Tenmile 13ers up close and personal:

Tenmile Range

The jagged ridge to Wheeler Mountain with the Mosquito 14ers in the background:

Ridge to Wheeler Mountain

The Tenmile Monarch and its impressive west ridge:

Quandary and Fletcher

To the far northwest, the Holy Cross ridge:

Holy Cross Ridge and MOHC

If I thought my ascent up the ridge had emulated a snail in its lack of urgency, my pace on the descent was no better. But I was in no hurry to bid adieu to this pristine place so I took my time toying with a few different options on the ridge. Trying to skirt the rocks in the shot below to climber's left wasn't the best strategy due to questionable scree below the ridge.

I didn't go through with this option

Trudging over the snow worked better as long as I stayed off the cornice overhang on the crest.

This worked better even with the snow

The remainder of my ridge descent was somewhat deja vu as the terrain felt quite familiar what with me having spent a fair bit of time on it. But I still didn't take any chances - a slip on this ridge would not have been a good thing as I hadn't seen a soul on the trail past the road below treeline. The time to indulge came later on after I was off the ridge and back on the lower slopes, where I partook in a short glissade down the snow bank. It can't all be work and no play now, can it?

This one was begging for a glissade

Of course, the views of distant peaks was certainly not lost on me during the ridge descent either.

Peaks galore!

More peaks...

And closer to the west, the majestic Clinton amphitheater:

Clinton amphitheater

After all, isn't that what makes the effort all worth it?

Yours Truly

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

Drift is fun, isn't it?
07/07/2014 21:56
Nice report Raj. Great pictures and route description as always.

07/08/2014 15:07
Like Jay said, another great report!

Drift is a pleasant peak.
07/08/2014 17:02
I, too, took a leisurely pace when I did Drift last year (albeit with snow). Thanks for the memory recall!

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