Peak(s):  Clinton Pk  -  13,857 feet
Traver Pk  -  13,852 feet
McNamee Pk  -  13,780 feet
Date Posted:  08/13/2017
Date Climbed:   08/10/2017
Author:  mountainman102
 An Alternate Route on the Continental Divide  

Route: Northwest Ridge
Clinton Reservoir TH: 11,060 ft.
Summits: Clinton: 13,857; Traver: 13,854; McNamee: 13,780 ft.
Distance: 13.86 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 5,538 ft.
Hiking Time: 9 hours and 45 minutes

Background: I decided to post this trip report because it was very difficult to find any reports on this particular route, especially in the summer. We did go off track a few times here (as displayed by the GPS), but hopefully you can use it to eliminate the detours we took. Enjoy!

Early Thursday morning, Taylor and I departed heading to the Clinton Reservoir TH off Colorado 91. The reservoir trailhead is just a large circular parking lot directly off the road. We began hiking at 0635 with a brisk pace through the forest. The obvious trail around the reservoir has multiple paths all heading southeast as we walked on the south side of the lake. We kept following the path around the lake to a bridge on the tip of the lake, opposite to the parking lot. After looking for anything continuing southeast, we found nothing and realized the trail was on the south side of the valley.

Clinton Reservoir

We turned around and once we were back to the trees, diverged slightly up the hill following a faint trail as it was all we could find. The rain on the drive up had saturated the forest and we were getting soaked from the waist down. It seemed like we were going on and off, on and off, on and off trails every 50 feet as faint trails led into each and died off sporadically. As the trees grew thinner and thinner, Clinton came into view and we began gradually ascending a grassy knoll on the south side of the valley.

Views of Clinton

Two hours in, we were just below 4 miles and reached a large rib which impeded our direct route to Clinton. We could either drop to the valley floor and skirt around it or begin ascending the side of it to the small mountain lake in the basin between Bartlett and Little Bartlett. Despite the relatively simple descent into the valley, we decided to stay high and turned ascending climber's right (southwest) and began scampering up a somewhat steep grassy hill. We were rewarded with beautiful views of the small lake, Little Bartlett, and another decision of the route.

Lake with Little Bartlett in the Background

I knew where we were heading, but was unsure of the best way to get there as there are not any trip reports (that I could find) on this route especially in the summer. We turned towards the now concealed Clinton Peak and could either climb up a short talus field or descend back the way we came and to the valley. I decided to skirt around this talus covered rib around the side facing the valley. I hoped to view the valley floor and determine if going around was the easiest option or to see if we could go up and over without getting cliffed out. As Clinton came back in view, I was unable to see the valley and began to hit some class 3 and 4 on the east side of the rib. It appeared we could go up and traverse to the saddle. (The last photo depicts our route and my confusing description). I turned around here and headed back to where Taylor was. My little detour consumed more time than I had anticipated and the clouds started to build. We considered the weather and turning around here as it was already after 0900, but it seemed clear in the distance. We decided to start-up the rock-field and turn around if the weather got worse. Sleet began falling and I started to accept turning around, but by some miracle, the 10-minute shower subsided and the blue sky returned! With high spirits, we achieved the top of the class 2/2+ rock bump at 1015. We heard faint voices and turned to see two people in the basin next to the lake below us. Perhaps they were only going to the lake as it was the last we saw of them (or anybody) for the rest of the hike. I checked my GPS and it read 5.77 miles as we stood at 12880 feet. I know I had taken a short detour and a few extra steps around the lake, but the route was only described to be 4.3 miles to the summit of Clinton. Taylor's Delorme confirmed this number (a little lower because she wisely did not follow me on my skirt around the rock rib). Nevertheless, we began hiking west along the wide ridge which sits slightly south of Bartlett. Along the way, I saw a long ramp heading north (towards us) from the bottom of the valley which I believe is where the actual trail ascends after skirting around the rib jutting into the valley. We also spotted a huge cairn on a faint trail heading up the ridge (could have been our trail or another one heading to Bartlett).

Giant Cairn with Clinton as a Backdrop

We continued to ascend the talus-slope and finally reached the top where the rest of our route became obvious. We headed directly towards the ridge between Bartlett and Clinton traversing across the slope of Bartlett's southeast side. The ridge greeted us with the dilapidating Bartlett and the enormous mine on the west side of the ridge.

The Mine

The saddle came at 1040, 5.77 miles in, at 12939 feet. The class 2 ridge was a fun scamper to the summit and went by relatively quick. We summited Clinton at 1130 with views of Democrat, Traver, and McNamee to the south and the Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross to the southeast. Decalibron looks quite different from this aspectâ¦

Summit of Clinton!

The weather looked quite variable, so after a quick 10-minute break, we departed from the summit. The class 1+ ridge walk to McNamee was only 0.4 miles and we occupied our time by picking out all the hikers on the overpopulated Decalibron loop. McNamee's summit was full of metal and other junk, but it provided neat views as we topped it at 1157. It was at least more exciting than the anticlimactic ridge bump know as Cameron just across the way...

McNamee Summit

The saddle between McNamee and Traver is only at 13650 feet and the GPS read 7.23 miles at noon. The class 1 ridge bordered class 2 as we began ascending Traver. Traver's summit came at 1215 and I realized the North side of Democrat is actually pretty cool. Good old GPS stated 7.58 miles with 4103 feet of elevation gain.

Traver Summit (Photo: Nice rocks which held my phone up)

The clouds seemed to be building and then dissipating and it appeared the weather may hold at least until we were off the ridge. After some pics, we sped along the ridge tapping McNamee at 1242 (it is easily possible to skirt around) and we were back on Clinton at 1300. 8.56 miles and 5020 feet done, more to go. The yellow line depicts my best guess of the route we took up.

Best Guess of our Ascending Route

We descended the ridge and reached the saddle where we decided to drop directly towards the base of the valley because weather was coming in and it seemed better than descending our ascent route. The series of grassy ledges was a quick descent and were reached the bottom of the valley around 1430 which is when the heavy rain/hail began falling. As thunder rumbled behind us, I was sure happy to be off the ridge. With our soaking clothes, we went around the rib which ended up being much easier than it looked (I believe this is the route) and gradually ascended the grassy knoll. The rain subsided as we headed uphill on a faint trail. We came back to the left (east) of this rib from down below. Looking back at the now blue skies, the yellow is how we ascended, the upper red line is my scouting journey around the rib and the lower red is my return.

Yellow is our Route Up, Red is my Detour

The march back to the car seemed to take forever as the rain was on and off. We found a decent trail through the woods and finally arrived at the reservoir where we were welcomed by the very distinct loop around the lake. We were back at the car at 1621 at 13.86 miles with 5,538 feet of elevation gain. It was definitely fun to do an alternative route with a little bit of route finding (hopefully next time I will take less detours), but it ultimately added to the adventure!

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

Nice route choice!
08/14/2017 11:52
I may have to give your route a try. Thanks!

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