Continental Divide Traverse – 8.24.2013

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Click picture above for brief slideshow – James Peak (13,294′)

I awakened at 3:30am this past Saturday morning to attempt a long traverse on the Continental Divide above Winter Park, CO, that I had been eying for a while.  Great friend and long-time climbing partner, Bob Berger, joined me for this full day on the Divide just south of Colorado’s Indian Peaks and Rocky Mountain National Park.  We started as the sun broke above the eastern horizon at Berthoud Pass and summited 6 peaks ranging between 12,500′ to 13,400′ before descending St. Mary’s Glacier to complete a 12-mile traverse with a 4,500′ vertical gain (and ~5,500′ of descent).

It was a great day in the high-country, although it seems that the seasons are already in transition up there.  It was a blustery day and we spent much of it in the clouds despite our early start.  We quickly ascended 12,497′ Colorado Mines Peak, from which we could see the rest of the long day ahead of us.  Most of the terrain was Class I or Class II, so we made good time across the subsequent peaks, which included:  Mt. Flora (13,146′), Mt. Eva (13,130′), Parry Peak A (13,391′), Mt. Bancroft (13,250′) and James Peak (13,294′).

The final ridge connecting Mt. Bancroft to James Peak was a slightly more interesting and engaging Class III scramble that added some much-needed spice to an otherwise straightforward day.  We reached the summit of James Peak by midday in a whiteout, so it was clear we needed to make a quick retreat below treeline.  We made it to my truck just as the thunder, lightning and rain started, so we timed our day well.  After a quick stop at The Buffalo in Idaho Springs for a burger and some mandatory electrolyte replacement therapy, our day was complete.

This successful traverse puts me at 20 summits, half way to my goal, with about 30 weeks to go.  Many of the weekends this fall look busy, so I’ll likely need the cushion to keep me on pace.  More to come…

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