This weekend I took an opportunity to get outside and climb some isolated peaks in the northwest corner of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), known as the Never Summer Range. Most of my summer was spent preparing for the John Muir Trail and I spent nearly three weeks, including travel time, hiking the John Muir Trail. Throw in a few family camping trips and I've actually had very little time to just do some peak bagging in Colorado.
My brother-in-law invited me to climb four isolated peaks in the Never Summer Range. He, being a bigger peak bagger than me, was finishing his attempt to climb every ranked peak within Rocky Mountain National Park (around 92 peaks). I'd never spent time in the Never Summer Range and was glad to get out for my first Colorado hike in weeks.
The Never Summer Range is the far northwest side of RMNP. This area is hard to get to and therefore sees very few visitors. We drove over 2 hours up the Poudre Canyon from Fort Collins then followed a rough 4-wheel drive road another hour.
We arrived at a small campsite about a half mile from the end of the road and set up camp for the evening. Setting the alarm for 4:30 am, we were ready for an early start to a long day of climbing mountains.
By 5 am we were walking into the darkness. With headlamps pointed into the unknown, we climbed over a small ridge and into a large meadow. As the sun began to rise we were greeted by two moose.
Step by step we worked our way straight up the talus slope of Mount Nimbus. We reached the 12,706 foot summit by 7 am and immediately followed the rocky ridge to Mount Cumulus. There were a few difficult spots that required some third class scrambling.
The temperatures stayed cool and we enjoyed amazing views of the north end of Rocky Mountain National Park. This beautiful morning climb was just beginning to get interesting as the ridge to Howard Mountain was more difficult. We negotiated more class 3 scrambling with loose rock and were rewarded by views of Lake of the Clouds.
My final peak of the afternoon was Mount Cirrus at 12,279. Cirrus was the easiest of the four peaks as we were able to walk right up a scree field that wasn't too steep. At this point we had climbed four 12,000 foot peaks and had a beautiful hike through a green valley to return to the car.
The trail back brought us through fields of wildflowers and we spotted more moose. The moose ran off before we were close enough to get a photo but the sight of these beautiful animals made the hard work less painful.
We hadn't seen another person all day or really any sign of anyone. In fact, the trail we tried to take back to the car was nearly grown over and hard to follow. It was clear we were hiking through an area that few people visit.
We arrived at the car around 2:30 pm and we were happy to be headed back into town. I felt good about climbing these peaks that few people ever get back to. The isolation of the Never Summer Range reminded me of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and my John Muir Trail backpacking experience. I was happy to be back in my home state of Colorado and experiencing the backcountry.
Do you like to explore the less traveled areas around you? Where is your favorite spot to get away from the crowds?
Peak Bagging in the Never Summer Range
By Andy Hawbaker
August 19, 2013
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