My goal for this summer is to summit more mountains. So far, my progress has been subpar.
I always go into the summer with so many plans and an endless list of hikes to accomplish, and inevitably time gets away from me and suddenly it’s almost time to go back to work and I’ve crossed almost nothing off my to-do list. This summer has been no exception. Of course, this can partially be explained by the fact that my to-do lists are always unrealistically lengthy.
But back in June, when it still felt like I had a whole summer of mountain climbing in front of me, I began my summer of summits with a twofer: Cupid and Grizzly Peaks.
(In retrospect, two 13ers in one day after not spending much time at elevation during the previous two months may not have been the best way to start. But I digress.)
Cupid and Grizzly Peaks rise above Loveland Pass and are two of the more commonly climbed 13ers in the area due to the relatively easy access. The road up Loveland Pass (Highway 6) is paved the entire way and is therefore accessible by any car. It’s also an easy-to-navigate hike; the route is obvious and there is a trail the entire way. Nonetheless, on this particular day I saw very few people.
I arrived at Loveland Pass around 7:30am on a Wednesday and set off. This trail is uphill from the very first step. It’s brutal. Pat and I summitted Mount Sniktau a few years back, a hike which begins on this same trail. At the time, I swore I’d never hike it again. Obviously, that was a lie. I think enough time had passed that I’d forgotten exactly how steep it is. I was quickly reminded.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to hike the whole thing. Rather than climbing all the way to the first high point, I took the bypass trail which cuts off to the right toward Cupid and Grizzly. It’s marked by a giant cairn and pretty hard to miss if you know to look for it.
The bypass trail cuts across the hillside to a saddle not far below the summit of Cupid Peak. A short walk along the ridge brought me to the top. There was no one else there. In fact, there was no one else anywhere. I’d passed two people headed back down the bypass trail, but that was it. Everyone else parked at the trailhead must have gone the other direction. That was fine by me. It’s not often that you have a popular summit all to yourself!
Unfortunately, I didn’t stay long thanks to the wind. It was the kind that makes it hard to walk in a straight line at times, and whips your backpack straps right up into your face. I briefly debated turning around at this point. Dropping down to the saddle and then climbing Grizzly in so much wind wasn’t all that appealing. But I’d come this far and there was no threat of storms, so I ultimately decided to press on.
Reaching Grizzly Peak from Cupid requires losing about 300 feet (91 m) of elevation, climbing 200 feet (61 m) up and over a hump in the ridge, descending 200 feet (61 m), and then ascending the final 700 feet (215 m) up the ridge of Grizzly, all in about 1 mile (1.6 km). And yes, it was absolutely as steep as it looks.
It took me almost an hour to cover this distance between the two summits. The combination of steep, rocky, and high altitude made for very slow progress. But I did it. And once again found myself completely alone on the mountain!
(By the way, there are numerous Grizzly Peaks in Colorado, which is why this one is technically called “Grizzly Peak D.”)
It’s so tempting to stand on the summit of a mountain and celebrate that the hardest part is over and it’s all downhill from here. Except… in this case, it’s not. Going down is often just as challenging as going up. I now had to carefully descend all the steep rock I’d just ascended (thank goodness for hiking poles). And then I had to climb back up over that annoying 200 foot (61 m) hump. And re-summit Cupid. My tired muscles were not amused.
By the time I was back to the car, my face was windburned, my lungs were burning, and my legs felt like jelly. I sometimes forget just how much more exhausting everything is when you’re at elevation.
But I did it.
Another solo hike and two more 13ers in the books!
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: the trail begins on the south side of Loveland Pass summit. Check before heading out to make sure Loveland Pass road (US Hwy 6) is open; poor weather, avalanches, and landslides often cause short-term closures
- Fees and passes: none
- Hiking: roundtrip to both summits via the bypass trail is 5.74 miles (9.2 km) with 2559 feet (780 m) of elevation gain
- Where to stay: there really aren’t any camping or backpacking options nearby, therefore this is best done as a day hike from the Front Range, Clear Creek Canyon, or Summit County
- Other: this entire hike is above tree line; it begins around 12,000 feet (3655 m). There is absolutely no shelter from storms, so start early, keep a very close eye on the weather, and be sure you have adequate time to make it back to your car before storms approach