Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Grand Traverse

I have had the Grand Traverse on my wish list for a couple of years now.  The Grand Traverse is on the skyline above Vail as you are heading East.  It is part of the Gore Range.  We left Denver early and arrived in Vail at about 6 am.  We stashed our mountain bikes at the Deluge Lake trail head and parked at the Bighorn trail head about a mile and a half away.  This trail head is a bit tricky to find.
The first section of trail is quite steep.  You can imagine the fall colors would be spectacular on this hike, but we were here on August 18, 2013.  It is still a very pretty hike.  After about a mile and a half the steep slope relents and you have easier walking in the valley.  There are many species of mushrooms here if you look for them.

Once you reach the cabin, take the trail to the left of it rather than to the right.  We went right and made it into the upper valley fine, but it just added a bit to the hike.

The trail peters out and you have to do a little bushwhacking to get to the steep slopes of North Traverse Peak.  We were eager to get on with the scrambling so we probably started up the slope too early.  I wonder if going all the way to the saddle would have been better.  The bushwhacking/scrambling starts here and is a good challenge.  It is very untame and wild in the Gore Range.
Here you can see the kind of true bushwhacking you get yourself into!  My climbing partner Shelz was getting a bit put out with it.
Once you climb past the cliff bands the vegetation thins out but the steepness of the slope remains.  The grassy slope is hard on the calves and quads.  The views of Vail start to appear and you can see all the way to Holy Cross.
Then the scree starts.  You get boulders of all shapes and sizes.  None of them are very stable (as you would expect).  For people who have spent there lives boulder hopping, it can be fun to gauge the terrain and find the best way to surf your way up.  For people who have less experience, it is not fun at all and can be frustrating and scary.  The scree becomes interminable. 
This is a very long climb and a bit much for us on this day, so we turned around with the summit of North Grand Traverse peak in our sites.  To touch the top was tempting, but the goal has always been to scramble the traverse, so we will be back. 

The descent down through the scree and then the cliff bands was just as challenging as the ascent.  At times we were almost cliffed out and had to use some unorthodox climbing moves to get past the thick ground cover and water trickling rocks.

The long hike to the truck got us back after 7 pm and in the darkness.  If you aren't a fast hiker/climber you should start this adventure as early as possible.  We'll be back.  We'll see you up there in the summer of 2013!