When I lived in Silverthorne for a year in 2010-11, I had the pleasure of having the Gores in my backyard – literally. My condo was located 100 yards from the Buffalo Mountain TH at 9,500 feet, so at the sight of any free time, I tried my best to take advantage. In the fall of 2010, myself and Mike were able to explore some regions of the central Gores. One of the better outings was the infamous 12er ridge scramble – Spider and Fly. The “Spider” at an elevation of 12,692 feet, is a ranked peak situated in the Upper Piney River valley, towering above Upper Piney Lake – a remote region even by Gore standards. Its neighbor, the “Fly”, is an unranked 12er at an elevation of 12,580 feet, the saddle between the two barely 60 feet shy of the required 300. Nevertheless, the ridge traverse, while relatively short, is a Gore classic with some minor logistical obstacles to overcome in order to complete.
Mike and I met at the Booth Falls trailhead in Mid Vale and made quick progress up the well defined trail. This is a tourist-heavy destination, with most of the visitors ending their journey at the Falls, barely over 1 mile up. From the falls, continue on to Booth Lake, which is a fine place to rest and fuel up before the actual scrambling begins.
From the lake, the route is pretty obvious. You should all know the drill by now. Get to lake via a convenient trail, eat pringles, drink red bull and prepare to find the path of least resistance before commencing exposed, burly ridge run. Well, that’s pretty much how the Spider and the Fly go.
We gained the first peak – The Fly – relatively easily, with some easy 3rd class scrambling to the summit, where we saw our objective – loud and clear.
Fly is a decent vantage point to view the HCW to the south, as you are one of the higher portions of the central eastern border of the Gore spine. You can also get a great view of “The Saw” between Peak P and West Partner, the Upper Piney Valley and the southern end of the “Ripsaw”
Here gives a decent idea of what we were looking at (Someone please feel free to clarify the name of the ridge between Peak P and West Partner. I always thought it was “the saw” and the ridge from P to J was the “Rockinghorse”, but I vaguely remember Kramarsic correcting JB Chalk in one of his TR’s).
Its been 3 years now, and Mike – please feel free to chime in here when/if needed, but I recall the ridge traverse from Fly to Spider feeling easier than described in Kane’s SP page. It mentions class 4, with a little class 5. If there is either of this, I won’t disagree, but this is a shorter than expected ridge. You definitely don’t need a rope. Once we reached the summit of Spider, Mike humbly stated this was his 100th 12er summit and we had a moderate celebration with some treats. Since this ridge ends further down a ridge in to a valley we needed to climb out of, we both decided to tack on West Partner via its class 2 ridge to the day. It was great weather and we were in one of those Gore exploratory modes.
The descent down to an unnamed lake just above Upper Piney was interesting and remote. This area is chock full of spires and freaky rock formations. Had it not been a cool fall day, this place would be a nice spot for a dip….
We worked our way to the Fly/West Partner saddle and got a great view looking NW up the Piney River Valley….
In fact, in this mini-TR alone, there are no less than 4 lakes you could possibly hop in (note to self – create “List of Lakes to jump in”). From the saddle, its an easy grunt to the summit of West Partner. The views of the Slate drainage group are phenomenal, as well as numerous classic Gore ridge runs. Summiting West Partner via this route almost seems like cheating, since the other routes from Pitkin are so much more difficult, but hey, this was a tag on (don’t they call those “orphans” in the world of LOJ). We descend the saddle and picked up a nice, loose scree drainage down to another cool little unnamed lake. After filtering one last water bottle for the hike out, we made our way back to civilization, enjoying the fall colors along the way. Here are some shots to round out the adventure….