Signal and South Signal Mountains

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The backbone of the Mummy Range in Rocky Mountain National Park as seen from the Bulwark Ridge Trail to the north.

The backbone of the Mummy Range in Rocky Mountain National Park as seen from the Bulwark Ridge Trail to the north.

Peaks: South Signal Mountain (11,248′) – Rocky Mountain National Park, and Signal Mountain (11,262′) – Comanche Peak Wilderness
Date: December 27, 2014
Trailhead: Dunraven (7,800′) *
Approach: Bulwark Ridge Trail
Distance: ~12.5 miles
Elevation Gain: ~3,800 ft.
Participants: Sam Sala, Dillon Sarnelli
Time: 11 hours


*Note: Due to the September 2013 flooding, much of the area around the Dunraven TH is still closed. The Bulwark Ridge Trail is open. See the Poudre Wilderness site for more info. You are permitted to park at the Dunraven TH and hike up the road .3 miles to the Bulwark Ridge Trail #928/Signal Mountain Trail. You are also permitted to hike up the road to Cheley Camp to temporarily access the North Fork Trail #929. The Dunraven TH is still closed in most other directions.

Route Overview.

After consuming 834 of Grandma’s Italian Christmas cookies (homemade and delivered all the way from NJ I might add – Thanks Gram!), I made a game-time decision to remove my fat@ss from the couch. So what does one do on the Saturday after Christmas when the high is predicted to be infinitely negative, travel in the high country isn’t very safe, and most importantly, you’re almost all out of cookies.  Find some 11ers? Why not… Sam got my text at 8 PM on Friday night and by 8:04 he had already rented his snowshoes. It took very little convincing as he, too, was itching to go outside and lives about an hour from the TH in the Fort. We were also both looking forward to getting back out in the same zip code as it had been some time since we last hit the trail together.

A little background on these peaks. South Signal Mountain, unranked at 11,248 feet, sits in the NE corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Park boundary actually traverses around the summit so you are literally standing in the corner of the park when standing on the summit. Signal Mountain, the ranked sister peak at 11,262′, is .6 miles northeast and resides in the Comanche Peak Wilderness. The views from these summits look south into RMNP and the Mummy Range, offering  a less seldom seen perspective for a Denverite.  To the north, you have unobstructed views into Wyoming and the remainder of Comanche Peak Wilderness in all directions.

December 27, 2014, 6 AM –  One very cold step out of the jeep and it became clear that if we were going to stand on 2 summits today, we would have to earn them.

One mile and about 700 feet from the gate, we take a sharp left at this sign and head northwest along Bulwark Ridge. The next 4 miles follow the ridge thru the trees eventually to treeline and spit us out just below the summit of South Signal Mountain.

Sam breaking trail.

Man, there’s a lot of snow out here!

Some familiar faces start to show their heads.

I’m smiling, but my legs are toast. At about 10,900′ we reached a small clearing that gave us a solid view of the remaining approach to South Signal. The trail had all but disappeared at this point. We would descend slightly to a small saddle and then make our way to treeline on South Signal’s eastern slope.

The remaining approach to South Signal. Just a few thousand trees in an extremely dense forest and 2 feet of powder. GO!

The wind was kicking on the high peaks in RMNP all day. We guessed that if you were standing on anything higher than 13,000 ft in the Mummy Range or around Longs Peak, you were probably dealing with whiteout conditions.

A birds eye view into the Boulderfield.

Treeline!

The rock in the previous image, right center, as we skirt it to climber’s right.

On to the summits… These peaks might only be 11K feet, but what they lack in height, they make up for in summit views.

Summit of South Signal Mountain – Rocky Mountain National Park – December 27, 2014

Park boundary. There is actually a series of these posts indicating where the Comanche Peak Wilderness ends and RMNP begins.

Sam doing some scrambling on a few interesting rock formations near the summit of South Signal.

Sam nearing the summit of Signal. The summit of South Signal can be seen to the left in the pano. The slog back and forth to each summit is .6 miles and quite a reprieve from the previous 5 hours.

Summit of Signal Mountain – Comanche Peak Wilderness – December 27, 2014.

Summit of Signal Mountain – December 27, 2014.

Back to South Signal to finish off the last 2 cookies from Gram and then we begin the 6 mile trek home.

Parting shot.

I think Sam summed it up perfectly when he said “I think that was harder than the Ten Mile traverse”. 🙂 Don’t underestimate those 11ers! Great day out, Sam. Thanks for the company and the entertainment. Let’s do it again soon, buddy.

And back in time to catch the bowl game and a cereal beer at Black Bottle Brewery in Fort Collins.

How do you miss an extra point, in a bowl game, in OT? You don’t if you’re a Nittany Lion. What a day!

Thanks for reading and I hope you had a Happy New Year! Cheers to 2015! Be safe out there.

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13 thoughts on “Signal and South Signal Mountains

  1. Doug

    Very cool! (Literally!) And after plowing through all that deep snow, I think you’d be ready for another round of 800+ cookies! Loved the shots of Longs/Meeker with the snow spins! I’m only a summer hiker but the snow really makes the place even more beautiful! Thanks for sharing your trip!

    1. Dillon

      Thanks Doug! I ate 8 bowls of Chile after the bowl game instead. Quite a different perspective out there in the winter as well as from the north. See you in the summer!

  2. jbchalk

    Well done to you & Sam, Sarnelli. Love the report, pics, and effort to get these 11ers in Winter. I do love those lower peaks that require a buttload of just good solid trenching through millions of trees – its just a solid workout. Much better than going to the gym treadmilling and stairmastering for 6 hrs I would dare to say 🙂 Then, when you crest treeline, a whole new world opens up. Hope to see you soon, bud.

    1. Dillon

      Brando – Happy New Year man! Solid workout indeed. Treadmills are beat. You’re exactly right in your synopsis. We said it over and over on the trip, but this trek was sort of the opposite of the norm as we were in the trees the whole time until the end. It sorta makes you appreciate the summit even more! Hope you, Christine and Sawyer partied hard over the New Year. Looking forward to seeing you soon, buddy! In the meantime, if you need a new accountant you know who to call.

  3. Sam Sala

    Spectacular day out, my friend! Thanks for the invite. I wasn’t very excited about it while slinking out of the warm Jeep, but so glad we made it work!

    1. Dillon

      Sam, for sure. Spectacular is a good word! I didn’t think so at 6 AM either, probably not even at 6 PM, haha, but after I got the feeling back in my legs, it’s one of those outings we’ll remember for a long time! Great day and you’re a beast out there buddy. Thanks for hanging. It was really great to see your mug again. Enjoy the ice climbing!

    1. Dillon

      John! No hashtags over here? haha. Thanks for stopping by. Next time the Facebook tells me you’re nearby, I’ll buy you a beer and tell you that I really didn’t know the answer to your Antero question. Let me know how it goes man!

    1. Dillon

      haha roger that! signal’s got nothing on waaa waaa waaaachusett. Hope all is good man! Looking forward to getting your tax info on April 14th. See you in new england!

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