Suddenly the holidays arrived, and I realized I’d not been in the mountains since mid-October. It would feel like a sin with this crazy warm weather, except that’s just it: when each weekend has brought 60s and sunshine down in Denver, the bike’s siren call cancels out that of a thirteener with upper 30s and wind chill.
Saturday December 16: a quick hike up to the summit of Golden Bear. I slept in to 6:30 and made the quick drive to the Loveland exit, then the hairpin onto the dirt road tracing back, beneath Mt Trelease. The road was packed and I made good time up it, then followed a snowshoe track into Dry Gulch. Now for the game changer: I’d foolishly heeded online opinions not to mess with snowshoes, and every step became a posthole.
Looking up, I found a patchy network of bare ground leading up the slopes to the ridge between Bethel and the Citadel. So the plan changed: Golden Bear by way of Citadel and Hagar.Having done these two with Pettingell four years ago, I was excited to repeat the scrambling on those summits. From here, the pictures tell the tale.
Once off Hagar, the ridge to Golden Bear was an easy hour. I drank in the sunshine on this sublime wintry but wind-less afternoon. After 10-15 minutes, I descended Golden Bear’s east ridge, following the posts that mark the border of the Loveland ski area. I had considered returning over the bare top of Trelease, but not wishing to sink thigh high into the snow in the trees on the eastern side, I opted to turn south and bee-line down the valley toward I-70. This stretch was a post-hole-mageddon, as I sank in calf deep or knee deep with each step. I tried following a watercourse, thinking it might be frozen over and thus offer more solid snow, but the stream was still running slowly underneath, so the post-hole misery was augmented by accumulating frozen snowballs to the tops of my boots.
The snow thinned and became more solid when I reached the unused Loveland lift, and I was to I70 in only a few minutes from there. Hiking back to the car along I70 was not aesthetic, but it made for quick time to reach the car just before dark. All in all, a splendid way to spend a winter day.