I have some serious climbing plans in Idaho in a few weeks, so I had to try and get a decent peak in. I’ve been curious about the area near Kenosha Pass since it is pretty close to Denver. Whale Peak via Gibson Lake looked like a good trip, so I rounded up a posse. I was able to get Kristi out there along with Boyd, Jenny and Joel. We had a solid group, which always makes these peaks a lot more fun. You know, so we can all suffer together. Hahaha.
I’ll warn you the road isn’t pretty. I would give it a class 4 rating; meaning it’s a bitch of a drive the last 2 miles. High clearance 4WD is mandatory. Directions from the Denver area is to head south on 285 turning north on Hall Valley Road. This road is well marked and is about 3 miles past the town of Grant. From here the road turns to dirt, the road stays in good for about 5 miles till meeting up with the Hall Valley CG. From here it is a little less than 2 miles to the Gibson Lake TH. Follow the signs heading to Gibson Lake; park your car here if you don’t have a high clearance vehicle. The next bit is a really rough section with one creek crossing. I didn’t have issues with my Chevy Blazer, but I have driven that into many places it shouldn’t have been before. There are some campsites up there, but the use seemed pretty heavy.
|Drainage to the South|
Once we got to the TH, we took a few minutes to ease the nausea from the rough ride in. It was around 7:30A and we were the first to the TH. I read so many mixed reports of distances to Gibson Lake from the TH I didn’t know what to expect. The sign said 3 miles, where my GPS tracked us at 2.48miles.
The trail is in really good shape. Once crossing the creek (bridge) and getting out of the wet morning dew on the willows the trail opens up to double wide most of the way. I didn’t think the grade was too bad, so I would say its kid friendly to the lake. We were in no rush, but I felt we made good progress getting to the lake. Another warning is to bring bug spray. The mosquitos and flies were pretty bad whenever we did stop.
Tree line is around 11,200ft. The rock fields sucked in a little of our time. There were some really neat pegmatites and gneisses to check out. The trail continues through the willows and it became quite muddy. After a short trudge through the swamp I ditched some items I didn’t think would be necessary for the push up the mountain.
|Glissade Snow Field|
We decided on the direct route, making our way through the snow fields. There was a nice ramp that took us right to the summit. This route is rather steep, but that’s kind of how I prefer it. There was some serious huffing and puffing. The elevation gain from the lake is about 1,200ft in about 0.65 miles; we kept it as direct as possible. Every snowfield we passed we ogled at the thought of a glissade on the way back. You got to keep those spirits high at points of suffering. Haha.
Boyd led the way and owned the mountain. We eventually caught up to him on the ridge. From there it was a few hundred feet to the summit. Coming into this climb I didn’t think we would see anyone out here, we ran into a group of four at the summit. And two other solo hikers during the day. So, this mountain was a lot busier than I anticipated. It still beats the people on 14ers, which is ridiculous these days. We enjoyed the views, still crystal blue sky. Some clouds were starting to develop, but nothing that would affect our climb. I had a hunger and a thirst for a frosty cold one; I left those at the lake so it was time to head down.
I felt energized on the route down, probably looking forward to that glissade. For once my knees didn’t hurt, so I just rolled with it making great time down the mountain. Once I made it to the snow field I waited for Jenny and Joel to catch up. The snow was nice and soft, which is perfect for glissading with no tools. The slide was fast and amazing as always. This is where a GoPro would come in handy. Snow flying in your face is a good feeling on a hot day. Joel came next then Jenny. For some reason Jenny can’t get any speed, I think we need to bring a sled for her. After the glissade the lake was a stones throw away. We made it down there in no time and cracked open our climbing beers.
We rested for quite a bit enjoying sandwiches and beers. The clouds were getting puffy, so it was time to roll out. The beauty of the mountains is walking down the trail while still enjoying a cold one. Truly, the freedom of the hills.
There were many groups of people heading up to the lake. With it being so hot I was kind of surprised. We were making good time on the trail back to the car. With that ugly drive to look forward to, I wanted to get that over before any rain hit if we could make that happen.
This was one of my favorite climbing trips in Colorado so far. My body didn’t get beat, the company was amazing and the scenery was out of this world. It was a fun way to celebrate Joel’s birthday and he got his first ever summit…awesome, a 13er to boot. I hope to get out with everyone a few more times this year, there are many more mountains to climb!
TH Elevation: 10,316 feet
Whale Peak: 13,078 feet
Total Gained Elevation: 2,800 feet
Distance: 6.29 miles
Time: 3:56 moving, 2:14 minutes stopped
Climbing Partner: Kristi, Boyd, Jenny and Joel
Picture Link: Whale Peak