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Mount Bethel

September 21, 1996
Arapaho National Forest
Starting Elevation:
10,XXX feet ?
Highest Elevation:
12,705 feet
Distance (round trip):
~ 3 miles ?
If you have ever driven west on Interstate 70 from Denver to the Continental Divide, you have seen Mount Bethel. Several miles (?) before approaching the exit for Hwy. 6 which leads to Loveland Pass you will see a pyramid shaped peak just to the north of the Interstate. This roadway icon stands out like a sore thumb (cliche') due to it's prominence and near perfect triangular shape. As you pass the base of this peak on the highway you will notice two very steep avalanche chutes which lead directly to the summit. This is the route I chose for my ascent. I pulled off the highway to begin my hike from where it looked as though there once may have been a parking area at the base of the western-most avalanche chute and well off the highway right-of -way.

As I was following no trail I began by heading straight up this (western) chute (on the north face). Footing was good and I had no problem bushwhacking my way towards tree line. About two-thirds of the way to tree line I found a game trail which proved to be helpful - yet steep. I followed this game trail up through a rocky area just below tree line. Once through this rocky area the slope temporarily leveled out looking somewhat like an alluvial fan.

This is about where the previous week's snow began to cling to the shady areas and in the deeper ravines. I still had no problem with my footing and continued to climb towards the summit. About 400 feet from the summit I was forced to head to the east so that I could bypass a short but very steep technical climb. I found hiking this ridge to the summit to be relatively effortless (no snow, good footing, stable rocks, some grass) although steep.

I reached what I thought to be the summit overlooking the highway only to find the actual summit was 4 peaks and several hundred yards of flat walking to the north - away from the highway. This is where I found a special guest book reserved exclusively for obscure summits! The view from the top included (in my neighborhood) Paiute Peak, Hag Mountain, The Loveland Loop, Loveland Pass and Torreys Peak. Also visible were Mount Evans (to the southeast) and Berthoud Pass to the northnortheast.

As it was late September with new snow around me, ominous clouds about a thousand feet over my head, and chilly temperatures magnified by intermittent gusts of wind, I decided to begin my journey back to the car and the highway below.

Note Regarding Sounds and the Highway: For the better part of my journey the sound (loud near the bottom and muffled near the top) of the Interstate was a constant reminder of civilization. Once over the top and away from the highway these sounds disappeared.

I chose a slightly different route down (for safety reasons). This included descending further down the northeast ridge to a point lower than where I originally accessed this line. This took me to the easternmost avalanche chute on north face of the mountain. Well below tree line I found myself in the remains of what must have been an avalanche from last season. There was loose dirt, whole trees ripped out of the ground and pieces of trees that must have broken like match sticks (I know - another cliche´). From this point it was an easy trek back to my car.

During this entire hike I encountered no other people and limited wildlife. I saw only Pica, Marmot and lots of Mule Deer scat. Overall this was a steep and moderately difficult hike but it was also very accessible as I was only away from Denver for around 6 hours! At this time I cannot give you an accurate measurement of the elevation gain but I'm guessing that it was around 2,500 feet.
Along on this hike with me: no one.