This is another one of those days that will go down in the books as being quite memorable. When setting out on this hike, Hager Mountain was not the intended goal. I was hoping to complete a several mile stretch of the Continental Divide that would tie together several earlier treks (including the Loveland Loop
) along this imaginary line. Here's how we got to Hager Mountain ...
We began the hike by parking at the west portal of the Eisenhower Tunnel (westbound). There really was no where to park so I pulled off an access road where we began our hike to the north (on the west side of the Divide). While selectively not seeing the Keep Out - Explosives
sign we began to head up this valley following an old road that I assume was utilized in the construction of the tunnel. Near the head of the valley this road switched back to the south and gained elevation. After a long walk along this road I began to get antsy wanting to be up on the Divide which was just above us. For this reason we lost the road and climbed straight up a steep hillside covered with dying grass and pockets of snow from earlier storms. After about 15 minutes of climbing we found ourselves on the top of the Continental Divide with views to the east and the west (as well as every other direction). The ground was mostly dry as the recently fallen snow had been blown towards Loveland Basin Ski Area which was just below us to the east. We were careful not to walk on the cornices which were beginning to form on the east side of this ridge.
By now the wind was beginning to have an effect on our comfort so we took a break to eat and dress a little warmer. From this point we followed the Divide north (northeast) all the while ascending and descending small sub-peaks with elevation gains in the several hundred feet range. Somewhere along this ridge we heard a howl
and to our surprise we saw a coyote running along a ridge (to the west) below and away from us. After hiking for about two miles (I'm guessing) we came to a steep rocky slope which would take us to a summit I was soon to learn was Hager Mountain. This slope was very steep and took a lot out of us (as did the wind). After about a 500 foot gain in elevation we found ourselves near the summit of this mountain. My partner on this trip (Bill) decided not to attempt the actual summit as it appeared to be a tricky and rocky climb (at elevation). I chose to go on.
With Bill positioned to watch my solo attempt at the summit I began with a 50 foot (or so) descent from our current location, traversed for another 50 feet and scrambled up a hundred feet (?) of boulders, snow, and loose rock. Safely on the summit I discovered the register which had many fewer names than the registers on more easily accessible peaks! And I know why - it was dangerous where I was and would only recommend this summit to seasoned and experienced hikers. [Up until the final pitch, this hike is relatively easy.] I would also recommend that you attempt this hike earlier in the season when there would be less snow on top.
As Bill was within shouting distance I was able to use his eyes to scout my way back down from the summit to his position. Back at the relative safety of the lower summit (where Bill was) we found a spot on the northern (eastern) side of the Divide where we could relax and enjoy the silence. We were fortunate to have encountered only two other hikers on this entire trip and they were back down by the tunnel. Our view to the southeast was of Grays
and Torreys Peaks
as well as Grizzly Peak
to our south. To the west we could see the entire Gore Mountain Range and the Ten Mile Range to the southwest. To our north was the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park.
On the way home we cut the trip short by retracing our steps and then turning west so as to follow the ridge where we had seen the coyote earlier. From this ridge we were able to drop directly into the valley which led back to the car.
We were gone a total of 5 hours and I came home with a sun and wind burned face (and I use sunblock extensively). I feel that this may have been my last high elevation hike of this season as this day was unseasonably beautiful, sunny and warm. Perhaps next summer I can complete this section of the Divide between Hager Mountain and Hag Peak - a distance of less than one mile - but for now it will have to wait.