Ascent of Grizzly Peak on 2019-09-15

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:glen mizenko
Date:Sunday, September 15, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Grizzly Peak
    Elevation:13988 ft / 4263 m

Ascent Trip Report


Grizzly is written up as a class 2 hike. Yes most of it is. But I would recommend anyone read the rest of the or info before embarking on this trip thinking it is easy it is not. The 4 wheel drive route is not too bad – our Toyota 4-runner had no issues getting to the upper TH parking. I would agree with the 3 out of 6 rating I terms of difficulty – most of it was easy but patches of moderate. We never had to use 4 low only 4 high.

But the climbing itself all day was tricky, hard, and at times a bit sketchy in terms of safety. Now the extra credit trip we did over to Ouray was by far the trickiest of the day and most do not do that so that added some difficulties that were not pleasant (read separate trip report for that). This is about the Grizzly and Garfield traverse. There are easy roads and lower trails up towards the alpine lake no problem. The fun begins when one starts to head up the headwalls and steep slopes of the ridgeline. Frankly, you will look from the bottom and wonder how ever you will get up there.

There are occasional places where you may find some use wear in the scree but it is mostly a free for all open country scampering up steep semi-grassy loose material. When you get to rock much of it is very eroded and not safe scrambling. The class 2+ scampering is often on steep terrain with the rocks giving way as you touch them. Fortunately, some of the most precarious areas of rock in the gendarmes have well worn ledges near their bases where you can stay off the crumbling class 3 and above the steep annoying scree. In some areas the rock is solid (or solid enough) that you will want to class climb up and out of the messy moving scree.

Once on top of the ridge there is no longer sketchy sections but still provides far more boot sliding and toe kicking than I like. To make sure you have footing you will find yourself kicking a lot of steps in the scree and sand to be stable. It is very tiring. Near the actual summit on the backside of the crumbling horrible rock is a steep slope of nothing but sand. There, mountaineers have kicked in a nice little 12-inch-wide trail that finally gives you a safe walkway along the mess and the final summit climb is easy.

This is one of the harder class 2 type hikes I can recall in terms of unrelenting poor-quality material to hike on and it is very misleading all the way up. Now the big irony…………as you sit on the well-earned peak and look at Garfield you find yourself looking at all the broken crumbly towers and loose side slopes and wonder how the heck can one get Garfield? It looks worse than anything we did all day!


The final escape out of the crumbling towers is a sandy saddle that looks from all angles of approach like a horrible 60-degree nightmare. But here is where it all gets positive. As you follow the use trails off of Grizzly there is an easy to follow path that works around the broken fingers and towers and it is stable easy ledges. Far easier than anything we experienced all day. What looks impossible from the peak is quite easy and safer material. Soon the paths lead to stable rock talus and scree slopes and this day of mental and physical exhaustion became one of great views and nice routes.

At the top of Garfield we could finally see the actual slope of the escape slide (the saddle between Garfield and the unranked spiked towered hand peak next to it) and the slide looked like a very reasonable slope the illusion we saw all day of the route down off Garfield was no longer frightening. Even better it was “perfect scree and sand” – the type you could boot plunge with the consistency of snow. We were able to essentially run down the saddle slide as if it were soft snow – the amazing reprieve on our tired legs we needed.

But first we had to get off Garfield to the saddle. Reports say going back and around it to the saddle was safest. Tough call. One can traverse the ridge to a crux move where you would have to chin yourself down about an 8-foot wall to the saddle. There are solid finger grips at the top of the slab but it straight down, so you have a pretty athletic move to chin yourself down and then jump the last few feet. The landing is non-exposed and solid, so I was preparing to do this class 4ish dismount when Glen said no lets down-climb the class 3 around the backside. That did not require any physical strength and was the only class 3 on the hike to Garfield or off but it was exposed and on crumbly rock again so…….. I guess it is a matter of preference. I think we did the right thing by doing the class 3 downclimb to the saddle.

The best summary I could give us this day is this: Ouray peak is far harder than it looks and the ridge between it and Grizzly are not for inexperienced route finders or people with balance issues, fear of heights, etc and the material is horrible and high-risk injury crap. Grizzly looks hard and it is. It is just about as hard at it looks but do not consider it to be easy as a class 2 it is as hard as a class 2 as I can recall. Again, a lot of bad material and a lot of exposure in the bad material. Garfield looks by far the hardest and most dangerous and may make your stomach turn looking at it from the base and from the peak of Grizzly but is actually quite easy in comparison to the other two peaks and the horrible looking escape slide is actually one of the easiest and most fun I have ever found.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2094 ft / 638 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1056 ft / 321 m
    Grade/Class:1,2,2+, some 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2094 ft / 638 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1038 ft / 316 m; Extra: 1056 ft / 321m
    Loss on way in:1056 ft / 321 m
    Distance:3.1 mi / 5 km
    Route:see GPS track
    Start Trailhead:Sub-summit or Ouray  12950 ft / 3947 m
    Time:3 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Route:see GPS track
Ascent Part of Trip: Grizz

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Ouray Peak2019-09-15 a1637 ft / 499 m
2Grizzly Peak2019-09-15 b2094 ft / 638 m
3Garfield Peak2019-09-16 c521 ft / 159 m
Total Trip Gain: 4252 ft / 1296 m    Total Trip Loss: 1835 ft / 559 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by William Musser
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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