Peak(s):  Whale Peak  -  13,078 feet
Date Posted:  02/19/2021
Date Climbed:   08/30/2020
Author:  Chelsea
Additional Members:   13erRetriever
 Whale via Gibson Lake Trail   

Whale Peak (13,078′)

08/30/20 | 6.87 miles | 2,899′ gain | Class 2


Allie and I decided to climb Whale via the Gibson Lake Trail. The road in was rough but Subaru-able with some care. There were a number of cars already at the trailhead when we arrived at 8am. (Most people were also summiting Whale and not just hiking to Gibson Lake like we first assumed.) The Gibson Lake Trail starts in a lush forest and immediately crosses the North Fork of the South Platte River before heading south and then west to parallel Lake Fork.

North Fork of the South Platte River

The trail was a steady incline all the way to treeline but it flattened slightly as we entered the upper basin.

First view of Whale Peak (left of center) and Bullion Benchmark (right: 12,948′)
Looking back down valley
Lake Fork
Tailings from an old mine and a field of late season flowers

We found ourselves at the small but pretty Gibson Lake after about 2.5 miles. The trail ends here. We aimed roughly for a willow-filled gully northwest of the lake, keeping to the hillside above the willows on grass and dirt.

Gibson Lake
Above the willow-filled gully (left) on grass and dirt

Everything above Gibson Lake was steep and occasionally loose, but navigation was straightforward. Once we’d gotten above the willows, we crossed the gully and started up Whale’s northeastern slopes.

Arctic gentian

The last 500′ was very steep and slow-going on a mix of grass, dirt, and talus.

Almost to the top…
We made it! (Photo: Allie)

It was super windy on top so we quickly got our pictures and found a sheltered spot out of the wind for our snack. It was beginning to feel (and look) like fall.


Our descent back down to Gibson Lake was painfully slow. I tweaked my knee somehow (thankfully not seriously) and I could only descend on one leg instead of switching back and forth like normal, so I had to stop more often to rest.

Heading down the loosest section
Probably wondering why I do this (Photo: Allie)

By the time we made it to the lake, the winds had picked up in the basin. We stopped near the water’s edge for a quick break and were subsequently soaked by lake water picked up by a gust of wind. Oh well, it was time to get moving anyways.

Late season flowers

Walking down the trail was a lot easier on my knee than the steep slopes and we made decent time back to the car. Whale was a fun little peak and I’m glad we snuck it into an often crappy 2020.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Comments or Questions
Nice report
02/19/2021 17:41
That certainly looks like a beautiful place and a wonderful day in the mountains.

Last pic
02/19/2021 18:52
Those wildflowers have me looking forward to summer already!

A whale of a report!
02/20/2021 10:19
Chelsea - Whale can also be done by going left at the lake and following the ridge. I think user Derek wrote a TR on that. It is also a fun winter climb although the hike is a tad longer as one has to start at the Hall Valley campground. Thanks for putting this one up and reminding me I need to go do that one again.

02/20/2021 10:52
@ltlFish99 - It sure was! We really enjoyed this one.

@Sbenfield - Me too...I'm so ready for spring flowers!

@Jay - We considered making a loop but ultimately decided against it (I can't remember why). Whale is a nice one, I'd definitely do it again.

02/20/2021 11:07
I second what Steve said! Bring on the green grass and flowers already!

   Not registered?

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.

© 2022®, 14ers Inc.