Peak(s):  "Igloo Peak"  -  13,060 feet
"Mountain Boy Peak"  -  13,198 feet
Grizzly Peak A  -  13,988 feet
Garfield Peak A  -  13,780 feet
Red Mountain B  -  13,500 feet
Date Posted:  06/27/2021
Modified:  06/28/2021
Date Climbed:   06/23/2021
Author:  headsizeburrito
Additional Members:   justiner
 Independence Pass to Red Mountain B via Continental Divide (with special guest justiner)   

Independence Pass to Red Mountain B via Continental Divide

Stats: 13h6m, 18mi, 7,500ft vert

TLDR: Teamed up with Justin. Wanted to see what the Mountain Boy to Grizzly A ridge was like since I couldn't find any reports. That area is pretty chill, Grizzly to Red Mountain B takes a lot more effort, especially if you try to stay along the ridge like we did instead of dropping down on the west side in tricky places. Long and fun route but hard in places. Ate a burrito and a pizza.

.gpx file of route

A few months back justiner/Justin Simoni posted a route idea of following the ridge of the Continental Divide from Marshall Pass to Tennessee Pass that I found very interesting and decided to try and attempt later this year. Of course between the elevation profile estimate being revised from 31,000ft to 65,000ft+ and the limits in my own available consecutive days off, my ambitions have had to be scaled back a bit and I'm now looking at doing a shortened portion of the route from Monarch Pass to Independence Pass that still looks fun and is a more manageable ~70mi. The section still includes a number of non-technical but challenging areas that I want to scout out before attempting the full stretch. Now that the snow is largely melted out I'm doing some recon and asked Justin if he was interested in joining me. The plan was just to start from Independence Pass and follow the Divide south to see what the terrain was like and what kind of mileage was reasonable there in a day. I decided to do this one deluxe style, so I picked up Justin at the light rail and we drove to Leadville where I had a hotel reservation. We could see and smell a fair bit of smoke on the drive in, but luckily it cleared up the next day. We headed to High Mountain Pies for some pizza and discovered they are closed on Tuesdays, so instead went of a Mexican place for our pre-hike nutrition.

Staying in character, I had a burrito for dinner.
A 4am wake up means not a lot of breakfast options in town, so we settled for protein bars and chocolate covered peanuts before the one hour drive to Independence Pass. There was a cop car parked along the road in Twin Lakes with a dummy in it. Follow the speed limit, don't be a dummy!
Early morning light at Independence Pass
Part of the idea of the route is to stay as close to the actual ridge of the Continental Divide as possible. This meant not taking the trail from the parking lot, but instead going west on the road to cut across to the first hill. It also meant walking through a marsh and getting our shoes wet in the first five minutes. This was stupid and we took the trail on the way back.

The first section up to Igloo is quite mellow and there are plenty of reports of the route from the pass to Igloo and Mountain Boy so I don't need to spend much time on that part of it. I will say that the wildflowers were excellent! We tried to stick to the ridge continuing south from the summit of Igloo, but it looked too steep and crumbly to downclimb, so we backtracked slightly and dropped down to easier terrain and cut across the slope to the saddle with Mountain Boy. From the summit of Mountain Boy you can get a great view of the ridge to the south that was the main mystery of the day. I hadn't been able to find any trip reports that took this ridge south and connected it to Grizzly A, it seems everyone takes the shorter approach from McNasser Gulch instead. Despite the dramatic looking east face of the ridge it was quite gentle, we even saw a group of mountain goats taking the ridge to show us the way.

Ridge south of Mountain Boy looking kind of dramatic
Once on the ridge you find it's quite easy overall
Continuing south towards Grizzly

Continuing south the terrain continues to be moderate at most, there is often at least a faint trail even if you aren't trying to stay right on the ridge as we generally were. It does become significantly more rugged as you get closer to Grizzly. It was difficult to see exactly where the standard route up Grizzly goes because it isn't well established, but eventually we merged with it and encountered a few cairns. This section does have some fairly easy class 3 staying on the ridge, but most can be avoided for upper class 2 if you pick your line that way.

Grizzly with Grizzly Lake to the north
Grizzly with Garfield Peak and another rocky unnamed peak to the south/southeast
Looking back on the ridge we had come from

After a break on Grizzly we continued on to Garfield. These 13ers are often done as a combo and the route description here gives you a good idea of what the linkup is like. The route is described as easy class 3 and by following the ridge much more directly we moved significantly slower but didn't encounter any major obstacles. Maybe some moderate class 3 with rock that isn't super solid, but no real exposure or technical difficulty, which is good because I'm not a real climber! It's fun but takes a fair bit of time and focus to stay safe due to frequent loose rock. We weren't able to stay perfectly on the crest, but stayed pretty close.

Looking backs towards Grizzly from Garfield

The hardest part of this route is definitely getting from Garfield to Red Mountain. My original goal assuming everything went smoothly was to get as far south as Booby Prize, but that clearly wasn't happening with a turnaround time of noon-ish. The rock here is loose and crumbly in many places and some sections are simply not passable strictly following the ridge. You can drop down further and cross the loose slope instead of the crumbly rock to avoid the worst of it, but in the interest of following the ridge as closely as possible we crept carefully along just west of the crest. This section is mostly crumbly class 3 and while there isn't a ton of exposure, the slope is quite steep in places and you certainly need to move with caution.

Looking back at the descent from Garfield

Closer shot of the type of terrain we were going through

From the saddle it was a short easy walk to the summit of Red Mountain. It was almost exactly noon and we had been moving for 6.5 hours, so this became our turnaround point. Red isn't topographically interesting and doesn't look like much from the direction we approached, but from the summit you can see the east face and the source of it's rather on-point name.

Looking south from the summit of Red Mountain B

We took a short break here before turning around, so relax and enjoy some nice flowers!


Turning around meant immediately redoing the difficult section below Garfield. We felt a little more confident doing it a second time, but I don't know that we moved any faster! The rest return trip was largely uneventful, though we did see a group of probably 50 goats, including at least 7 young hopping along behind their moms at the saddle south of Igloo. Clouds moved in on the return trip and while we had a few minutes here and there of wind and some sprinkling, we luckily avoided any real rain or bad weather.

Goats making their getaway as we approach Igloo

On the way back up Igloo Justin wanted to see if we could do the whole ridge going north and climbing up since we had to divert around it while going southbound. If you zoom in close on the .gpx track you can see we got close, but the rock became too steep and crumbly. Instead we dropped partway down and cut across, which put us in some pretty sketchy and loose scree gullies. Eventually we got through it, but I would recommend going around that particular section!

Justin traversing the crumbly gullies

Once back on the summit we continued north, tired and happy to be on secure ground again. As we approached the pass we stuck to the trail this time and kept our feet dry! Other than people at the pass we didn't see a single person all day, which was pretty nice. We reached the car at 6:30pm, 13 hours after we started, celebrating our day with a post-hike protein drink.

I had to get home, but Justin had further plans in the area, so I dropped him and his bike at the nearby North Lake Creek TH to spend the night. From there I drove to Leadville, got a pizza at High Mountain Pies and sent Justin a taunting photo for when he had cell service again.

Post-hike pizza

Overall a solid day. It was my first time meeting Justin in person and he makes a good hiking partner while being an excellent source of info to leach from! The unknown ridge section was luckily no big deal, so I don't have to worry about getting through there in the future and hopefully that info will be useful to others as well. If you want to do Grizzly the long way from a paved TH this would fit the bill. If you are looking for sustained time at altitude the entire route is between 12k and just under 14k, which added a bit to the difficulty. Grizzly to Red is fairly tough, but could be done easier than the way we did it by being willing to drop further off the ridge crest at times. I'm still pretty new to Colorado so it was my first time doing much of this kind of class 3. It was certainly the most demanding day I've done here so far, but hopefully I'm just getting started!

The details on a long day tend to get a little fuzzy, so hopefully Justin can chime in with anything important I missed (in case this wasn't already too long), as well as providing some points of comparison that may be helpful to put this one in context.

I uploaded the images to imgur here in case anyone wanted to see them in higher resolution.

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

Comments or Questions
06/27/2021 21:47
These two reports that I should have found before this trip but didn't until just now provide some additional info and pics on the section between Garfield and Red:

bergsteigen - Sawatch orphans

Layne Bracy - Sawatch scree

seeking timberline
Cool route!
06/27/2021 23:33
And thanks for answering one of our questions from our La Plata hike La Plata Scramble (photo #45): What's the name of that red mountain way over there?

Duh, Red Mountain.

Great report!
06/28/2021 08:59
I really like this one!

06/28/2021 13:49
Was just looking on the site to see if anyone else had downclimbed this ridge or took another way around, as I downclimbed it with a 30lb pack this weekend and thought it was a bit spicy...Not sure if I feel brave or dumb now. It was quite Jenga-y! I like your first way around. Thanks for the well documented trip report!

06/28/2021 14:22
Kurly_Q - As long as nobody got hurt it's all good! Are you talking specifically about the ridge south of Garfield or something else? Where were you going on your trip?

Well done.
06/28/2021 18:50
Wow. I've been on that Mtn Boy Ridge looking at Grizzly and it looks FAR away. Certainly did wonder about that ridge run though. What was your round trip mileage? It is barely perceptible in the gpx image you share.

06/28/2021 19:21
Yeah, I wish we could have higher resolution images, it was readable originally! Stats are reported above the map image but it was 18mi, 7,500ft vert.

Thanks for the GPX
09/14/2021 21:35
A time or two as I was fumbling my way along the ridge between Garfield and Red I paused and asked myself: "So where did the Burrito go?" It was nice to compare my location with where at least one pair of folks had successfully gone before (though I kinda waited until it was too late to reference your tracks, but I gave you a tip of the hat in my TR anyways).

   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.