Peak(s):  Bard Peak  -  13,641 feet
Mt. Parnassus  -  13,574 feet
Date Posted:  04/17/2010
Date Climbed:   04/14/2010
Author:  atalarico
 Bard Peak via Mt. Parnassus, with a clusterf@#% descent.   

After careful consideration, my new climbing partner and I decided against our original plan of climbing Torrey's to descend the Tuning Fork/NW face.

My partner, Kieran, had strongly encouraged my overzealous self to try these two fun ones. They were really fun, but the real adventure came on the way down in treeline.

We arrived at the TH around 7am (leaving Denver around 620am). We took Bard Creek trail to climb Parnassus from the East and then we would traverse the saddle up Bard.

We were able to avoid wearing snowshoes until we were out of treeline in Walrous Gulch. However, the portion of the trail in treeline had more than a few snow covered icy spots, so be careful. However, the snow was still cold and the sun was just coming up in the gulch, so it wasn't too bad to snowshoe on.

Morning in Walrous Gulch

We traversed the gulch and begin a direct ascent up towards the crescent shaped snowfield in this picture.

We ascended just to the left of the crescent snowfield.

From here it was straightforward. Up up and up.


The views were spectacular and it was a great reconnaissance mission to get a good look at Torrey's to see what we can muster next week.


More incredible to me were the loud booms we kept hearing. There was some good discussion as to what exactly this phenomenon was, as it definitely was too loud for avy bombs from nearby Loveland, and I-70 was well out of earshot. Not to mention the booms were coming from above.

My partner explained that he believes it to be a rapid pressure change in colliding air pockets with different air pressures. Anyone have any idea what this phenomenon is?

Anyway, we summited Parnassus around 12:40pm. I'm a really small guy with a short stride, so I'm a fairly slow hiker and climber (and that's putting it modestly).

Parnassus summit!

The wind wasn't too horrible, but it was definitely there. The summit register was missing from it's tube, so we were unable to sign-in.

After a short lunch break we headed down the saddle to the East of the summit and began our trek to Bard peak.

The route was pretty straightforward. Here's a picture, but we basically hugged the saddle the whole way.


I was feeling really wiped at this point and I was questioning my ability to summit. I was out of breath constantly and my head was throbbing. I wasn't in the best condition to climb to start with, as I'd been dealing with really severe seasonal allergies that had left me extremely nauseous the previous days to the trip. I was drinking enough fluids, but I was having a hard time getting anything into my stomach as the sinus drainage had taken it's gross toll on my stomach.

Well, after enough time of putting one front in front of the other, I made it to the top of Bard. It was such an amazing feeling and I was really happy.

My favorite picture is of me flying my Red Wings jersey from the summit, as the playoffs began that night! My partner has the photo, so I'll post it when I get it.

The views were even more spectacular. My partner, Kieran, is extremely knowledgeable and is able to name every peak that he ever sees. So, when he said we could see to the mountains in Wyoming, I was blown away because I knew he wasn't b/sing.

So, the descent is where we got in trouble (of course...).

All was fine and well as we descended the southern face of Bard. Kieran noted that a popular ski descent that is rarely in, was actually in on the southeast face.


The snow itself was horrendous. Absolutely unconsolidated mush. Kieran post-holed down and I decided to partake in my favorite descent method, the glissade! I was able to slide for a few hundred feet and would have to restart as too much slush would build up.

This is where my photos end, as I was really feeling the total body wipe that a good climb will do to you.

We were attempting to intersect with the other side of the Bard Creek trail.

We came to an absolutely stunning southern facing plateau with a few cairns on it. We had more food and took a solid 15 minute break. We eventually mustered the energy to get back on our feet and get down. This was about where we entered tree-line and it got snafu'd.

As you can tell by my SPOT page Tony's SPOT page

we never found the trail again.

We ended up bushwhacking through some extremely dense and steep forests. We both fell a lot, and avoided bone and skull smashing collisions with rocks on more than a few occasions. I really thought I had nothing left in me, but I went into survival mode and gave it all I had left. It was ugly.

We only covered about a mile in about an hour and a half or two. I lost track of time really.

We eventually made it back to I-70 at the "1 Mile To Bakersville" exit sign.

We stuck out our thumbs in desperation as we placed one exhausted foot in front of another back to the TH.

To our surprise and adoration, a small SUV pulled over for us! My new friend, Nat, was incredibly kind and empathetic to our situation, as he knows people who have been in it before. We all squeezed in with his St. Bernard in the back, and his ladyfriend in the front.

All was well in the world.

So, it turned out to to be an epic indeed.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
04/19/2010 00:02
Weird. I really think I might open it up to the forum to figure out what the heck it is.

It‘s an eerie sound to hear when you‘re up that high too.

Cupid looked pretty cool from across the way!

Glad the info helped. I think we would have been willing to look for the trail if it didn‘t involve dragging our extremely tired corpses back up the hill to see where we went wrong.


04/19/2010 20:04
Nice work! This info will come in handy. Funny enough, just yesterday we were checking out these very mountains from Sniktau:

del_sur, we might consider Parnassus next weekend, if you‘re interested.

Descent Beta
01/19/2011 03:38
This is great timing for me, thanks. These two have been on my ”to do” list for about a month now. I‘m a relative stranger around the Front Range, so every bit of info helps.
BTW, we heard the same ”phenomenon” while strolling up ”Cupid” on 4/15, but can‘t say what it really is. We saw no unlikely avy bombs from our vantage point.

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