Climbing Grizzly Peak - Colorado's highest Centennial Mountain
Adam Moszynski - April 21 2020
The Adventure: A Ridgeline loop above Mcnasser Gulch and summiting Garfield Peak A (a Bicentennial Peak) and Grizzly Peak A - Colorado's highest Centennial mountain and only 12 feet shy of a 14'er.
It's the summer of 2017 in the Rockies, and we set out for our first "peak-bagging" trip of the season in July. My daughter was 18 months old at the time; my wife Darcy and I were excited to have a night away! We drove out to McNasser Gulch on the other side of Independence Pass from Aspen. Not far away, but a world away from the bustle of July in Aspen. We didn't see a single person all day long. McNasser Gulch is accessible via South Fork Lake Creek Road on the eastside of Independence Pass; it's one of 5 prominent gulches that drain into this creek. It's beautiful, quiet, and, most importantly, close to home in the busy months of summer.
Taking a break on the 13,780 ft summit of Garfield Peak (Colorado's 117th highest peak). Our Silkyway Long Sleeve is perfect for long days in the mountains.
Colorado's lower elevation peaks (below 14,000 ft.) have so much to offer
After finding a campsite, we spent the evening watching a multi-hued sunset and prepping for a long walk in the wildflower-filled Colorado Alpine the next day. Our goal was to make a ridgeline loop above Mcnasser Gulch and to summit both Garfield Peak (a Bicentennial peak) and Grizzly Peak (the highest Centennial peak and only 12 feet shy of being a 14er). We had already skied Grizzly a couple of times in previous years, but we wanted to climb it in the summer, too. It’s nice to see the mountains undressed after you’ve danced with them all dressed in white. And in our book, it’s always worth linking summits while you’re up high if the weather is right.
"This is the kind of experience we fell in love with. The kind of adventure it provides was the very inspiration for the launch of our brand, Corbeaux, - driving innovation for the technical gear we need in the mountains."
Colorado's highest Centennial mountain and many lower elevation Centennial peaks have so much to offer - the trails are empty, if there are trails at all. You can be the only party on a Centennial peak and gaze over at a nearby 14er and count up to 100 people. So it’s a different kind of experience being on these peaks, and adventuring among them has helped us broaden the focus of our mountain pursuits. Over the years we started to look more closely for those “lesser” peaks or better yet, lesser known peaks. They can bring adventure down new dirt roads and into quieter basins. Our exploration is much more isolated when the nearest person is miles away and we are using maps and terrain features for navigation versus simply following a trail. It has helped us expand our mind to what is possible in the mountains. We started to think about bigger loops, link-ups of peaks and ridges, and traversing basins and bigger terrain.
1. Stunning views on the ridgeline traverse from Garfield Peak to Grizzly Peak in Colorado's Sawatch Range. The Seeker Hoody is a girl's best friend for time spent in the outdoors. 2. Entering the upper reaches of McNasser Gulch with Garfield Peak looming in the distance. 3. The beauty of summer in Colorado's alpine meadows.
For some background...
In the Summer of 2012, Darcy and I climbed our 58th and final Colorado 14er (peaks over 14,000 ft), cementing a goal that spanned six years with summits year-round in every season and every weather condition. We have climbed some of them several times over, some of them solo, and almost 40 as ski descents. As we were finishing that project, naturally, we were thinking of what to do next. The Centennials (Colorado's 100 highest peaks) seemed like a logical progression toward spending more time exploring other mountains in our home state.
1. Approaching Garfield Peak, looking back down McNasser Gulch to our starting point. 2. Elephant-head flowers in their July prime. One of the magical visuals of Colorado's plant life.
These peaks range in elevation from 13,988 ft - 13,809 ft and are spread throughout the state, just like the 14ers, so their "adventure-worthiness" is high. So, shortly after finishing the 14ers and getting married (but before we had a child and a business), Darcy and I started focusing on pursuing Colorado's Centennial Peaks.
In the Spring of 2013, with several Centennial peaks "in the bag" already, we started to plan out the remaining 43 peaks in the project. Among those already skied were Cathedral Peak, Thunder Pyramid, and Grizzly Peak, all in the Aspen area. These are high on the tick list for peak-baggers, skiers and aspiring ski mountaineers, and are what many would call "test piece" summits and ski descents. Having made ski descents on all 3 of these local peaks during our time in Aspen, we knew how much adventure the remaining Centennial peaks could offer the aspiring mountain explorer, and we were thirsty to find out.
"It’s a different kind of experience being on these [Centennial] peaks, and adventuring among them has helped us broaden the focus of our mountain pursuits. Over the years we started to look more closely for those “lesser” peaks or better yet, lesser known peaks."
Our friends Chris Davenport, Ted Mahon and Christy Mahon had already started their Centennial Skiers Project and we were able to join them on a number of ski descents. Those experiences really motivated us to continue chasing this goal and to have a great time doing it. 7 years later, with a growing business and a family, we stand at 94/100 Centennial summits, and so many days of adventure. I would rank many of these summits above experiences on most of the 14ers due to more interesting terrain and so many other valuable qualities like fewer people and more isolation.
On the descent into McNasser Gulch from Grizzly Peak's summit.
These are the kinds of experiences we fell in love with over the years living in Aspen. The kind of adventure it provides was the very inspiration for the launch of our brand, Corbeaux - driving innovation for the technical gear we need in the mountains. Gear for living long days, breathing hard, learning about oneself through exploration, and spending time with a loved one...uninterrupted by jobs, kids, family or life. Priceless time spent in the outdoors. - Adam, July 17, 2017