Hiking Bear Peak Solo, To Scramble Or To Not Scramble
As my eyes gaze west through out the day, there's a large peak that looms off in the distance. I often find this peak staring back at me, whispering here I am, why don't you climb me. Bear Peak is it's name, it is Boulder's tallest mountain, and it just so happens to be in my neighborhood. I have a direct view of the peak from my office window. Anytime I am driving around town or just staring longingly at the mountains, my eyes roll along the ridges and always stop at the very tippy top of Bear Peak. The ridge to the north is still visibly burnt out and the black tree trunks that remain just have a way of leading my eyes to the prize.
On my last regularly scheduled day off before summer holiday, I woke up and decided my time had come to climb Bear Peak. I loaded up my Camelbak with water, a few snacks, and headed out. I wasn't quite sure how long it was going to take me, but I thought about 5 hours would do the trick. I am lucky to have a pretty direct route from my favorite hiking trail, so I was able to get to the top of the mountain in 2.5 miles. I saw exactly one person on my way up, a true gift, considering the majority of Boulder's hiking trails are typically well used.
Bear Peak has a 2,700 foot elevation gain and the top of the peak stands at 8,461 feet above sea level. As I arrived just short of the summit, I noticed the Open Space and Mountain Parks trail marker sign pointing to Bear Peak Summit which was a huge pile of rocks. I took a moment to catch my breath and contemplate my next steps. Would I be happy arriving at the sign or would I get on essentially all fours and scramble (hey, that's the technical term) to the top, perch myself precariously on one of these red rocks teetering on the edge of sheer drops, and take a selfie...
What do you think I did?
I scrambled. I went a bit, then I went a bit further, and well the true summit was incredible. See:
That's the view from the top. The city of Boulder is off in the distance to the north (top right of the photo). The University of Colorado can be spotted with the Italian tile roofs which just seem to coordinate lovely with the deep terra-cotta colored rock on the peak.
In reflection of my experience, I was actually amazed at how gentle the climb was to the top of Bear. It was less strenuous and shorter than I anticipated, taking the Fern Canyon trail straight up instead of the Bear Peak West Trail Ridge. Now every time I catch a glimpse of Bear Peak, it grounds me, it reminds me of the moment I just said yes and seized the day.
My next goal is to climb a 14'er which is locals speak for a 14,000 foot peak.