Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Palisade Mountain Hike
Palisade Mtn. (8225')
Class 2/Short Class 3 Summit
~3.5M, ~2200' gain
Palisade Mountain is a local foothill with a prominent protuberance on the south end of the Fort Collins skyline, forming a gateway (along with Round/Sheep Mountain) to the Big Thompson Canyon. I can see it on my daily runs and I've been intrigued by its ramped visage for years, but hadn't made the trip out there: for a 30 minute drive from my house, it's a short 1.5-2mile hike to the summit. But, it's a steep, rocky bushwhack and scramble, so it's also nice not to go solo.
Out of the blue, Nick puts out a call to hike it Sunday morning. He's recovering from Bandera and looking to get out for a quick hike, and I otherwise wasn't looking to do much running after the previous day's jaunt in the Springs, so along with Nick's neighbor Elijah, it was a perfect chance to get up on a new peak on the Front Range foothills checklist.
With a dearth of snow, and the cold temperatures of winter keeping the rattlesnakes at bay (important in the thick brush and rocks of the foothills), this was a good time of year to go. The time of day was another story: since the sun hadn't risen yet, we squinted roughly at the canyon walls, shrugged our shoulders, and headed up vaguely towards a peak we couldn't see.
As the day began to dawn, I wish my camera had been working, as it was pretty striking to see the silhouettes of Nick and Elijah working mostly vertically on some of the granite slabs. I took a mental picture instead.
But I also hoped to myself, as my beaten Cascadias slipped on some of the steeper areas of pine-needles strewn and grass covering the rocks, that we didn't have to descend this route.
Once we (the three of us, and the sun) got up higher, it was much easier to see our remaining route. We started out a bit further East than ideal, so we did more scrambling work than was necessary. But the rest was just a stairmaster straight-up hike to the obvious saddle on the summit ridge. In the trees, and by facing a different aspect, the ridge now had some completely manageable snow, but it was still open enough to be able to move steadily, especially when motivated by Premature False Summit Fever (PFSF).
A few windy false summits later, and we were on the summit proper, as evidenced by Nick finding a gigantic summit register completely out of proportion with the actual number of visitors:
Although it was too windy to enjoy for very long, the summit offers outstanding views to the West:
The way down was much easier, as we returned to the saddle, and then descended on the ridge above (and to the east) of the gulley that leads to the summit. As if by plan, we popped out within sight of the car at the bottom. As it turns out, a good entrance is directly across the street from the Idyllwild bridge (there is a culvert on the north side of that -- follow that up, going slightly to the climber's right).
All in all, a great, quick local peak worth hitting before breakfast.
Oh: bring your cactus-proof gloves, too!