April 10, 2012 - North Ridge
I'd made a half hearted attempt at Gray Wolf Mountain the previous Saturday but after no more than a half mile of pathetic route finding through snow hummocks, I came to the conclusion that my mojo was gone and that I really did not want to spend the day getting windblown. Instead, I went to Whole Foods and bought the makings for Easter dinner. Monday arrived and I was in my office looking at the zone forecast for the coming weekend when I looked at my empty schedule on Tuesday and the forecast of an incredible low wind, high temp, bluebird day. I knew that my climbing karma would not support a second shot at Gray Wolf at this time so I picked the next closest unclimbed Bicentennial . . . Bald Mountain.
I left Cheyenne at 4:15 a.m. and a few hours later I was parked at the end of the USFS road that leads to the Iowa Mill and various mines on the northern flank of the peak. The temp coming through town was 22 degrees but it was definitely getting warm fast. I packed light, cutting the layers down to summer levels and electing to go with hiking boots in lieu of the plastics. Being from Wyoming. I am so accustomed to cold that taking shorts or not taking a heavy and a light long underwear top along on a climb is literally something I must remind myself to do or not do. I hefted the pack and was on my way at a bit before 8 a.m.
The road went for about a mile or so up through the trees, not climbing fast but gently ascending to the Iowa Mill, located at right about tree line. There were patches of snow here and there on the road but about 1/4 mile shy of the mill, it was snow time. The night before had been cold enough to give a good freeze so I tramped atop the frozen drifts, passing the mill and electing to stay on the road for another 100 yards or so. The mill is the terminus of an aerial tramway that runs to the Magnolia Mine up on the northern ridge of the mountain and as such, the cable course offers a "direct to ridge" track. I opted to skip the switch backing road course, adopt a cable left bearing and went right onto the snow covered slope that was hard sun cupped snow with nary a posthole to be suffered. I steadily climbed, neither fast nor slow but gained the ridge line proper after an hour or so.
The ridge marked the end of the easy snow climbing, now it would be dirt and rock for the rest of the climb. The previous mining activity resulted in a road and later a two track to high on the mountain so I just I followed the course of the jeep path up over the first false summit. From there I kicked a set of steps up 50 vertical feet of the most wonderful neve this side of the Andes and then hoofed my way along the ambling ridge as it rose and fell for a few humps before coming to the last 600 feet of vertical. This stretch is a nice class 2 talus ridge walk with braided trails in the steep sections and the need to watch the footing here and there. I took the steep sections on directly to avoid curving paths around them figuring that I did not need to lose any elevation for the sake of following Cottoneer herd paths.
No portion of the trail exceeded class 2 and after a total climb of three hours I was on the summit. The snow conditions in the surrounding ranges were clearly sparse and the climb that I completed required no axe, no crampons . . . just a hike up the 3000 feet of vertical from the parking spot to the summit. I took a few photos and made my way back down to the truck, the whole climb being over and done with in a bit over four hours. This summit also turned out to be summit #100 of Colorado's 200 highest peaks and gave me some reassurance that my weakened solo climbing mojo the past weekend was now fully recovered.