Gray Wolf, Spalding, Warren - GR EC 3.2 & 3.3
On this crisp fall morning after rain the evening before I left Denver just after 6 am. Arriving at Summit Lake around 7:30 am confirming the seasonal road closure from the lake was in place.
I threw on my boots and prepared to leave when I realized I didn’t have any cash for the fee station. That’s a future me problem I decided. I tossed on my pack and hit the trail when I ripped my Osprey bladder hose off my pack for the third time that morning. Quickly stopping the flow of water and restoring the hose I averted the crisis minus my wet back. Oh well, time to roll.
I had a brisk pace to beat some hikers arriving to likely hike the standard Mount Evans route. The same route I would ascend to Mount Spalding before splitting off for Gray Wolf. Despite climbing Spalding in 2011 when I first hiked Mount Evans I somehow forgot I had climbed this mountain before. The entire time I thought I hadn’t already hiked the Centennial, but this was actually a repeat.
After Spalding I scampered off to the next objective, Gray Wolf, a bi-centennial off in the distance 1.2 miles away. Gerry Roach lists Gray Wolf as EC 3.3 in his original 13ers book describing the route from Chicago West approach rather than the Summit Lake Trailhead. I had decided to combine Mount Warren, Spalding and Gray Wolf from Summit Lake.
I walked the lush marshy basin without a distinguished trail until I was at the base of the talus slope below Gray Wolf. It hadn’t taken me long to get to this point from Spalding and I quickly chose a line to gain the slope to the summit of Gray Wolf.
There were a few larger boulders and talus nearing the top and just as I topped out I startled a herd of sheep. I snapped a video at a safe distance. Love a good wildlife spotting! Without much more effort I was on the summit after about an hour from Spalding.
The wind was picking up so I didn’t stay long but was pleased to find a summit register in an old plastic spice shaker. Inside I found a business envelope with names and dates on either side dating back to 2011. Not many names from 2018-2019, certainly not as many as Evans. I thought it was pretty cool to find such a rare register on a bi-centennial and felt honored to add my name and stash it back in the rocks.
I descended down the slope back toward Spalding without a soul in sight. Once on the other side of the basin I saw two other hikers, but otherwise enjoyed the mountains to myself. Slowly I made my way back up the slope of Spalding to contour around toward the ridge. My next objective was Mount Warren.
I gained the ridge and then after a quick water break was back to the saddle between Spalding and Mount Warren. More people passed as it was now about 10:30 am. I was happy to be going the opposite direction again.
Near the Chicago Lakes trail sign and the closed off trail access sign I ascended rocks to the right and made my way through talus up to the ridge. The ascent was easy and mild picking my way between rocks working higher toward the summit.
I was on a summit after no time or effort but I questioned if this was the actual summit. I decided to proceed a ways further.I still wasn’t convinced and decided to use my inReach location to determine if I was actually on the summit. Low and behold Mount Warren was directly behind me on the ridge and I was in fact on the summit of the mountain the first time. The random point I was on was just that, an unnamed point and Rogers Peak was off in the distance.
I quickly gulped some water and headed back towards Summit lake. I made a quick descent and cut across without a trail back to the trailhead and parking lot which was now packed full of cars. Tons of cars intended to drive the road to the summit which was now closed for the season.
Back at the car just before noon I found a fee envelope on my window, thanks rangers! I was happy they left a reminder to pay rather than a ticket. Of course they took my license plate should I not pay. I drove back down to the entrance station, busted a U-turn and paid my fee for the day.
A great day hiking some lovely peaks!
Passing back through Idaho Springs, be sure to stop for a post-hike beverage and snack at Westbound and Down.
Or spend time exploring the mines, springs, or shops. Check Idaho Springs official page.