Back in June, I skipped out on my Routefinding field day with my Basic Mountaineering School class. I had a flight for a business trip that night and made the choice to stay home instead of participating. I knew I’d need to make up the trip in order to graduate and this past Saturday was makeup field day.
Our objective was to summit Mt. Bancroft, a nearby 13er, via the East Ridge route. Bancroft sits at 13,250 and the East Ridge is an interesting scramble, much like Kelso Ridge without the knife edge. In June, too much snow on Bancroft meant the team snow climbed up a gully to the summit but in late September, we enjoyed a beautifully rocky East Ridge.
Mindy and I carpooled from Denver and met our other 4 members at Loch Lomond, a lake at the base of Bancroft where the team camped. A note to other non-high clearance vehicles: The dirt road to Loch Lomond is very rocky! It was do-able for my Subaru Outback for about 1+ miles before I found a pull off and parked; we hiked the remaining 1.5 miles to the lake.
Just after 7:30 a.m., we met our team, threw on our packs and headed up the mountain to gain the ridge we would follow to the summit of Bancroft. Because this was a student-led trip and I was technically the only student (the others had graduated), I was responsible for route finding. Instead of taking the trail to the southeast of the trailhead, I opted for the direct route…straight up. We bushwhacked through literal bushes and ~.25 mile and 600 vertical feet later, we were on the ridge.
And then….the scrambling began. Holy moly did we scramble!
It was mostly class 3/3+ scrambling that was very doable. Nothing too exposed and hand/foot holds were ‘bomber’, in climber lingo. We scrambled until we hit the infamous notch.
At the notch, climbers must rappel 80+ feet and then climb a 30+ foot headwall on the other side. There are a few obvious places to build a rap station as webbing from previous climbers has been left on boulders. We built our rap station and sent the team down, one by one. Note to future climbers: beware of loose rock on the rappel and at the base of the rappel. Lots of chossy, flakey rock. Also note that once you start the rappel, you have no bailout option except to finish the route so be sure you have time and energy to press on!
On the other side, Sylvia lead climbed the headwall and belayed the rest of us from above. It was a short 5.2 climb with plenty of holds but, again, be sure to check the rock first.
The rappel and headwall climb are definitely the crux of this route but most trip reports I read failed to mention the additional, exposed class 4 scrambling after the notch. Note to future climbers: way more scrambling ahead!
The next section of scrambling was a bit more intense – definitely class 4 as we climbed along the top of the ridge. Without a cloud in the sky, we took our time and carefully moved across the ridge. Three or four false summits later (I lost count), we came out of the rocky scramble section and finally reached the grassy, ‘mellow’ hike to the summit that I’d read about online.
And then, the summit! We did it!
To return to the trailhead, we followed the southeastern ridge back to Loch Lomond. It was full of boulder and talus fields because what’s the fun in an easy, mellow hike out?!
In total, our hike was 5.5 miles from trailhead to trailhead (does not include the 1.5 mile hike to Loch Lomond) and took us 7.5+ hours.
lgsmash-created caltopo map or our route
actual garmin stats of our route
Looking back on the East Ridge route
Overall, I really enjoyed this climb. Definitely, more experienced climbers will move on the East Ridge much quicker than we did but with big blue skies and no threat of storms, we took our time and enjoyed the spectacular September day. This is what living in Colorado is all about!
I couldn’t help but notice how much I’d grown as a mountaineer on the East Ridge…where I would have been close to tears and battling with my mind to stay focused on the task at hand (and not jump to worst case death scenarios) in previous field days, I remained calm and steady. Not once did I feel panicked or anxious – just mentally and physically exhausted. I felt truly proud of myself and enjoyed every sip of my post-climb celebratory beer.