Trip dates: Aug 31- Sept 02, 2019
Caltopo map here: https://caltopo.com/m/UGU0
The Never Summer Range is on the northwest boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park and sees few visitors. It is one long continuous ridge of crumbling volcanic rock, in stark contrast to the granite in the rest of the park. Due to the dramatic relief there are few areas covered by tundra once you are on the ridge crest.
This trip was an attempt to traverse the entire range while staying on the crest. I took three days, one for the approach, one for the ridge, and one for descent. In the end lack of water pushed me off the ridge just before Howard Mt on Day 2. On Day 3 I spent some time wandering among the beautiful west side of the Never Summers including, Parika Peak and Parika Lake.
I started at the Bowen/Baker TH as I had done on my previous visit to the area. This TH services both NPS and USFS trails. All of my camps just west of the park boundary, and they recommended I start here so I could leave a car without a NPS permit.
I left my car at the Bowen/Baker TH and started the ~4.8 mi road walk to the Colorado River TH.
I took an indirect route to get to the Thunder Pass trail, so I could walk along the Grand Ditch. The trees are cleared off over a fairly wide area to make good views of the Kawuneeche Valley.
Looking back towards Static Peak from the ridge between Static and Richtofen Peak. About 750 feet from the summit of Static Peak you reach something special: about 100 feet of easy walking. Savor it: there are only 2-3 short sections like this on the entire ridge. You can see it in the lower left of this photo.
The summit block of Teepee Mt. gave me fits. Both Roach and Foster have this as Class 3 and offer very few details. I reached a gully just before the summit that had an imposing southern wall. I tried every one of these chutes over 1-2 hours. None of the options felt like Class 3 to me and the rock is crumbly. I suspect something significant has fallen off over the decades since Roach and Foster climbed this route. Ultimately I descended to 12,260' on the western face and tagged the summit from behind.
The crux of the whole ridge (even if you go farther than I got) is the North Ridge of Lead Mt.
Flowing water sources are nonexistent along the crest of the Never Summers. In the morning I drank 1.5 liters and collected another 2.5 liters from some streams near my camp. There were a handful of old snowfields that remained even into early September (primarily on the north facing gullies). All day I'd been playing a game where I'd fill a half-full water bottle with snow and shake up the bottle. The sun was bright and temps were in the 60's. After an hour or so I'd have another couple cups of water.
By late afternoon, when I was starting the climb to Mt. Howard, it appeared that my luck was running out. The temperatures were dropping enough that the snow wasn't melting anymore. I was down to my last bit of slush and couldn't be sure I'd encounter more snowfields between Howard Mt/Cumulus/Nimbus and Stratus. I decided it was time to descend.
One of the hardest parts about this route- aside from the continuous loose talus and scree- is the lack of water. If I were to attempt this again I'd do it earlier in the season so there would be more snowfields (but hopefully still bluebird skies) and take a small canister stove to melt snow for water.
I'd travelled the valley south of Baker Pass before, so I opted to follow the ridge along the Continental Divide which extends to Paprika Peak.