Cupid Peak (and almost Grizzly) from Loveland Pass

October 10, 2021

Sunrise on Loveland Pass

With temperatures dropping and snowguns firing, my 2021 hiking season would soon draw to a close. Unfortunately, I did not have the luxury of letting my legs and lungs atrophy into ‘winter mode’. On the horizon was a family trip to Hawaii where I hoped to summit Mauna Kea. And so, on an ephemeral October Sunday, I found myself driving up to Loveland Pass.

Loveland Pass at sunrise in early October.
Loveland Pass at sunrise in early October.

Want to hike above treeline to 13,000′ without all the fuss of some big, grinding all-day ascent? Loveland Pass has you covered. You can park right off paved, US Route 6 at roughly 12,000′. A trailhead of this altitude is a rare luxury, even in the Colorado Rockies. In fact, my first hike in this state was from Loveland Pass to nearby Mount Sniktau. But today I would tramp in the opposite direction along the Great Divide, towards Cupid and Grizzly Peaks.

A healthy batch of snow had fallen that morning—one of the first accumulations of the season. The mountains surrounding the pass were thus endowed with a gorgeous coat of white that still left many rocks and cliff bands exposed. Nearby I could see Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, no doubt preparing a major snowmaking offensive.

US 6 winds its way down from Loveland Pass, with Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in the background.
US 6 winds its way down from Loveland Pass, with Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in the background.

Hiking towards Cupid Peak along the Great Divide

The steepest and most effortful portion of this hike comes early. From the pass, I ascended along the wide, open ridge that forms the Great Divide near its highest point. In fact, the route I would take this day could be extended right up to Grays and Torreys Peaks, two 14ers that form the apex of the continent’s Atlantic/Pacific divide.

This open ridge then reaches a col between Sniktau and Cupid Peaks. I headed right, towards the latter. The snow grew deep in places, where the wind had accumulated up to a foot or more of fresh powder.

A cairn marks the route along the Great Divide towards Cupid Peak.
A cairn marks the route along the Great Divide towards Cupid Peak.

I absolutely adored the moody weather along this hike. Visibility ebbed and flowed as I passed amongst the clouds. It flurried at times. At other points, the Sun poked through the overcast canopy just above me.

The Sun pokes through the clouds en route to Cupid Peak.
The Sun pokes through the clouds en route to Cupid Peak.

Onward towards Grizzly

From the top of Cupid Peak, I descended a steeper and more scrambly section of rock. At times it grew a bit harder to know where exactly the “trail” was. And the snow likewise grew deeper.

Eventually, I reached the col between Cupid and some minor bump. The visibility grew much worse around here. I knew Grizzly was right in front of me. That said, I saw no evidence it existed.

There should be a whole other peak in the background of this photo ...
There should be a whole other peak in the background of this photo …

At some point, I grew convinced to just turn around. The only other hikers I had seen that day had decided to head back. I had achieved my goal of just stretching the legs and shocking the system at 13K feet. I would save Grizzly for another day.

Rime ice on stones atop Cupid Peak.
Rime ice on stones atop Cupid Peak.

I headed back over Cupid Peak, then descended back towards the col above Loveland Pass. The visibility improved tremendously as I headed north. The clouds seemed to get stuck somewhere in the vicinity of Grizzly Peak and A-Basin’s famed “East Wall”. Looking back, I found the whole scene quite dramatic.

Looking back towards Cupid, the "East Wall" and dramatic clouds.
Looking back towards Cupid, the “East Wall” and dramatic clouds.

A lot of folks think hiking requires “nice” weather. This definition seems to mean sunny skies (ideally a bluebird day). But I love mountains with moody weather. At the very least, it makes for punchier photography.

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