Colorado Hiking Trip: Boulder Grand Traverse - 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999; Brian and Doug

Colorado Grand Traverse Hike Photo: So Boulder Pk, Bear Pk, Shadow Canyon

Text by Brian; Photos by Doug

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This is the Boulder Grand Traverse:
South Boulder Peak8,549 feet
Bear Peak8,461 feet
Green Mountain8,144 feet
Flagstaff Mountain6,820 feet
Red Rocks6,040 feet
Mount Sanitas6,863 feet
Start at the South Mesa Trail Head5.600 feet
End at 3rd and Hawthorne5,750 feet
Hike   13.8 miles
Overall Altitude Gain6,080 feet (+ or -)
Overall Altitued Loss5,930 feet (+ or -)

Schedule a day when you have free - 10 hours to 12 hours

Do it once each year, as a physical exam ... and as a sanity test.

Boulder Grand Traverse Hike Photo: The Boulder Flatirons - southern end Boulder Grand Traverse Hike Photo: The Boulder Flatirons - northern end
The Southern End: So. Boulder Pk & Bear Pk The Northern End: Green Mtn, Flagstaff Mtn & Mt Sanitas

The Beginning: December 1993. Doug and I had just hiked Bear Peak, going up and down Fern Canyon. We were having a celebration beer, (all hikes are celebrated), when it dawned on us that this was our first peak of 1993, of any kind of altitude, and, indeed, our first hike. Somewhere we’d lost track of the priorities of life. After another celebration of the hike, we made a pact--once a month we would hike to the summit of something. And so we have. Over the years the rules have changed, a hike of 3 to 4 hours now qualifies and, yes, we have missed a few months over the past 6 years, but you can count them on one hand.

Several mountains, including ones in the Boulder, Colorado flatirons area, would be hiked each year. Then, after reading Gerry Roach’s Book, Rocky Mountain National Park Classic Hikes and Climbs and, specifically, his section on "Special Events and Divide Traverses", (get this book and read this section--what a marvelous group of hikes) we said, "let's create our own Traverse". The idea first started with doing four small peaks along the flatirons, South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, Green Mountain and Flagstaff Mountain. Not a bad challenge. But then, what about Mount Sanitas? Five Peaks, all in one day, with the Red Rocks trown in just for the hell of it. So, this is how The Grand Traverse of Boulder began.

The first hike of the Grand Traverse - Spring of 1996.  We decided to leave from North Boulder, at Hawthorne Avenue and 3rd Street, and finish near Eldorado Springs, at the South Mesa Trailhead. The notes on this hike have disappeared, thank god. To make a very long story short, we started strong. We finished in misery, some 12 hours later. Going down Shadow Canyon at the day’s end was endless. Never have a few miles seemed so long. Feet developed blisters and blisters developed blisters. Only the hope of cold beer in the awaiting car kept us going. Our wives were both happy we survived and unhappy because dinner had been ready for a couple of hours by the time we finally got home. We sat in the hot tub for a long long time.

Well, if at first you don't succeed ... and so on, and why not.

The second hike of the Grand Traverse- Spring of 1997.$nbsp; WE're slow, but we do learn - maybe a saner way to go is from south to north. And so we did. What a difference the change of direction made. The drop off Sanitas (~1,100 feet) was a piece of cake compared to Shadow Canyon (over 3,000 feet). The total trail time dropped to 11:15. Keep in mind, that the time is not really important to Doug and me. We are not speed hikers. We hike at a pace to allow us to enjoy the event. Although we schedule breaks at 30 minute intervals, if the view or flower beckons, we stop. Time is just a way of scoring, our age, I guess. But it did tell us this -- go North, Young Man.

The third hike of the Grand Traverse - Spring of 1998.  Ok, by now the hike had become an annual event. A tester of our conditioning. If we can complete the Traverse, we are ready for whatever else we choose to do the year. If we don’t make it we’d still do the other hikes, but it sure would be scarier. If this makes sense to you, please explain it to us!

This was the year of a major switch for Doug and me - LightWeight Backpacking . This hike was our first of No Hiking Boots-- Running Shoes . Again we went from south to north. Howeever, we, actually I, had a major problem right at the start. The morning started like this: I met Doug at 3rd and Hawthorne at 5:35 AM. I transfered the cooler, with the beer, to his car and we left his car at the finish, taking mine to the South Mesa trailhead, arriving there at 6:00. It was then that I remembered that not only was the beer in the cooler, but also my food for the day. So it was off to a local King Sooper for Powerbars, cheese and trail gorp. We finally started at 6:27, not at 6:00. Oh, well.

We felt like we were hiking at the same overall pace as each previous year. This was the first year we had any afternoon showers We hiked in light rain on Flagstaff and again on the final push up Sanitas. We did hurry off this final summit because of potential lightening, but then we never stay up here long anyway. We arrived at the car, my food and the beer in 10 hours and 26 minutes. Was it the lighter shoes or were we in better condition? Maybe both, but our vote went to the shoes. Saving a pound or so over a whole day does add up. We were now true converts to running shoes for all our hikes.

The fourth hike - June 25, 1999  We were a bit later this year. Snow took longer to melt in Shadow Canyon and our conditioning was a bit behind schedule.

Various altitudes and milages listed are taken from a variety of hiking guieds and topo maps. The overal altitude gain and loss has also been tracked on an Avocet Vertech Altimeter watch that I wear. Use these numbers as approximations. If you find any major errors please E-Mail us. The times given are actual hike times. We consider ourselves to be average hikers. We make it a rule to stop every 30 minutes for water, taking 3 to 5 minutes. We take a longer break every 2 to 3 hours, of 10 minutes or so. A lunch break can last as long as 30 minutes. We stop for pictures, enjoy each summit, and the vistas.

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