Pasque Mountain

Summit Elevation (m): 2451
Trip Date: November 27, 2016
Elevation Gain (m): 800
Round Trip Time (hr): 5.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 14
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Finding the right trail on the lower access can be tricky and there are some narrow spots on the ridge – but limited exposure.
Technical Rating: OT4; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Gaia (Loop Route)
MapGoogle Maps

Pasque is another low, front range mountain that has been on my radar for quite a few years now. A few weeks ago I managed to ramble up Isola and Monad in very little snow and pretty good views, and decided there and then that it was time to hike up Pasque – a mountain just to the north. A few weeks passed before Phil texted me that he wanted to do a scramble on Sunday, November 27. We were initially interested in something a bit tougher but settled on Pasque after the weather forecast proved a bit unstable and a dump of snow came through the Rockies on Friday.

We parked alongside hwy 940 near Wilkinson Creek and started off down the road in early morning light. After crossing the very low creek (no bridge here), we continued following fairly recent snowmobile tracks on about 6″ of snow as they curved sharply right and crossed a footbridge over a tributary of the main creek and followed it to an open meadow with some old, stacked wood standing off to the side. Here’s where I screwed up despite numerous warnings about the confusing array of options on the lower approach to Pasque’s lower NE access ridge. Because it was early morning light, we missed the 4 or 5 ribbons marking the almost completely overgrown trail to the left of the main track we were on, and continued marching up the ATV road on the snowmobile track. It wasn’t until we gained almost 100m that I decided to check my GPS and was shocked not to see my plotted line anywhere on the map!! With a familiar sinking feeling (yes – this has happened to me before), I expanded the map and noticed my error right away. I told a dejected Phil that we had to go all the way back down to the open meadow and we turned back, a few choice words following us down the steep hill.

After my screw-up, we followed the GPS track a bit closer and soon noticed the many ribbons marking the start of the faint trail up an overgrown cut-block. We were following old boot prints in the 6″ of fresh snow. Eventually we crossed another washed out tributary before the trail became pretty overgrown again. I think it would be easier to find the trail without all the fresh snow! There are enough ribbons on route that if you’ve gone 5 minutes without seeing a ribbon you’re probably lost.

The east rib road proceeds to the small high point at center left before descending towards the main north ridge of Pasque at right.
Phil on the low, grassy high point of the east rib with the main north ridge of Pasque at center and right.

Finally we found ourselves at an east rib of Pasque’s north ridge, looking up at a road cutting its way up the north end and granting us pretty easy access. Phil led the way on a mix of dry ground and snow drifts up to a foot deep, up the north end of the ridge and then onto the ridge crest.

From the crest of the ridge we followed an obvious road up to a small high point – noting the higher and more dramatic west (and main) north ridge to our right. We knew that eventually we had to descend slightly to our right before traversing on a road towards the north ridge of Pasque. The morning light was pretty nice but we could see clouds building quickly to the west as we descended to the col between the east rib and main north ridge of Pasque.

Our approach at left with Plateau in the distance and the east rib of Pasque’s horseshoe at center left.
It’s a dark, gloomy morning as we look 2+ km down the north ridge to the summit in the far distance at center.

We couldn’t see the road from the east rib, but as soon as we descended, another ribbon showed us the way and soon we were following a fairly prominent road winding it’s way towards the north ridge. The snow slowly deepened as we made our way up the road until it was at least a foot deep. Thankfully we were wearing our winter boots and the snow was very unconsolidated making for fairly easy hiking but the grade was steep enough that we were sweating pretty profusely despite the cool morning temperatures. Part way up the approach road, another ribbon marked a slight shortcut route through light bush that avoids a dip on the road itself. We followed this shortcut on both approach and egress but I’m not sure it’s worth the potential to get lost. After regaining the road we followed it as it curved to the right and granted a great view of our access to the main north ridge of Pasque. We decided to grab a snack and some warm drink before hitting what we assumed would be a pretty stiff breeze on the ridge.

After a delightful, but short break, we plodded up the road until it curved sharply back to the north and rather than follow it from that point, we side-sloped on grass and fresh snow to gain the north ridge at an obvious break with the least amount of snow. Sure enough! The wind was extremely brisk and I instantly regretted not spending the extra few minutes looking for my winter face mask the previous evening. Ten minutes later my face was numb. We followed the obvious north ridge in darkening skies as it went from easy grassy hiking to balancing on dark rocks and fresh snow along the ridge crest. The going wasn’t as slow and tedious as I first feared and before long we were at the first, north summit of Pasque. Our views weren’t horrible, but they were pretty socked in to the west. The south summit looked higher and is the official one, so we didn’t linger long before making our way towards it.

Looking south from the north summit of Pasque – the true summit still a ways off left of center in the distance.

I knew from reading several trip reports that the traverse between the north and south summits was a wee bit trickier than the initial ridge walk from the north. This proved to be true and is the only reason I think this mountain deserves a “scramble” rating. Most of the tricky bits can be bypassed but even the bypasses could be problematic to folks not used to this sort of thing. For a scrambler, the route is fun and even a little bit hands-on. As we grunted to the apex of the true summit we were surprised to look back at the north summit and see that it now looked higher. Apparently they are very close to the same height. I only snapped one photo at the true summit thanks to the lack of views before we turned back and proceeded to retrace our steps along the ridge. We briefly considered completing the Pasque Horseshoe but surmised that it could be longer and was certainly no more fun or scenic than the approach had been so we scrapped the idea.

Initially we were concerned that the return would take a while, but surprisingly the weather started improving slightly as we made our way back to the north summit and thanks to some well-timed bypasses and good balancing along the ridge crest, we made short work of the traverse between summits and were soon balancing our way back along the north ridge. Descending out of the wind was a huge relief. We had another break before plunging back into the trees and descending to the approach trails lower down in the valley. Our round trip time of 5.5 hours includes the brief detour (!!) we did in the morning. Pasque is another great front range scramble that should be on every scramblers list for a pretty easy day in marginal conditions.

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