Saturday, January 21, 2012

Alexander Mountain

Alexander Mountain (right), the gateway to the Big Thompson Narrows.

Despite it's somewhat diminutive stature, Alexander Mountain (7,105') is a good challenge, with rewarding and unique views of some very familiar terrain from its summit.

If you've ever driven up Hwy 34 through the Narrows of the Big Thompson, then you've undoubtedly seen Alexander, but maybe never known it as such. Alexander Mountain is the first named mountain in the Big Thompson Canyon, but plays little brother to it's better-known neighbors. Both Round Mountain and Palisade Mountain can be seen from the top of Alexander, but neither of them offer the unique views of the Narrows and hogback foothills that their humble sibling does.

As you approach the mouth of the canyon, Alexander Mountain is easily recognizable from its sheer south face. The Big Thompson itself begins its journey from the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park - viewable to the west from Alexander's summit.

Left to right: Stone, Meeker, Longs, Round.

There are a number of ways to get on top of the mountain, the most direct of which is to ascend a steep, brush-infested gully directly from the canyon floor, soon after Hwy 34 crosses the Big Thompson for the first time. From the summit, Ryan and I spied a longer, but more interesting route that would take you up from the jaws of the canyon on Alexander's long southeastern ridge.

The entry to the gully, right off the Big Thompson.
The southeast ridge of Alexander.

Soon after entering the gully, there is a large boulder plugging up the boxed-in route, which requires some class III maneuvering to get around. Once past the chockstone, it's time to fight with the rough brush that inhabits the dry creek bed.

Tiring of that game, Ryan and I cut a line to the western ridge of the gully and enjoyed some fun class III/IV climbing all the way to the top of a small point from where the best views on Alexander are available. The actual summit is a short hike north on the summit ridge in a forested area of little note.


Brush, brush and more brush early on.

Out of the weeds...
...and on to some solid rock.
Anticlimactic summit.

After making the requisite summit tag, Ryan and I returned to the slightly lower point that we had gained from the ridge and enjoyed the awesome views for a while. 100 miles to the south, Pikes Peak was visible, with close-ups of Carter Lake, Longs Peak, Mount Meeker, and Round and Stone Mountains in the foreground. Off to the east, there were great views of the foothill hogbacks, including Devil's Backbone, the Bluesky Valley, Eden Valley Reservoir, Horsetooth and Milner Mountain. To the west were good views of the nicely painted Mummies and other RMNP peaks. But perhaps most impressive of all was the view down into the Big Thompson Narrows - a quite unique vantage point to be sure.

Eden Valley Reservoir
Horsetooth (left) & Milner Mountain (right)

Big Thompson Narrows, with hogbacks beyond.

Coming down, we forewent the rocky down-climbing, deciding instead to wage war against the mountain mahogany and other nasty creek brush.

With 20-30 minutes on top, we were up and down in about 2.5 hours. Total climb is in the 1,600 foot range and distance is probably no more than 3 miles. This one comes highly recommended.


  1. Sweet, more good beta on local foothills!
    The rock scrambling past the weeds looks fun.

  2. What's up with that random bird in the first photo?

    Are those pictures from today? You guys really are screwed snow wise, aren't you?

  3. Jon - yeah, not a whole lot of snow about right now, but then there never really is in the foothills. It's all going to come down in April and May and piss everyone off. Random bird was by a ranch gate that I pulled off at to snap the pic.

  4. Scrambling through rocks, ridiculously steep climbs, bushwhacking through brush...are you preparing for Barkley???

    From the sidebar it looks like your actually headed back across the pond in a few months?