Ascent of Berrian Mountain on 2017-12-09

Climber: William Musser

Date:Saturday, December 9, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Berrian Mountain
    Elevation:9147 ft / 2788 m

Ascent Trip Report

How is it that my friends Covill and Mitchler that live in the area, but allowed a guy from FL to nab this high prominence peak before they have logged it in? I have passed this sweet summit many times on 285 on my way to Fairplay and each time wondered how do get this peak? I had driven the area surrounding the public lands and met with nasty no trespassing signs each time and struggled to understand how to get this one under my belt. Finally, a good TR from LOJ explained what I was doing wrong. Like some many peaks on Denver Mountain Lands (DMP) there is poorly signed info and you just have find someone that has figure it out. The key to this one is to realize that the peak which is on DMP public lands and shows up in green on the google maps does NOT show the other DMP lands that they purchased. So if you go by google maps you will not see the place where the trailhead gives access to public streets. The key is to look north on the USGS map and you will see on Armadillo Trail a place to the north where another DMP parcel reaches over and is bifurcated by Armadillo Trail. The TH is almost exactly half the way in between Grand Summit ( a private signed road) and Wolverine ( a public road). Look on the west side of the road half way in between and there is a small unmarked pullout that can accommodate 4 to 5 cars if parked efficiency and courteously. Otherwise 2 to 3 can park there. This is DMP public parking.

Directly across the parking pullout is a small trail with no sign. Hike up 100 feet or so and then the one DMP sign of the day is there to greet you. Then the fun begins. Some of the trail is marked with nice signs that say DMP to let you know you are still on Denver Mountain Park property. Then the trees are blue or green blazed. Kirk Mallory on LOJ site has a wonderful GPS track that I downloaded and followed. The trail backdoors through this tiny parcel and tip toes through and into the main DMP park site that actually does show up on google. You will pass a large open field-farm on the left which is also now on public lands although the no trespassing signs are still up so i continued upward passing only one person here - the only person I saw all day. Snow was on the ground but my microspikes where not needed as the trails are not steep

If you follow Kirk Mallory's GPS track you will eventually pass the farm and head south. The trail diverges at around elevation 8500 but the main trail swings up slope with a 90 degree turn towards the peak. A little higher you hit a divergence in the trail with two equally used choices and the blazing is orange and up steep to the left or orange and less steep to the right. I later verified that they make a big loop. Mallory's GPS track takes you to the right and elected the more direct line to the left. It is shorter and has less up and down slope. Note if you take his track to the right (heading West) , the blaze is Orange but on the back of the trees the blazing is red as you head home Easterly direction. My trail thus, headed south by SE right up the ridge on the USGS map whereas the loop that Mallory took, takes you south by SW before it ascends.

Soon the clearly used but not marked trail (it continues to have orange blazes) deposits you on a saddle. If you go past the saddle you make the loop back in the direction of the Mallory GPS track. On my right (to the west is the nice pinnacle formation that people come up and call it a day. They climb up for the views and circle back. I found much fun climbable rock from class 2+, 3, 3+, 4, and 5. I stuck to the 3+ and below. The backside has some very steep walls that are like climbing a ladder with good handholds but the seams in the rock where tight in places and my 50 liter backpack was getting stuck far too often and I opted out of several tight squeezes without a friend to spot me. But the mission was to summit Berrian and there is no trail up to the true peak.

I found many use trails from the saddle up to the true peak but they are so poorly and infrequently used I lost one after another. A few tiny cairns along the way and I started stacking some rocks on them higher for future use and moving limbs out of the way. It was apparent from the lack of boot marks in the snow, (the saddle had much boot traffic imprints) and with absolutely no boot prints visible at all on my way up to the peak it became clear that very few people bushwhack the true peak. A few false summits later I realized why. NO VIEWS. considering how rugged and beautiful this peak is from Highway 285 looking north into the southern face, this backside approach up the northern slopes misses all the great rock and slips you through the confirms to a non-descript, anticlimactic, no view, peak!

So I collected my 900 plus prominence and helped clear the use areas for future peakbaggers but this is one big peak that I will not return to. But back at the saddle where the trails end by the pinnacle there is nice views and fun rock so I will return to do this nice solitude hike and skip the true peak next time and just call the pinnacle area my summit destination. You can only count the prominence once in your life so..........

On the way down I took the Mallory GPS track and it does loop back. There is one tricky intersection somewhere around elevation 8600 where the trail splits into a 4 way intersection. Most are blazed orange. The key here is to NOT go downward on either orange blaze that will take you to private property. Select the red blaze which actually will go back up hill some and eventually loop back to the original junction where I deviated from Mallory's track. Remember that although when heading west this trail is blazed red, it is blazed orange heading east.

Bottom line: this peakbagging experience gives much solitude, many trails to play on but with no maps or signage. Very few views except at the pinnacle at the saddle. A large prominence at the true summit. But two places with some scrambling and rock to play on. The first place is obvious as you fist take off from the parking lot you can not miss the rock formation. The second at the saddle with the pinnacle. I suspect if one continued past the true peak northward on a bushwhack track one would find the large rock faces that one sees from 285 but I did not venture that much further through the woods.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1142 ft / 347 m
    Total Elevation Loss:195 ft / 59 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Grade/Class:1 mostly but 3 oppor
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground
30F start end 42F
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:977 ft / 297 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 947 ft / 289 m; Extra: 30 ft / 9m
    Loss on way in:30 ft / 9 m
    Distance:1.8 mi / 2.9 km
    Route:confusing see Trip Report
    Start Trailhead:4 car parking off Armadillo  8200 ft / 2499 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:165 ft / 50 m
    Gain on way out:165 ft / 50 m
    Distance:2.2 mi / 3.5 km
    Route:see TR
Ascent Part of Trip: Denver-20

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Berrian Mountain2017-12-09 a1142 ft / 348 m
2Berrian Pinnacle2017-12-09 b250 ft / 76 m
3Hobbs Peak2017-12-09 c555 ft / 169 m
4Hobbs Peak2017-12-09 d200 ft / 61 m
5Mount Bailey2017-12-10 a449 ft / 137 m
6James Newton Park High Point2017-12-10 b680 ft / 207 m
7Dinosaur Ridge2017-12-10 g610 ft / 186 m
Total Trip Gain: 3886 ft / 1184 m    Total Trip Loss: 535 ft / 162 m

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