Mount Nimbus 12,705'
Mount Nimbus is the high Never Summer mountain looming above Baker Pass and the terminal point for the long East Ridge extending from the summit to Red Mountain. The Southeast Face is technical and streaked with complex lines below the summit. You get a good view of this face from Trail Ridge Road while driving north in the Kawuneeche Valley. The Northeast Slopes are gentler, and they descend into the Opposition Creek drainage. If you come to ski or snowboard Mount Nimbus’ Northeast Slopes, you should also consider climbing and skiing Mount Cumulus. Add an extra hour and a half to your time and climb two of the “cloud” peaks of the central Never Summer Mountains!
On the approach your goal is to access the Grand Ditch. The Grand Ditch ports water from Grand County and the west side of the Continental Divide to the Cache La Poudre River and the east side of the Divide. This road parallels the east side of the Never Summer mountains and serves as a major thoroughfare for Never Summer ski mountaineers.
- 1 – Northeast Slopes
- Rating: III D6
- Season: Spring
- Exposure: Northeast
- Vertical: 2,465’
- Approach Elevations: 9,005’ – 12,705’
- Approach Distance: From Colorado River TH: 5.75 Miles
- Top of Route Waypoint: 40.3967, -105.904
The descent is straightforward and obvious from the summit. The Northeast Slopes cascade into the open bowls of Opposition Creek. You may want to get here earlier in the spring. The middle portion the Northeast Slope is thinly covered during the winter and this can melt out in the spring. Also, an ascent from the Colorado River Trailhead on snow is preferable and this allows you to descend all the way on snow.
Find the trailhead signs at the north end of the Colorado River Trailhead parking lot. Follow the trail north 0.4 miles to a junction with a sign showing the Poudre Pass Trail and Red Mountain Trail junction. Go left to follow the Red Mountain Trail. This trail will quickly cross the Colorado River on a bridge and then into a clearing. If it is light at this time you can look up and see the slide path on Red Mountain. You will want to aim for this during your approach.
Cross the clearing and follow the trail southwest and then south to cross Opposition Creek. If you are approaching in June this should be clear of snow. In April or early May there are hopefully snowshoe and ski tracks guiding you to a small bridge crossing the creek. It is tempting to go straight up Opposition Creek and Hells Hip Pocket. This gorge is very steep and difficult to ascend and descend.
Continue a climbing traverse on the trail 0.25 miles past the Opposition Creek crossing and small bridge. If you are on the trail in the summer then continue to follow it miles to the Grand Ditch (3.2 miles from the Poudre Pass Trail junction). If you are here earlier and there is snow cover, look to break off the trail at approximately 9,300’ and 0.25 miles past the Opposition Creek crossing’s small bridge. Look for a more open area in the aspens and rocks and skin uphill to the west. It is hard to follow the trail in snow above this elevation anyway. Climb west up a mellow slope and then up one steep slope. Head north on flatter terrain to Opposition Creek. Turn west and follow Opposition Creek to the intersection with the Grand Ditch at 10,240’. Alternatively, you can continue straight uphill from 9,300’ to intersect the Grand Ditch below Red Mountain.
At the intersection of Opposition Creek and the Grand Ditch, follow Opposition Creek to the west. At this point the terrain around Opposition Creek is gentle. Ski or hike 0.4 miles from the Grand Ditch to a large clearing below the northern slopes of Red Mountain. Leave the path of the creek here and climb uphill to the south, then west, and then northwest to regain Opposition Creek again. This avoids a steep gorge. Continue following the mellow valley 1.8 miles from the clearing to the base of the Northeast Face. What you thought was the summit is actually a false summit. You should be able to climb with skins most of the way up to the true summit. Break left and boot the remaining distance to the summit via the snow covered Class 2 East Ridge.
Colorado River Trailhead (9,005’)
The Colorado River Trailhead is 9.9 miles north of Rocky Mountain National Park’s Grand Lake Entrance and Kawuneeche Visitor Center on Highway 34 (Trail Ridge Road). There is a daily fee for entering the park. The Kawuneeche entrance is 1.5 miles north of the town of Grand Lake. [40.4018, -105.8488]
If you are here before June then you will see the road closure when you arrive at the trailhead. There is a road to the left that drops down to the Colorado River Trailhead. The trailhead has ample parking and bathrooms.
+ MAPS & PICTURES
Below we have included a link to a Google interactive map and a curated list of photos of the mountain.