I like to highlight and markup some of my pictures for route clarification. Black lines= general directions, landmarks and/or Class 1 sections. Blue Lines=Class 2 sections. Red= Class 3 sections. Purple = Class 4 sections. Orange = Class 5. The class system is based on the YDS rating scale.
WARNING: There is a photo of an injury I sustained while climbing below, it has blood, please scroll if you do not feel comfortable seeing it, once you hit the heading that says, “Approach” you are in the clear.
The short version is that I’ve climbed Neva before, and I injured myself on it. It occurred before the crux wall. I underestimated a down-step, and my leg extended as I fell forward. When my foot finally found the ground, the pressure on my extended leg caused my knee to buckle forward…right into a sharp rock. It was a mess, I could see down to my patella. I also couldn’t turn around, so I half climbed, half dragged my bum leg up the crux, fixed a wrap around it at the top, and thanks to the courtesy of some fellow climbers, was escorted back to the main trail. Below is what it looked like when I rewrapped my leg (~2 hours after the incident). There’s a tiny thumbnail of the picture below. You can also click the blue link to see a full-size version if you choose. Be careful out there people, accidents happen.
The injury was a huge disappointment and ended my hiking season for 2019. While I didn’t need surgery or anything, I was limping for three months afterwards and the scar tissue is still very visible. Needless to say, I was itching to get back out and climb Neva again when my body healed and the weather agreed. Luckily for me, a couple of my good friends moved back into town from my trail building days of yore, and we organized a trip to make it happen.
July 4th Trailhead, west of Nederland.
From Boulder/Denver: proceed by best route to 119 (Boulder Canyon Drive) and take it up to Nederland. Lots of construction as of August 2020, no idea when the end date is, prepare for delays. Once you pass Barker Reservoir and hit your first roundabout, head south on 119 as if going to Rollinsville. Just outside of town you’ll see a sign for Eldora, take a right here (just make sure to SLOW DOWN as you pass the town of Eldora, speed limit is 25). Eventually, the road turns to dirt and passes the ridiculously popular Hessie Trailhead, keep going, angling right on an increasingly tougher dirt road for a few more miles until you arrive at the trailhead.
2WD cars can make it but its a long bumpy dirt road, watch your undercarriage if you do not have a lot of lift. The last little bit to the top parking lot is optional, but my Subaru Outback has made it up to the top every time I’ve been out there. IF YOU USE THIS TRAILHEAD ON THE WEEKENDS IN JULY OR AUGUST, GOOD LUCK FINDING A PARKING SPOT UNLESS YOU’RE UP THERE AT 5 AM.
From the actual trailhead there is only one trail, The Arapahoe Pass Trail, take it. Eventually, you pass a couple junctions, one to Diamond Lake (keep right), and another for the Glacier Trail (keep straight), there are also remnants of a mining operation here. Keep going on the well-defined trail until you hit Arapahoe Pass. From the pass, take a left (there is a sign) and proceed towards Caribou Pass. The cut off for Neva is unmarked but the mountain is impossible to miss as you start heading up the Caribou Pass Trail. It’s about three miles to the cutoff from the trailhead.
As you venture up Caribou Pass Trail keep an eye to your left. As the picture below shows, try to find a set of obvious rocks amongst the alpine. If all else fails, make a beeline towards the rocks to begin your climb BEFORE the Caribou Pass Trail starts losing elevation.
From the set of rocks in the picture above, you’ll be able to sight a fairly obvious use trail that ascends the ridge. From the ridge crest, head left across brief alpine to the summit ridge of the first Knob. The scrambling starts here.
There are three knobs to negotiate initially, followed by a Crux wall climb, then two additional knobs before the summit. The first (as shown in pictures above and below) is identified by a set of three, thin, lighter rock striations running vertically like scars. The second has a single, but wider, light-colored vertical rock stripe. The third knob has a very distinct patch of thick, green vegetation growing on its side, it’s fairly obvious from the approach trails. To the left of the third knob is a col and then a climb to and up the Crux. Beyond the crux, there is a brief option for more scrambling but the ridge mellows out until Neva’s summit. The last bit is a tundra stroll with mixed talus, leading to some larger talus blocks at the very highest point.
There are very good trip reports on Neva throughout the internet, especially on 14ers.com (thanks to author CarpeDM), so I will try to emulate how they broke up the route. There are three distinct sections. Section One=knobs 1-2, Section Two=Knob 3-Crux, Section Three=Final push to the summit.
Section One: First two Knobs
As you climb to the top of the Knob 1, you’ll notice the terrain change fairly dramatically to all talus. Scrambling to the top of this first Knob is a fairly simple Class2-2+ endeavor. Below is an example of the terrain.
Staying on the ridge crest is easy. After a few minutes of concerted movement you’ll come across a descent to the col between Knobs 1 and 2.
For the most part we stayed on the ridge when and where we were able. As we descended into the col we found a nice set of grippy, sloping rock (Class 3) that we took on the East (left hand) side of the ridge. That set us up to zip passed the col and begin the easy ascent up Knob 2 (Class 2).
Once you get on the crest of Knob 2, the scrambling increases in difficulty. There are a multitude of roue options available, though ridge direct is the most straightforward. Staying on the ridge allowed us to keep moving relatively quickly and also gave us some nice Class 3 challenges, including a mini knife-edge section with some decent exposure.
The ridge crest is fun but we did not find an easy way to downclimb the nose of the ridge to the next col without hitting a Class 5 section. So, after the knife edge, I’d suggest finding an acceptable gully to your left (Class 3) that allows you to circumvent the abrupt difficulties on the ridge proper .
Section Two: Knob 3 and the Crux Wall
Once at the col, you’ll see a really enticing wall in front of you. I do not know if there are workarounds (possibly to the left) but upon seeing it I knew I wanted to climb it. It’s actually a really good precursor for the Crux wall difficulties so I’d suggest giving it a go. We identified two lines up it, with the East (left) line appearing slightly easier. Either line flirts with Class 4 and I would argue commits to it for at least a move or two. Have fun!
Regardless of whether or not you consider the specific moves on this section to be a Class 3+ or 4, the options to make it harder are there and you get a brief idea of what will be demanded of you in the near future. Take note.
Once you climb up Knob 3, you can maintain a line along the ridge-crest until it drops you down to the last col before the crux wall. At one point along the ridge-crest, it doesn’t appear that your line will go, but if you peer around the rocks you’ll be able to maintain the crest and keep the climbing at Class 3.
Once in the notch between Knob 3 and the Crux, there’s a fun little scramble up some slanted blocks (Class 3). From the top of the blocks, you have a fantastic view of the challenge ahead.
Cool, let’s pan out and take a couple looks at the entire Crux section. Then, we’ll zero in on specific sections and options.
Below is a zoomed in version of the crux difficulties. Let’s unpack it.
From the top of the blocks to the top of the crux, it’s all 3 and 4, even though there is an “easier” option, it’s in relation to a more difficult route, not because its “easy”.
As you approach the split in options, ascend a few rock steps, and then arrive at a sharp diagonal fin. Here, if you ascend about 10-20 feet and take a look left, you’ll see a break in the fin that drops you into a grassy area (standard route). If you try to traverse across the fin much lower, you will be in serious 4/5 down-climb territory.
However, if the Class 4 Dihedral option to your right has drawn your attention, you’ll want to ascend into it before crossing the rock fin. My buddy Taylor, an excellent scrambler, will model the climb.
If the dihedral doesn’t look interesting, the standard route is your go to. Below, we’ll unpack that route until the notch before the Crux wall.
From the split option, ascend broken rock slabs to the prominent fin in front of you (Class 3). Pick the line of least resistance, and know that once you reach the fin, you will most likely need to climb uphill a bit until scouting an acceptable way to cross it.
Once on the grassy slope, perform an ascending traverse into the prominent notch in the ridge just to the right of the crux wall. Below is a shot looking toward the crux. The crux climb consists of the purple arrow and higher red arrow in the photo.
At the top of the grass slope, the optional dihedral route comes down to meet you. From that point, both routes converge on the crux wall.
Three things to keep in mind before you hit the Crux wall. A) It’s only a 30-foot wall and I’d argue only half (possibly less) is Class 4. B) There’s a little sprout of vegetation above where you start climbing that serves as a good first half marker. C) Halfway up, angle left on a Class 3 ramp until you exit the wall. In pictures below.
Once you take the ramp, the crux is over! Below is an overview.
Section Three: To the top
Most of the climbing is behind you, all of it if you’re just sick of scrambling. However, if you want to add a little extra spice, once you get above the crux wall, sight the narrow ridge highpoint and ascend towards it.
Below is a closer shot. Options are limited to ridge direct, and there are two short sections but it’s a fun side quest. Alternatively, you can traverse around to the west side and reconnect after the ridge eases up.
From the last scrambling to the top of Neva the going is quite easy. You have to cross a sub-summit with orange rocks that are not stable, in contrast to the stable darker rock you’ve encountered already. After a quick Class 2+ jaunt to the sub-summit, only alpine fields and a small rise separate you from the peak. About 20 feet before the true summit rock you have to do some talus hopping, but it isn’t difficult by any stretch of the imagination.
The Way Down
From the summit, travel south along the continental divide until coming to a sandy pass. Head left, descending on Class 2 slopes oscillating between big sturdy rocks and sandy garbage. Pick the best line for you, there is a use trail visible here, but it tracks through the slippy stuff. We stayed to the left of it for most of the descent.
After passing in-between the lakes, stay left as much as feasibly possible. The rest is an off-trail jaunt back to the Arapahoe Pass Trail and can be made easier by clinging to a set of grass and rock ribs to the LEFT (West) side of the main creek running down from the lakes. If you stay to the right, you’ll have to descend much more before finding a suitable crossing and be forced to negotiate a lot of marshy areas. Either way it’s a slow descent, watch for uneven ground that can twist ankles. No path is 100% immune from krummholz or willows, but it’s much less painful to head left after descending the talus below the second lake. Try to intersect the Arapahoe Pass Trail before it descends out of the talus. Once you reconnect with the trail, take a right and blast down to your car, nicely done!
Mileage: ~9 miles