Mount Neva: North Ridge (YDS Class 4) 8/25/20

Rating System

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.

Neva summit is left. This is the view as you near the cut off for the Glacier Trail. The entire scramble is pictured against the horizon (you travel from right to left).

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.

On the Caribou Pass Trail, Lake Dorothy to the left. Summit of Neva off-screen.

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 (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.

Terrain atop Knob 1, looking back (North).

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.

What lies ahead.

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).

A look back at the first, easy Class 3 downclimb off of Knob 1.
Easy up to Knob 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.

More difficult terrain on Knob2.
Traversing the Knife (most exposure is on the East or left hand side). Staying just to the right of the ridge helps keep the heebie-jeebies down.

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 .

A cliff exists below the white line. Photos down the ridge-line tend to hide features (esp. if the ridge crest undulates) but it’s deep, steep and absolutely there.
Down gully, Lake Dorothy in the background. Once you descend to a grassy shelf, take a right and head to the Col between Knobs 2 and 3.
Where you are, what you’ve done and what’s to come.

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!

The first move or two are the hardest for the East Line (left). The West Line (right) looks harder in general but also offers some nice cracks and handholds. Routes approximated, use your best judgment for hand and footholds.
Nice perspective with some starting variations shown. The initial block is a little steep (debatable Class 3/Class 4). Once you get to where I am in the picture, if you climb left over the fin rock (1-3 moves), you can keep the rest at Class 3. You can always push it by climbing up the large slab to my right or taking the West Line further right (not shown in this pic).
Taylor taking it to the wall

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.

Looking back: again, the ridge-ling perspective problem. Behind and below the white line (out of view) is the notch between Knob 2 and 3. Once you scramble up the Pre Crux, continue on the grass bench (Class 2) and ascend to the ridgeline as shown (Class 3).
Dropping down off of Knob3

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.

Fun blocks.

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.

Once you ascend the blocks, this is what you see.

Below is a zoomed in version of the crux difficulties. Let’s unpack it.

Two options. Same start, same end. The right version is harder, it involves a sustained Class 4 dihedral climb, ridge hopping, and a descent back into a notch before the crux wall. The easier option traverses left across a steep grass slope before arriving at the Crux.

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.

Looking back to the Rock Fin.

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.

The hardest moves are ahead, but at this point you’ve been tested. If you’ve made it this far, you can climb the wall.

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.

So, there’s this grassy plant up on the wall, super handy for nav. Find your way to it, options abound, I’ve only tried to show where some Class 4 moves may be encountered on the lower (and steeper) portion of the wall. Once you ascend past the plant, angle left on a Class 3 ramp.
Roslyn beginning her climb, taken from the Class 3 ramp above the steepest part.
In the above photo, Roslyn has just climbed passed the plant, Taylor is at the bottom of the wall.
On the ramp, almost done.

Once you take the ramp, the crux is over! Below is an overview.

Boom. Nicely done.

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.

Reference shot.

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.

1st section (red arrows)
2nd section
Recap view

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.

Getting up to the Sub-summit with the suddenly orange rock
The serpentine nature of the ridge is very striking. From back to front you can see Knob1, Knob2, the back of the Crux wall, and the last optional scramble ridge before the orange rock comes in.
Target in sight.

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.

FYI: The lake in the middle pic above is DEEP and can support a shallow dive at a few points, it was very cold.

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!


Summits: One

Mileage: ~9 miles

Elevation: Yes

The Tenmile Traverse: Peaks 1-5 (YDS 3-4) July 14, 2020


With the snow in full retreat, and a FANTASTIC solo hike up Mt. Alice the week prior, I knew it was time for a harder scramble. My friend Nick Ventrella, who is always down for a challenge, was available to join, so all we had to do was figure out where to go. After a quick search, we settled on the harder sections of the Tenmile Traverse.

The ‘full’ traverse covers the first 10 numbered peaks of this thin, highly visible range between Breckenridge, Frisco, and Copper Mt. In fact, as you cruise down from the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 towards Silverthorne, you can see the first two sharp peaks just to the left of the interstate. The highway wraps around the west side of the range until the Copper Intersection. As a testament to its sharp profile, this is the area where an avalanche in March 2019 buried the highway for a few hours. Click here for video (I do not own that content). However, in mid July, no chance of snowy doom so we decided to go for it!

Up and Up and Up

I picked Nick up at a park and ride outside of Denver and we blasted west towards Frisco, arriving at the Rainbow Lake Trailhead before 5 AM. After a quick organization of gear, we hit the trail at 4:55 and within the first half mile, started going up. And up. And Up.

Sunrise above Grays and Torreys, on the way up Mt. Royal trail.

The range is sharp and steep. From the trailhead in Frisco, to the top of Peak 1 is roughly 3.5 miles with a whopping 3708 feet of elevation gain. So, roughly a thousand feet a mile. From the Rainbow Lake Trailhead off 2nd avenue, backtrack to the paved bike path, take a left, and walk .2 miles west. Look to your left for a signed trail to Mount Royal and begin the arduous ascent. Near the summit of Mount Royal, the trail splits, right to Royal, left to Mt. Victoria. We took the left and blasted up on a fairly good trail to Victoria, whose “summit” isn’t much more than a ridge bump covered in antennas.

The rest of the climb after you pass Mt. Victoria

From here, the trail dwindles, but the ridge line breaks out above the trees and is very obvious to follow. The environment from Victoria to the summit of Peak 1 is alpine in nature and consists of sparse veg and large talus fields. Take care hopping across them. Once in the alpine, the most used route is obvious as a dirt streak between large boulders and should guide you up to Peak 1 with relative ease.

Summit Views on Pk. 1 (North-Northeast)

By itself, Peak 1 is a notable accomplishment. You’re quads will agree I’m sure. However, for the truly inspired (and/or mental), the best parts lie ahead!

Lay of the land, and the traverse from Pk1 to Pk2, which is the highpoint of the range until Pk. 9.

Quick disclaimer: I like to highlight and markup some of my pictures for route clarification. Black lines= general directions, landmarks and/or class 1 route. Blue Lines=Class 2 or 2+ sections. Red= Class 3 sections. Purple = 4th class section. Orange = Class 5. The class system is based on the YDS rating scale.

As indicated by the picture above, the traverse from Peak 1 to Peak 2 is not difficult. There’s one section that requires a little more awareness and a few 2+ moves but it’s incredibly short. For those looking to hit high-points but avoid scrambling, summiting Mt. Royal, Mt. Victoria, Peak 1, and Peak 2, would be a great day in and of itself.

Peaks 2-3: Gendarmes and Dragons

After topping out on peak 2, we took stock of our future. It was still early in the day, the weather was agreeable and our energy levels high. We made the trek from Peak 1 to Peak 2 in less than a half hour and were feeling pretty darn good about ourselves.

Looking like a lot of fun! There are 2-3 places where you have to drop from the ridge, for the rest, it can be as exposed as you want it, with a MINIMUM 3+ Rating.

The above photo is from the summit of Peak 2 and provides a nice overview of what’s to come, below is a blown up version of some of the difficulties.

Awwwwww yeah

Ok, LOTS to unpack here, let’s take it slowly. First, as you exit the summit plateau of Peak 2, hug the ridge for the first few minutes (black arrows). Eventually, you will arrive at a deep trench separating you from a Class 5 tower directly on the ridge crest (orange circle). With the tower in full view, descend on slabby rock. You DO NOT have to climb this tower. The easiest direction to descend is down (ha ha) with a diagonal slant to the left (solid class 3). Eventually you’ll be deposited right in-front of the tower. From here, descend to the right (west) hugging the base of the tower rocks until you locate a gully bypass that you will ascend back up to the ridge line. This bypass is class 2+ and 3.

The tower bypass on the right (west) side of the ridge.

The bypass will take you all the way back to the ridge top and we found easier scrambling on the left (east) side of the ridge. Here, the options vary with your comfort level. It’s generally a 3+ on the ridge top proper, 3 & 2+ on the east side. Enjoy some exposed scrambling and ridge top entertainment as you approach the next obstacle, the “Dragon”. Note: If you decide to stay on the nose of the ridge, right before the “Dragon”, you will have to exit left to avoid getting cliffed out.

Good example of ridge-line issues encountered between Pks. 2-3
The “Dragon”. Class 3 imagination required.
Multiple options here, easiest access is up the neck from the W. Side

The “Dragon” is right on the ridge-line so you either need to climb it, or perform another Class 3 bypass along the western side (not pictured above). My buddy Nick, an excellent climber in his own right, forged ahead with the exposed class 4 option once he’d climbed up some class three blocks to the dragons neck.

Riding the Dragon/camel/llama?

I opted to just climb the neck, but it is a fun and complicated rock rib with many options. If the day is windy, do the bypass. If the weather is starting to threaten, the safest option is to pull a U turn and start hauling back because you’re not halfway through the traverse yet and there’s nowhere to hide. From Peak 2, if need be, you can bail to the east back down to treeline.

Nick, in action on the class 4 traverse

Once we had finished exploring the features on the “Dragon”, we dutifully continued our traverse down the bypass to the west.

The “Dragon” Bypass

Once you regain the ridge after the “Dragon” traverse, the rest of the scramble up to Peak 3 is a 2+ by the easiest route. Stay on the ridge and before you know it, you’ll be on the summit. Take a break here and revel in your accomplishments, but be aware, there’s a lot more to be had.

Relatively easy up to the Peak 3 summit.
Looking back at what you’ve climbed. In this picture, both bypasses are to the Left.

Peak 3-4: Scrambling Bliss

After peak 3, Nick and I dropped down to the col between peaks 3 and 4. This part was very simple, hardly class 2 if that. Don’t let you’re guard down, it’s all leading up to what I would consider to be the most enjoyable (and exposed) scrambling of the day. The only comparable part is if you spent time climbing on the “Dragon”. If you bypassed the “Dragon”, read carefully, because you cannot avoid the next part. As far as line of least resistance goes, the climb to Peak 4 would constitute the crux of the traverse.

Peak 3-4 travers, stay on the ridge
The Purple Circle (Class4 options available) is the route Crux

Once you reach the saddle, do your last bit of scramble prep (hydration, helmets, sunscreen etc.) because you aren’t going to have a lot of space to break between now and the summit of Peak 4.

The complications of the Crux Section

Once again, lots to unpack here. Nick and I debated for a long time whether our route ever hit what we felt to be a class 4 section. The only argument for the 4 (ha ha) would be the amazing amount of exposure over the knife edge, and the ridge direct option. We’re pretty convinced our route (knife edge to cutback option) was kept at a 3+. This was based on actual moves made as opposed to letting exposure inflate that score. However, while exposure is less of an issue with us, it can be a HUGE factor for others, therefore, I’ll label the knife edge as a 4* and the ridge direct option as the only section that could be truly considered 4 on this part of the traverse. I’m sure everyone who’s done this has a different opinion about it. Good for y’all, having opinions and whatnot.

More to the point, the knife edge is not long but very exposed, and leads directly into your three options. Ridge direct is the most committing, however, a sneaky ramp extends diagonally west and supplies the groundwork for the other two options. Even though the ramp is only a Class 3, any fall backwards should be considered fatal. The ramp option (farthest to the right in the above pic) can be kept at mid 3. We found the cutback option to be a bit harder and flirted with higher level 3, while never crossing over to 4. Either way you slice it, this section is highly committing and a lot of fun. If exposure gives you the willies, stick with any of the two class 3 routes. If you were a mountain goat in a previous life, ridge direct is the way to go.

Nick, climbing up the knife edge.

In the picture above, if you extend the direction and length of the red arrow, you’ll see what appears to be a diagonal crack in the rock, that’s the ramp.

Getting above the knife edge

At the end of the knife edge is a blunt rock that would run at least a low 5 if you climbed it directly. An easier 3 option follows the red line to where Nick is sitting.

What we did vs. Class 4 option
From the Ramp, looking down

Perspective is a crazy thing. In the picture captioned “From the Ramp, looking down”, you can see the gentle approach to the first difficulties, but the knife edge is hidden behind the rock spire in the purple circle. Above it, you have a brief section of class three scrambling (also shown in the picture captioned “What we did vs. class 4 section”). The final red line in the bottom right corner shows the direction you take once you are on the ramp.

After this particularly intense section, the rest of the scramble up to Peak 4 relents and before you know it, you’re on top! An interesting change happens here. Looking back, you can gaze over all your hard work, looking forward, you see nothing but open, gentle alpine. The transition is abrupt and at first glance, makes little sense, but it is what it is. Peaks 4-10 are an easy class one tundra stroll.

Route overview from Pk.2, and rest of climb from crux difficulties
What a difference eh?

Turn and Burn back to the Car

If you come up to Pk 4 from the backside to scout the route, (which is excellent planning on your part, go you!) make sure you head down to the crux section, just staring at it from the summit of Pk4 misses a lot of crucial pieces.

From Peak 4 we strolled over to peak 5 and connected with the Miner Creek Trail, heading back to Frisco and the car. This section of trail overlaps with the Colorado Trail and we saw a lot of confused thru-hikers wondering where we were coming from. The trail did give us one last great view of the back half of the traverse which we thought was a nice going away present.

Last Look

Again, if you are scouting this route, DO NOT use this “Last Look” picture as your barometer. It a) looks easier than it is b) without labels, you wouldn’t think the route crux is where it is. Nothing beats getting up to it and actually seeing what the route provides.

The hike back was uneventful but long. We eventually took a left onto the Milner Pass trail and set a blistering sub-20-minute-mile pace back to Frisco. If you are making this a loop, be aware, it’s a long way back to your car. Most twisted ankles happen on the return journey when you are tired and your footsteps suffer. Maintain your vigilance and make it back in one piece.

I hope the above information helps anyone aspiring to traverse this gem. It is a long, committing day above the trees but if you have the day, the company, and the scrambling ability, its a fantastic route. I’d go back just to play on the “Dragon” again, and try the ridge direct route up to Peak 4. Fun, fun, fun. As always, leave no trace ya filthy animals, and do not climb things that give you heart attacks. The mountains will still be there tomorrow. Cheers!


  • Peaks Summited: 5 (6 if you count Mt. Victoria)
  • Top Elevation: 12,933 ft atop Peak 2 (Tenmile Peak)
  • YDS Rating (3+ with class 4 options available, 5 if you climb that first tower)
  • Mileage: 13.something miles
  • Elevation gain
    • Frisco to Peak 1: 3700 ft
    • Total (all ups and downs): +/- 5000 feet