Signal and South Signal Mountains

Peaks: South Signal Mountain (11,248′) – Rocky Mountain National Park, and Signal Mountain (11,262′) – Comanche Peak Wilderness
Date: December 27, 2014
Trailhead: Dunraven (7,800′) *
Approach: Bulwark Ridge Trail
Distance: ~12.5 miles
Elevation Gain: ~3,800 ft.
Participants: Sam Sala, Dillon Sarnelli
Time: 11 hours

*Note: Due to the September 2013 flooding, much of the area around the Dunraven TH is still closed. The Bulwark Ridge Trail is open. See the Poudre Wilderness site for more info. You are permitted to park at the Dunraven TH and hike up the road .3 miles to the Bulwark Ridge Trail #928/Signal Mountain Trail. You are also permitted to hike up the road to Cheley Camp to temporarily access the North Fork Trail #929. The Dunraven TH is still closed in most other directions.

Route overview. Click to enlarge.

South Signal Mountain, unranked at 11,248 feet, sits in the NE corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Park boundary actually traverses around the summit so you are literally standing in the corner of the park when standing on the true summit. Signal Mountain, the ranked sister peak at 11,262′, is .6 miles northeast and resides in the Comanche Peak Wilderness. The views from these summits look south into RMNP and the Mummy Range, offering  a less seldom seen perspective for a Denverite.  To the north, you have unobstructed views into Wyoming and the remainder of the Comanche Peak Wilderness in all directions.

Just one day removed from the Christmas holiday, Sam got my text at 8 PM on Friday night and by 8:04 he had already rented his snowshoes. It took very little convincing as he too was itching to go outside and lives about an hour from the TH in the Fort. We were also both looking forward to getting back out in the same zip code as it had been some time since we last hit the trail together.

December 27, 2014, 6 AM –  One very cold step out of the jeep and it became clear that if we were going to stand on 2 summits today, we would have to earn them.

One mile and about 700 feet from the gate, we take a sharp left at this sign and head northwest along Bulwark Ridge. The next 4 miles follow the ridge thru the trees eventually to treeline and spit us out just below the summit of South Signal Mountain.
Sam breaking trail.
Man, there’s a lot of snow out here.
Some familiar faces start to show their heads.
I’m smiling, but my legs are toast. At about 10,900′ we reached a small clearing that gave us a solid view of the remaining approach to South Signal. The trail had all but disappeared at this point. We would descend slightly to a small saddle and then make our way to treeline on South Signal’s eastern slope.
The remaining approach to South Signal. Just a few thousand trees in an extremely dense forest and 2 feet of powder. GO!
A birds eye view into the Boulderfield. Click to enlarge.
The rock in the previous image, right center, as we skirt it to climber’s right.

On to the summits… These peaks might only be 11K feet, but what they lack in height, they make up for in summit views.

Summit of South Signal Mountain – Rocky Mountain National Park – December 27, 2014
Park boundary. There is actually a series of these posts indicating where the Comanche Peak Wilderness ends and RMNP begins.
Sam doing some scrambling on a few interesting rock formations near the summit of South Signal.
Sam nearing the summit of Signal. The summit of South Signal can be seen to the left in the pano. The slog back and forth to each summit is .6 miles and quite a reprieve from the previous 5 hours.
Summit of Signal Mountain – Comanche Peak Wilderness – December 27, 2014.
Summit of Signal Mountain – December 27, 2014.
Back to South Signal then we begin the 6 mile trek home.
Parting Shot.

I think Sam summed it up perfectly when he said “I think that was harder than the Ten Mile traverse”. 🙂 Don’t underestimate those 11ers! Great day out, Sam. Thanks for the company and the entertainment. Let’s do it again soon, buddy.

And back in time to catch the bowl game and a cereal beer at Black Bottle Brewery in Fort Collins.

How do you miss an extra point, in a bowl game, in OT? You don’t if you’re a Nittany Lion. What a day!

Thanks for reading and I hope you had a Happy New Year! Cheers to 2015! Be safe out there.


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