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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Lee

Mount Flora

Updated: Apr 23, 2023

April 18, 2021

Mt. Flora (13,132 feet)*

Route: Alltrails (from Berthoud Pass)

4.2 miles; 1476 feet elevation gain

Total time: 3 hours

*did not summit

Still riding last week’s summit high and a perfect weather forecast we decided to go for Mt. Flora. We have a history with Mt. Flora in case you are new here. The first attempt, September 2019, we set out for a sunrise hike and overestimated the timing, it was still pitch black when we approached the false summit. It was so windy and we were underprepared. We turned around just before 13,00 feet on the false summit. On our second attempt, March 2020, it was so unbelievably cold and windy we turned around again. This time we were feet from the summit but couldn’t make it the last little bit because we were so cold and the dogs were struggling to stand up. I think we counted this as a summit since we are over 13,000 feet but technically it wasn’t. With a little apprehension about this mountain kicking our ass, we headed back today for attempt 3. Spoiler, today’s outcome was the same as the last two. For being an “easy 13er” it seems impossible for us to reach the true summit.

We arrived at Berthoud Pass around 8:30am. The forecast was predicting cold temperatures, low wind and partially cloudy weather. The parking lot was about half full, mostly with backcountry skiers. I had Kane with me and Brittany had Gryff. The first mile, on the Colorado Mines road was easy and fast. We wore snowshoes but there was a trench of packed snow. Once we left the mining road the snow got significantly deeper but there were still some ski tracks to follow. The snow above the tree line was much deeper than expected, it was soft loose powder which was hard work. Once we rounded the curve, where Flora’s false summit came into view there was no longer any trail to follow. This part of the trail is on a fairly steep angle and we were breaking trail. The snow kept sliding out from under us and it was absolutely exhausting; I fell approximately 75 times!! We saw a few skiers coming down at this point and I wished I was skiing.

Once we got to the ridge where you turn left to ascend the wind picked up slightly but it was still manageable. We ditched the snowshoes shortly up this incline, around the 2 mile mark. There were deep drifts but mostly exposed trail/rock. We reached the 2.5 mile mark, around 12,800 feet, and the clouds that had been following us for a while dropped significantly. We were now in the clouds with low visibility and the temperature decreased dramatically. With the poor visibility and how tired we were we decided to call it at this point. We started heading down; it stayed very cold and fairly windy until we got back to the turn off. Going back along the steep traverse wasn’t much easier than the way out so it was slow going. The dogs were still having a great time other than a little snow build up in their fur/paws! On the descent we cut off the mining road switchbacks and descended down the main slope back to the parking lot. All in all, a great day. Without a doubt the best weather conditions I have ever seen on Mt. Flora; I think it redeemed itself and is no longer my least favorite mountain. Although one day I would love to truly summit it.

Random thoughts of this hike:

- Know your dog. It was very cold today, windy at parts and deep snow with steep angles. I would imagine many dogs wouldn’t love these conditions for 3 hours. Kane and Gryff did not show any signs of discomfort but if they had we would’ve bailed immediately.

- Good weather is very subjective. While the weather was great today it was still very cold and there were periods of wind.

- Know your abilities and trust your judgment; like are you comfortable traversing a fairly steep incline and breaking trail. It was absolutely exhausting.

- One day I will summit this mountain. I really need to do it in the summer for better odds!!

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