This was my first trip into the Gore Range after being in Colorado for ten years. Brian and I decided to try and tackle the Grand Traverse of the Gore Range starting at Bighorn Creek Trailhead and then descending down to the Deluge Lake Trailhead. This required us to cache a bike at the higher trailhead in order to retrieve our vehicle at the end of the day without adding a couple of miles of road hiking.
We started around 6:00 and had an enjoyable hike up Bighorn Creek. Although the generally well-maintained trail starts out fairly steep, it flattens out after a mile and is very scenic all the way to an abandoned cabin around 11,000'. I'd struggled with my blood sugar level a couple of times recently, so we took a five minute break every hour so I could check where my levels were and to eat and drink. It took us three hours to reach the saddle north of North Traverse Peak in between Keller Mountain. The trickiest route finding to this point was simply gaining the saddle from Bighorn Creek. We scrambled slightly farther to the north and then traversed into the saddle from the northwest. After another 45 minutes of scrambling from the saddle, we were on the summit of North Traverse Peak.
The actual traverse from North Traverse Peak to Grand Traverse Peak was relatively simply in terms of route finding with the exception of the crux about half way across the traverse. We opted to move right from a notch in the ridge and then make some exposed slabby moves back left to regain the ridge. At the top of the next point, it appeared as though we were cliffed-out. However, we down-climbed a short class 4 chimney on the east side of the ridge to some grassy ledges and then worked down the exposed ledges to another notch in the ridge. From this point, we traversed back right to the west side of the ridge through a narrow slot to easier scrambling the rest of the traverse. I did have one more route finding error trying to keep things exciting and staying on the ridge. This probably cost us about ten minutes, but wasn't too big of a deal. We also took a five minute break on the ridge after the crux to take in the views and refuel.
We reached the summit of Grand Traverse Peak 1 hour and 30 minutes after leaving North Traverse Peak. We had a more substantial break on the summit of Grand Traverse Peak with some salami, cheese, and tortillas before hiking down to Deluge Lake. From the lake, there is a trail to take you all the way back down to the Vail Valley. Our trailhead to trailhead time was a respectable 7 hours and 30 minutes. The beers Brian had on ice in my FJ Cruiser were motivation enough for us to keep up a good pace on the way out.