40th Anniversary Ascent
On August 22, 1971 a group of high schoolers and their leader achieved the first ascent of the Cleaver, a spire that rises above and between Wild Basin and the East Inlet. Named by Phil Ritterbush and his Nomenclature Committee of Rocky Mountain National Park and appearing for the first time on a map, the 1958 U.S. Geological Survey Isolation Peak quadrangle, the Cleaver plainly deserves its name. An ominous overhanging crag, it indeed resembles a butcher’s tool. James Douglas, Brooke Lyman and Diana Milne, all teenagers at the time, accomplished the first ascent, led by the Rev. Kent Keller, now of Estes Park.
The four were participating in a weeklong backpack trip, sponsored by the Presbytery of Denver, into Wild Basin. Once on the summit, the 1971 group saw no evidence of a previous human ascent: no summit cairn, no canister, no register. Building a cairn, they were reasonably certain that no one had scaled the Cleaver at an earlier date. Keller subsequently wrote to Ritterbush, who had been a RMNP seasonal ranger and who was a college friend. Ritterbush reported that neither he nor members of his nomenclature committee had climbed the peak.
Keller then wrote an account of the 1971 ascent, which appeared in the March 1973 issue of the Colorado Mountain Club’s Trail and Timberline magazine.
To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of that first ascent, Keller led an Estes Park Trail Trekkers group to the summit on August 22, 2011. Including Terri Girard of Fort Collins and Derald DeYoung of Estes Park, this group followed the original route past Thunder Lake, Lake of Many Winds, Boulder-Grand Pass, three “gendarmes,” and a “half-dome” to the upper portion of the Cleaver. There they departed from the original line up the northeast ridge and scrambled over to the southeast ridge to finish the ascent. This latter, “third-class,” route is recommended by Lisa Foster in her Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide. Girard, De Young, and Keller reached the summit just before 1:00 p.m. They tarried only briefly to sign the register, noting the fortieth anniversary in it, because an electrical storm was threatening from the northwest. On the descent, however, the weather cleared, so they paused at the Lake of Many Winds for lunch and a more relaxed celebration of the anniversary ascent.