Mount Neva – Northeast slopes
Mount Neva (12,814-ft) stands prominently overlooking the Frasier Valley to the west and the Arapaho Pass area to the east. Mount Neva’s cirque-like east face, from north to south; supports the Phoebe Couloir, Desdemona Couloir, Juliet Couloir and the northeast slopes. Each of these provide the melt-off for Lake Dorothy. This picturesque lake is nestled at the base of Mount Neva’s east face. Mount Neva also has a huge concave west face, which supports Columbine Lake that eventually feeds Monarch Reservoir to the north. Rockfall is a menace beneath any of these areas in summer and winter, so a helmet is mandatory.
Fun facts Neva’s origin is Latin, and its use, English and Italian. It is derived from the word nivis which is of the meaning ‘snow‘.
Fourth of July is named so because the lakes and high passes it accesses are typically not clear until after The Fourth of July. Locals have played on this name and claim its origin is tied to magnificent wildflower displays reminiscent of fireworks on The Fourth of July. Both interpretations are valid: anticipate lingering snow through mid-summer, and bar-none wildflowers once it clears.
Spring / Summer route
The winter approach to Mt Neva varies and there are several options. One can start from the north end of Eldora. During the summer months one can drive this road as it passes by Hessie and on to The Fourth of July Trailhead. From Fourth of July Trailhead the route is approx 3.5 miles on the standard Arapahoe Pass trail #904. Once at the top of Arapahoe Pass (11, 904′), veer left on the Caribou Pass trail for another half mile. An unmarked trail veers left to Lake Dorothy. Make you way around the south shores of Lake Dorothy to the base of Mt Neva and the couloir aprons.
In the winter your starting point is where the road begins at the north end of Eldora, which adds approx 4.2 miles to the route, for a total roundtrip of 16 miles. The winter route from Fourth of July Trailhead is straight through the gate closure, not the Arapahoe Pass trail #904. The standard summer route is full of avalanche paths coming from the east flanks of Old Mt Baldy and is not recommended in the winter months.
Another route is drive to the old Caribou Townsite, while it doesn’t save much in mileage it can be a safer route depending on the snow and avalanche conditions. From there you will tour on FR505 for about a half mile until the first road turn to your right which leads to Mt Old Baldy. It takes very careful route finding to navigate this route. From Old Baldy you proceed to a bench near South Arapaho Peak dropping you in to an area just shy of Fourth of July Mine. Depending on the snow depth and stability you can either tour on the remaining Arapaho Pass trail, or descend from the mine heading directly to the Mt Neva slopes.
As a word of caution both of these routes are riddled with avalanche danger pretty much all the way in to the spring until the snow goes isothermic. I would not recommend this area to beginner or intermediate backcountry touring during the winter months, it is a very dangerous area. In the spring and summer however it is a gold mine of great skiing and riding. Typically one can find great lines all the way in to July.