Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Finishing the high peaks of the Mummy Range.

September is here and nothing is on fire or flooding, so we will call that a small victory.  Once again, I find myself stuck inside this week as the monsoon stretches on- wasn't it supposed to be over by now?  It's been a very wet summer and I shouldn't complain.  I have to be okay with the idea that I might not reach my goal for RMNP this year.
Last week, I set out to finish off the high peaks of the Mummy Range with my friend Dan.  On the agenda were no fewer than 6 thirteeners, 2 twelvers, and the second or third highest named lake in the United States, depending on how you count...
We left the Lawn Lake trailhead shortly before 5am and spent some time in the dark.  With no moon, the night sky was awesome and awe inspiring, stars visible forever.  A small piece of beauty that stood before a very ambitious day.
We took the Lawn Lake trail to the intersection with the Black Canyon Trail, and then stayed on that for maybe .15 a mile.  We left it where it flattened out, and started up into the madness. 
Looking back from a point on the east ridge of Mummy Mountain.
Up was the theme of the day, and in about four hours, we were atop Mummy Mountain, 13425 feet. 
Having gained the first 5000 or so feet of the day, we set out along the ridge toward Hagues Peak.  You will loose some elevation and get back into the high 12000's before coming back up above 13000 feet.  Last time I was here, I saw an SAR helicopter land in the saddle between Mummy and Hagues.
We crossed the ridge and picked a contouring descent through mostly stable talus toward Rowe Lake.   Rowe Peak is the high point behind it. 
Rowe Lake is at 13100 feet, and according to this source, is the third highest named lake in the US.  However, the first highest lake listed is referred to as "subterranean", I can't find it on a topo, can't find a single photo of it online, and the only reference I can find is that site itself and others which reference it.
Anyway, I found it kind of funny to be sitting at a lake and knowing your next peak is at 13420 feet, and seeing there is only a few hundred feet of elevation gain needed to get to it.  Normally that is quite different.  It is higher than all but 25 or so peaks in the park.
We picked a path up the talus between Rowe Peak and Gibraltar Mountain, and then set out west.
In very short time, we were standing on the second thirteener of the day!  For being unranked and close to nothing, it sure does get alot of visitation.  Probably 30-50 summits a year. 
Next up was Rowe Mountain.  From Rowe Peak, one can see a high point that is pretty close, but this is not Rowe Mountain.  It is the small lump of rock that is maybe half a mile NNE that is your next goal (seen slightly right of center here).  It has a whopping 44 feet of prominence!
From here, we could also see our first big elevation loss of the day, down to the 12530 foot summit of Little No Name.  There were two registers on top of Rowe Mountain.  An old plastic peanut butter container that had been compromised and a newer CMC PVC pipe one that we could not get open.  Ah well. 
We set off across scree and tundra, arcing downwards.  The tundra is pretty beautiful this year due to the rain.  While starting to turn to fall colors, you can find these reds and ochers right next to vibrant jewel green.  Pretty awesome. 
We approached Little No Name.  Like many of the peaks on high plateaus, this side looks rather unspectacular.  As in, why would anyone even name this thing?  But from below, it looks like a beautiful peak.
And of course it offered up some incredible views to the east.  It was alot of fun thinking about the time we spent in this drainage.
Lake Dunraven, Mount Dunraven, Dundicking, Mount Dickinson.
Scotch Lake and Mummy Mountain.
Next we found ourselves on top of the 12760 foot Middle No Name.  The ridge line to the left here holds Sugarloaf Mountain and Stormy Peaks.
Gibraltar Mountain actually looks somewhat imposing from Middle No Name.
This day would've been perfect if not for the wind.  It was pretty fierce at times.  We briefly stood on top of Gibraltar Mountain (13300) before heading back down towards Rowe Lake.
The ridge line between Hagues and Rowe Peak looks fun and formidable.  It was again pretty neat to take a break at this high lake.  We picked a logical way up the scree and talus slope to Hagues Peak.  There is a little bit of a social trail that can be found, though it is hard to see from below. 
Rowe Lake is so high I doubt it even melts out completely most years.  We had alot of snow over the winter, so it comes as no surprise that is is still about half ice.
Hagues Peak (13560) is the fourth highest ranked peak in the park.  This marks my second visit of the year.
Looking down a gully to Fairchild Mountain.
We had some troubles at first getting down Hagues Peak to The Saddle.  I thought I remembered it being third class, and 13ers.com has this route as fourth class, while Fosters book gives it second.  It got too hard quick, so we back tracked.  I'd say the easiest way is to head from the summit back towards Mummy Mountain for a very short distance- maybe 100 feet or so.  Then look south.  You should see a relatively sane looking talus decline that stays on or slightly east of the actual ridge line.  We started a little farther in from this and I'd say there was a few sections of third class, but most of the descent down is second.  I think this is another case of "by the path of least resistance" because it could be up to fourth class if you wanted it to be.  Pick the route that you like, but stay on the east side of the ridge.
Look for some great views west.
Over the day we'd talked about the possibility of adding on Fairchild Mountain.  I felt pretty good as we headed up to Hagues from Rowe Lake so I said I was game.  Dan agreed.
On the way to The Saddle, Fairchild Mountain.  This would add another 1100 feet of elevation gain to the days total. 
Looking back at Hagues Peak.
I felt great going up Hagues, but things fell apart here.  I was dragging, felt slight nausea, headache, had to stop somewhat frequently to rest.  This after being fine all day.  But I guess a day at altitude was catching up to me.  I probably would have turned back if not for Dan leading the way.  I should've turned back
We made the summit (13502) and realized that this was the last high peak in the Mummies for both of us.  "I wish I could feel more happy about that," I said.  I knew I had to eat and tried but immediately felt it welling up.  It was time to get down, and quick. 
The Four Aces of Blitzen Ridge, Donner Ridge, Chiquita Mountains east ridge. 
Back to Hagues and Mummy.  Six thirteeners in one day.  Not bad.  But there was still about nine miles to go back to the car. 
I felt leaps and bounds better as we lost elevation, and by the time we intersected the trail in the 12000's I felt whole again, and was now able to express some joy over the day.
Mummy Mountain above Lawn Lake.  Beauteous, wonderful.  A good place to start feeling human again.
The sun over Fairchild and Crystal Lakes.  It was much easier going when there wasn't waist deep snow to contend with.
We set a pretty high pace on the way down, and stopped only one time for a break to pump some water and eat.  We got back to the car shortly after seven.  A fourteen hour plus day.  No wonder I felt tired!
The drive back down was uneventful- fortunately we left early enough to miss the construction on the way up and were out long enough to miss it on the way back as well, and we got stuck in very little Elk related traffic in and around RMNP.  At home I stayed up too late and woke up too early the next day.  My legs certainly felt it for a few days afterward!
Dan and I talked on the way down.  Of interest was that we saw several people had signed registers as "Mummy Kill", a hike which hits all of the peaks we did plus Chapin, Chiquita, and Ypsilon and less Little No Name, Middle No Name, Gibraltar, and possibly the Rowes.  The normal starting point is Chapin Pass, yet with Old Fall River Road closed, we wondered if people were starting from the Alpine Visitor Center and hiking down the road to the trail head.  The normal finishing point is Lawn Lake trail head, where a second car is left or a ride is hitched up. 
I know we'd talked about doing this hike in the past.  The distance of it looks to be around 18 miles with 5100ish feet of gain.  But after this day....
In the end we estimated around 24ish miles with 8400ish feet of elevation gain.  A little bit harder than the standard Mummy Kill route.  This day set a personal duration record (14+ hours), a elevation gain record (almost 2000 feet more than my previous best), and is very much in contention for longest distance, tying our journey into the North Fork Basin last summer.  In short, it makes for a very difficult but rewarding day.  At least once you get back to 12000 feet and appreciate it!
The high peaks of the Mummy Range (distances via Caltopo as a part of this hike, not individually from the th):
Mummy Mountain, 13425 feet: 7 miles one way, 4885 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Rowe Lake/Rowe Glacier Lake, 13100 feet: 8.4 miles one way, 4660 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Rowe Peak, 13420 feet: 8.8 miles one way, 4880 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Rowe Mountain, 13184 feet: 9.3 miles one way, 4644 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Little No Name, 12530 feet: 10.5 miles one way, 3990 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Middle No Name, 12760 feet: 11 miles one way, 4220 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Gibraltar Mountain, 13300 feet: 11.75 miles one way, 4760 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Hagues Peak, 13560 feet: 12.6 miles one way, 5020 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
The Saddle, 12398 feet: 13.3 miles one way, 3858 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Fairchild Mountain, 13502 feet: 14.25 miles one way, 4962 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
As a whole, expect to cover 24ish miles with 8400+ feet of gross elevation gain.  Third class between Hagues and The Saddle.  Strenuous+.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stones Peak, Stapps Peak, and Sprague Mountain.

Last week I was so close yet so far away.  I ended up turning back less than 700 feet from the summit of Stones Peak, so it was at the top of my list for a return trip.  This week my parents were in town and staying in Estes, so that gave me the opportunity to get up a little earlier (though I stayed up later and didn't sleep well).  Storms were forecast starting at one in the afternoon, but I felt sure I could move fast enough to be up and back below treeline by then.
My new camera was along, and I had the opportunity to play with it a bit.
Shot at Bear Lake in complete darkness.  Obviously I will need a tripod to take photos at night, but with the ability to have up to a 60 minute exposure, it is good to know that is an option.
It also captured sunrise quite well.
Longs and Thatchtop in the early morning.
I was above treeline for true sunrise.  Not bad.
Last week I felt great though the weather wasn't the best.  This week I hadn't been as active as the previous, and I felt like I was dragging a bit, though it ended up taking me only two hours and ten minutes to summit Flattop from Bear Lake.
Goals for the day- behind Gabletop find Stones Peak to the left, and the unranked and unoffically named Stapps Peak on the right.  They looked far, far away.
Longs behind Hallett.
Around the time I summitted Flattop, I heard some voices.  I looked to the south and lo and behold three people had beaten me up and were on their way to Hallett.  Click to zoom in and you can actually see them above and to the right of the snowfield.
North along the divide.  The tundra has remained green this summer since it's been pretty wet. 
Snowdrift Peak and Snowdrift Lake.
I continued around point 12277 before leaving the trail and heading towards Sprague Pass. 
Here I stumbled apon the skeletal remains of an elk.  They must've been fairly recent since the connective tissue between the vertebrae was all still intact.  This marks only the third time I have seen anything up here, kind of surprising considering how much off trail time I have!
Stones Peak was now looming large.  The clouds had yet to clear up but things were not looking threatening at all, only overcast.
Looking south along the divide to a whole lot of awesome memories. 
Above Rainbow Lake.
I made my way toward the summit of Sprague Mountain.  I should have looked at my topo, because they are very close in height, but the true summit is actually attached to the divide, not the high point slightly to the east.
Hayden Spire over Lonesome Lake.  These are even more in the middle of nowhere than Stones is.  Hopefully this year...
I started over second class terrain on the rocky ridge between Sprague and Stones.  If you want a little spice you can go more directly at some of the small towers, but by the easiest way, this is solid second class, though the movement does take some time.  It took me about four hours to get to this point.
Though I didn't do it until the way back, I would suggest staying close to the ridge line for the easiest travel.  The rock seems to be pretty solid here, while there is looser talus farther down.  Staying to the south of any difficulties worked well.
It took me about another hour to get to the 12922 foot high summit of Stones, but there I was with blue skies!  The register was intact and I added my name.  I saw one person who said they'd climbed the peak via Hayden Gorge.  Impressive!  I would say this peak sees somewhere around 20 registered summits a year.  I would imagine Sprague Mountain sees at least that much, while Stapps Peak likely sees less because it certainly doesn't look like much from Stones. 
Looking east.
I now set my sights on the easy walk over to the Stapps Peak, if easy is loosing 400 feet and then regaining 200 of that.
The alpine sunflowers that I've enjoyed for much of the season are now starting to die off.
From Stapps, looking east to Tombstone Ridge.
Looking back to Stones from Stapps.  There was the small piece of wood there but not much else.
The summit cairn and Longs Peak.
Hayden Spire looked a little more ominous from this side, especially with some clouds building.  Time to get going.
It took me about 50 minutes to get back to Sprague Mountain from Stapps Peak.  The register here was wet, so I did not sign it.
Stones Peak as seen from Sprague Mountain.
A good view of Eureka Ditch.  I made my way downhill and when I met it, I stayed next to it for some time, finding the movement somewhat easier than going over tundra.  I could now see some very ominous looking clouds to the north and was moving as quickly as I could. 
Looking down into Ptarmigan Gorge with Odessa Lake, Lake Helene, Two Rivers Lake and Joe Mills Mountain.  This was a last minute bail out plan if things were looking bad.  But I felt I was close enough to the trail to get down quickly.
The North Inlet Trail and cool clouds. 
Clouds build over Hallett and Taylor.
A parting look at the peaks I'd just climbed before heading down.
There were a fairly large amount of people on Flattop, and I passed a ton of people on the way down since I was trying to jog/run some of it.  I felt a few raindrops as I got back to the parking lot, and it started to rain and thunder in earnest on the drive down.
Though I didn't feel great, I was still able to pull off 20ish miles and 6500 feet of elevation gain (a personal best) in only ten hours.  Though the maximum technical difficulty here is only second class, there is a ton of time spent above treeline and you have to have good weather predicted for the day.  While visible from large portions of the park, these peaks are not very accessible, with all approaches being long and requiring huge amounts of elevation gain, with lots of ups and downs on the way out and back.  While entirely worth it, getting to these places is a serious undertaking.
Stones Peak, Stapps Peak, and Sprague Mountain via Bear Lake th:
Stones Peak, 12922 feet: 9.8 miles one way, 3472 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Stapps Peak, 12736 feet: 10.55 miles one way, 3286 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Sprague Mountain, 12713 feet: 8.7 miles one way, 3263 foot gain.  Strenuous.
This hike as a whole will cover approximately 21 miles and gain 6500 feet of gross elevation.  Strenuous+.