Ypsilon MountainThe final days of summer make an outdoor enthusiast act like an drug addict who's running through a coca farm. We begin asking ourselves, "How many more tics can I scratch off my list?" This question eventually evolves into, "It is possible to get three more doses of that high alpine blood-thinning serum?" Then it happens- we snap. We drop a career like a bad habit, ditch a date like date-ditching jerk, then run- run for the mountains. I personally had the week off.
Seven days of no work and summer* at a close end, I had to rid the metropolis. (*Summer is negotiated by alpine weather ONLY) Well my brother Joe and I sketched out a plan:
DAY 1+2- Climb Ypsilon Mountain via Blitzen Ridge
DAY 3- Climb Petit Grepon
DAY 4- Climb Syke's Sickle on Spearhead
DAY 5- Drink a beer/eat a steak
This plan was loose, additions and eliminations were allowed because, well, we made them. So we eliminated Syke's Sickle. What?!?! I know, but we made other plans, you'll see.
We left on August 19th. Destination: Rocky Mountain National Park. Trail Head: Lawn Lake. Time: probably late because I sleep like a goat. After a late lunch we began the hike. (Day 1) The trail was beautiful. It was full of wildflower, waterfalls, and wildlife. The most intriguing part of beginning a hike though is the silence. There is no noise. By that I mean city chaos- disturbances of peace and harmony. Of course there are sounds- birds, water, the movement of air- but no noise. The trail took us up a hill with no summit. Finally it dropped us into Ypsilon Lake. As it became dark, we threw up a rain fly on a boulder to keep dry, ate noodles (or was is cardboard?), set the alarm for earlier than I would like, then went to bed.
(Day 2) I didn't need coffee in the morning because of that huge damn hill I walked up. We chose to go up the grassy hill directly behind the Ypsilon Lake because the “faded trail” faded too much. After trailing Joe for an hour or two, I began searching for rocks to put into his pack. We eventually made it to the ridge. Holy Moly! The "Four Aces" are huge "A"-like figures that jolt out of the ridge-they actually make the mountain look like it's flipping you off four times. After being astonished (and somewhat offended) we started the crux of this mountain.
You don't actually have to climb all the aces, most people don't. Instead you go around some them, exposing yourself to a 900 foot drop-off. I had to keep telling myself, “Don't worry, the Spectacle Lakes are down there, they’ll catch ya.” The 3rd ace we climbed directly (5.4ish), and rappelled to the saddle between Ace 3 and 4. I didn't straddle the saddle, I’m no cowboy, I held the top and traversed it. The rest was 4th class scrambling (we didn't climb the head wall) all the way to the top. Finally, we hit the summit. It was probably around noon.
The down climb was adventurous. As we sat on one of Mount Chiquita's couloirs, we searched for a long, thin rocks to help us self arrest if needed. Those couloirs are steep. We eventually made it down and walked through the cirque for awhile, enjoying the great Mummies around us. As the flora became more abundant Joe noticed we were on a trail. Who woulda thunked? This was no ordinary trail though, it was a game trail. As we headed on down, I saw 20 yards ahead of us a small bobcat. I pointed out the cub to Joe and soon it dashed off. We did the same. Within minutes we were back at Ypsilon Lake then we continued to the car. When we got there we tore our packs off and tossed them on the ground. My brother's sounded like a sack of rocks.
Petit GreponAs we drove to Glacier Gorge Trail Head we both drank about a gallon of water, ate some granola bars, and sat in silence. I was already tired. I think Joe was too. However, this was the part of the trip that really excited me. I had never done a multi-pitched climb before so the anticipation was killing me. There was never a time that I was really nervous about the climb because first, I was in good hands, and second, I could just follow the whole thing if need be. How much different could it be from top-roping right? We parked the car and geared up, then headed down the trail. It was around 5:00pm.
The hike there isn't usually long. I know this because of previous attempts. Last time a foot of snow actually woke us up and told us we couldn't climb. We listened.
Because of the climb the day before the approach seemed longer. After we reached Sky Lake, we needed to head up the talus hill to set bivy below the climb. Up there were two friends of ours waiting for us. They guided us with their headlamps to a safe sleeping area. I was pretty sure that I was going to die srammbling up all those loose rocks at night. When we finally got there, I noticed the bivy ledge was no larger than a sidewalk and sleeps only a few. Luckily we were the only group there that night. We settled in and ate some dinner- cardboard again. The food made us more drousy than we already were so we pulled out the sleeping bags and rolled them out. Joe and I had to sleep side by side on the sidewalk of doom. I was brave and took the outside. He slept comfortably.
(Day 3)Right at sunrise we started the climb. I think Joe led the 1st pitch (I only led 2 of 8). Most of the time it was really easy climbing. One pitch had a great crack system, the crux pitch was a one move wonder (really fun though), the Pizza Pan Belay was exposed, the last pitch was fun, others were forgettable, and the summit was unreal. This climb is better experieced than read, sorry.
At the summit, Joe and I contemplated a very fast descent. Day 5 got pushed into day 3 and we meant business. Six rappels would get us down to the base of the climb and a jog back to the car would speed our travel. "Why the bloody hurry" you may ask. Well, my mom drove to Estes Park with a cooler full of beer, steak, potatoes, chips...- pretty much everything on the Atkins Diet menu. Needless to say we made it from summit to Estes is 2 hours.
We were eating like madmen and slurring like Barney Gumble. One beer will get ya after a jog like that! That night we camped in Estes and slept till 9:00. In the morning I drank some coffee and headed home. One day later Joe left for the Wind River Range and I spent a few nights in the Thompson Canyon climbing up some rocks.