Welcome to SP!  -
RMNP 2014: Third Time Will Have to be the Charm
Trip Report

RMNP 2014: Third Time Will Have to be the Charm

  Featured on the Front Page
RMNP 2014: Third Time Will Have to be the Charm

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Object Title: RMNP 2014: Third Time Will Have to be the Charm

Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 30, 2014

Activities: Hiking

Season: Summer

 

Page By: MarkDidier

Created/Edited: Aug 24, 2014 / Aug 26, 2014

Object ID: 910513

Hits: 1084 

Page Score: 83.69%  - 17 Votes 

Vote: Log in to vote

 

Reflecting...Assessing

It took me a little while to get my head around this trip. When I got home and people asked how it went, no matter how I tried to spin it, they all noticed the lack of excitement in my voice. Maybe it was the weather; maybe it was the compressed time schedule; maybe it was Dave’s altitude sickness; or maybe it was the failure to reach a single objective? So no, unfortunately the trip did not go as planned. And when you spend a year waiting for said event, and said event is the only scheduled trip to the mountains for the year, it is easy to be disappointed when things don’t go your way.

Fortunately though, there are photographs, and there is time. The photos remind me that we really did see some awesome scenery, and that we did have some good times on the trail. And time has this way of mellowing out the disappointments, as history generally looks better in the rear view mirror. And while we did fail to reach our two main objectives, that does give me a reason to get back to RMNP, and that is always something to look forward to…


Mount Alice Reflection
Mount Alice reflected in Lion Lake No. 1


This trip was originally supposed to happen in 2013. I used my 50th birthday as an excuse to scam an extra trip to the mountains last summer. Since I had some unfinished business in RMNP I planned on heading back there. In 2007 Rob and I had turned back on the scramble to Spectacle Lakes and at the base of Hourglass Ridge on Mount Alice and I wanted to give both of these routes another shot. Probably not the sexiest objectives for most people, but I’ve learned a few things in the mountains since then, and have since finished more difficult routes than those, and getting to Spectacle Lakes and up Mount Alice would allow me to benchmark that development. And I also wanted to see just how hard this “ol’ man” could push himself in a really compressed schedule – 96 hours door to door. Of course the schedule had to be compressed as I would be using what was left of my allotted vacation days for the year, so I wanted to jam as much in as unreasonable. My nephew Dave had been itching to get back to RMNP ever since our 2008 trip there, so we put our crazy plan together, and we hoped Rob would be able to join us. Unfortunately life got in the way last summer for all three of us and the trip had to be cancelled. Just like the Chicago Cubs…there’s always next year.

Due to some disruptions in early 2014, I cancelled my planned return trip to the North Cascades. Dave and I had still planned on the RMNP trip, and now that would be my sole trip for the year out west! Based on that I extended the trip for an extra day. Now it would be 120 hours door to door, and all that was left was to see how much we could squeeze into that short amount of time.

This TR might get a little long, and involve a lot of rambling that may or may not have much to do with hiking, so if you just want to just scroll through the pics feel free. You’ll probably still get a good idea of how it all went down!


Searchin' for the Ghost of...Dean Moriarty

I love road trips. Always have! Ever since Dave and I started making our trips to the Smokies back in the late 90s, we have always done the drive through the night, planning it so we would arrive in Gatlinburg early enough to grab some breakfast and then hit the trail. When I started making the trips out west to RMNP in 2005 I used the same plan. I always left early enough, so that with an all night drive, we would arrive with enough time to get at least a short hike in in the afternoon. After two of these trips, I had the plan dialed in and would generally arrive early enough to get a long hike in upon arrival. In 08’ Dave and I drove straight through and were at the Glacier Gorge trailhead by 9:30 AM!

For this trip I planned for an earlier arrival time, hoping that we might be able to bag a peak on the first day, so we planned to leave at noon on Tuesday, which with driving straight through would put us at a trailhead around 4-5 AM. As the trip approached I decided that Spectacle Lakes would be the best option for our first day. Based upon this I lightened up a bit on the departure time and told Dave and Rob that as long as we got to the trailhead by 6 AM we’d be fine. Dave, who always has more energy than anyone else when we get On the Road, still wanted to leave at noon even up to the day of departure. I had to keep reminding him that it wasn’t necessary, and then when I saw the weather forecast for Wednesday I turned into Suzie Buzzkill realizing that more than likely, we were going to get rained out upon arrival anyway.

I suppose that started things off on the wrong note. The weather forecast definitely killed some of the excitement of the drive! But I couldn’t help but chuckle, observing some of our behaviors during the drive. Dave, who loves driving more than anyone I know, spent the first two hours of the trip in the backseat on his smartphone, cleaning up e-mails and calling customers. I do have to blow all three of us crap for this one, since all three of us would have to spend a little time on the smartphones on the first leg of the trip. Then there was the fuzz buster, or actually the lack of needing one! Dave brought it so we could knock some more time off the drive. Normally, putting Dave behind the wheel guarantees whacking at least an hour off of this trip. I had to laugh when I glanced at the speedometer while we were in Nebraska and Dave was only driving four over the speed limit. I’m the one who always drives four over, so I had to give Dave a hard time. His response “Speed limits’ already 75, how much faster do we really need to go!” Smartphones and four over! Kerouac must be rolling over in his grave.

Spectacle Lakes: Of Rain and Cataracts

The plan worked flawlessly! We arrived in Estes Park at 6 AM. Unfortunately, the weather man was correct, and it was raining. It started raining in the western half of Nebraska, and it rained all the way to Estes. With this weather none of us were in a hurry to hit the trail, and with all of us going on somewhere between two and three hours of sleep, we decided coffee and breakfast was the smartest choice at this time so the Egg and I it was!

We could tell it was one of those rain storms that was going to stick around for a while, but after breakfast we went through the motions of getting ready to go for a hike, utilizing the facilities at the restaurant to change, etc. We were coming and going so much that the manager jokingly asked us if we were going to camp there. We’d end up repaying him for his hospitality by stopping in two more times before heading for home.

We debated on what, if any, hike to go on. I was willing to drive to better weather if necessary. The manager made a phone call to Breckenridge and the weather was even worse. Basically, it was raining up and down the entire Front Range. I suppose we could have driven to Olive Ridge, set up camp and went to sleep, which wouldn’t have been a half bad idea, but instead we stuck with our original plan and headed for the Lawn Lake Trailhead.

Maybe we were hoping that the weather would miraculously clear up, or maybe we were just kidding ourselves, or maybe we just lost our minds, but we headed up the trail anyway. It was raining when we started, and seven hours later when we got to the car, it was still raining. But as we headed up the trail I had my doubts on the success of this undertaking. The slabs below Spectacle Lakes would be wet. They were tough enough seven years ago when they were dry. I knew we were kidding ourselves that we would be able to safely get up them, let alone down. But still, we marched on.

So what’s the big deal about Spectacle Lakes? Well, first there is the view, and secondly, there is the route! While Spectacle Lakes are just that, a lake destination, reaching them is considerably more difficult than reaching the summit of a good number of the peaks in the park via their standard route. The first 4.5 miles is just a trail hike to Ypsilon Lake with about 2,000 feet of vertical gain. But after that, there is 800 feet of vertical gain in a half mile. This last half mile involves some bushwhacking, scrambling, creek hopping and probably a few actual climbing moves. I don’t know the YDS rating on the climb, but I imagine it is probably Class 3. Hopefully someday I will be able to find out for myself firsthand!

Slabs Below Spectacle Lakes
Terrain high above Ypsilon Lake and just below Spectacle Lakes


Outside of the rain, the 4.5 mile hike to Ypsilon Lake was uneventful. The log crossing over the Roaring River was our only concern. It was no big deal! The beta I had said the log was 50 meters downstream. FYI – it’s maybe 25 feet downstream - and is clearly visible from where the trail ends at the river. Of course the crossing was not a big deal now. The water level was pretty low, so we made it without even getting our feet wet. The return was slightly more interesting.

Roaring River - Log Crossing
Roaring River


Normally there is a great view of Ypsilon Mountain and Donner Ridge and Blitzen Ridge from Chipmunk Lake, but on this day it was just clouds and rain drops on the lake. At Ypsilon Lake it was more raindrops.

Chipmunk Lake
Chipmunk Lake


Ypsilon Lake
Ypsilon Lake


But if there was one silver lining from the rain it was the volume of water that was tumbling down from the drainage of Ypsilon Mountain. Compared to when we were here in 07’ there was a lot more volume, so there were a number of good cataracts tumbling down in that short half mile.

Spectacle Lakes Outlet Stream
 


Spectacle Lakes Outlet Stream
 


Spectacle Lakes Outlet Stream
 


Once above Ypsilon Lake, due to the terrain there was a lot of standing water, so it was impossible to keep our feet dry. By this time we had given up on staying dry and just walked through the water as opposed to trying to avoid it.

Spectacle Lakes Outlet Stream
 


Spectacle Lakes Outlet Stream
 


Spectacle Lakes Outlet Stream
 


We were doing a good job finding our way up the drainage but eventually reached the point where the route forced us to either try to head directly up the outlet stream, or head up the slabs. The volume of water in the outlet stream was too much, so that wasn’t a reasonable option, and the slabs were very wet and slippery, so that wasn’t a safe option. Rob gave the slabs one try, but spent as much time slipping as he did ascending. So with probably less than 250 vertical feet to go to reach the lakes we turned around. Spectacle Lakes will have to wait for a third try!

Slabs Below Spectacle Lakes
Terrain just below Spectacle Lakes


On the hike out the Roaring River was definitely roaring more than it was in the morning so a portion of the log had water cascading over. Of course, our feet were already wet, so we didn’t really care.

Roaring River - Log Crossing
Roaring River


Fortunately there is an outhouse at the trailhead and we were able to use that to change into some dry clothes without trashing my wife’s Ford Escape. But we knew that getting to a laundromat was the first priority so we could get our gear dried out. After an hour there we headed to into town for pizza and pasta, and a few beers. It was here that the subject of Dave’s altitude sickness first came up. He complained about getting a massive headache on the way down. I found this strange as I always associated the headaches with increasing altitude and that the symptoms should get better on descent. This was counter intuitive to me so I didn’t give it much thought. At the time I didn’t even associate his issues with altitude sickness. He drank a bunch of water and was feeling better.

We made it to Olive Ridge and fortunately the rain stopped, so we were able to set up camp under dry conditions. And it wasn’t long after that that we headed for the tent and sleeping bags. Hopefully a good night’s sleep and better weather on Thursday awaited us. Weather permitting, Thursday was supposed to be the day for Mount Alice. Unsure of the weather we went to sleep unsure of Thursday’s itinerary.

IPW: Discovering a Whole New Playground

For most of the evening we could hear the pitter patter of raindrops on the tent. At 2 AM things looked promising but shortly thereafter more rain came, and stayed with us into the morning. Alice was going to have to wait until Friday! Finally around 8 AM we rolled out of the tent, to low lying clouds and some occasional rain drops. Considering the weather we once again weren’t in any hurry to hit a trailhead, so we drove back into Estes Park and hit the Egg and I again for breakfast, at this point still unsure of what the hiking itinerary would be for the day. While we drove there it was obvious that the storm was breaking up and that we might have a decent day of weather. Not great, but decent! We could see the tops of all the peaks along the divide so I decided that maybe it would be a good day to hike up Hallett again. When Rob and I summited back in 07’ we couldn’t see past our noses, due to morning fog. With this weather there was a fighting chance that we could summit and actually get some views. After breakfast we made the drive into the park, and it didn’t take long to decide that there were way too many people in the park for my liking. My backup plan of hitting the Indian Peaks Wilderness would become the new itinerary for the day. We made it to the Glacier Basin Park and Ride and the lines to get on the buses were so long it reminded me of an amusement park line. Rob quickly chimed in and reminded me of my disdain for crowded trails and that the IPW might be a better choice. We turned around and made the long drive to Brainard Lake Road. It would be noon before we hit the trail.

I had never been to the IPW before, and we would not be disappointed. I had considered Pawnee Peak originally for our opening day hike. Not too many miles and not too much elevation gain. A good warm up hike! Pawnee Peak was now the backup plan for today, and despite not particularly great weather, it ended up being a fantastic day. The only drawback is that now I have another area where I want to go spend a bunch of time – of which I do not have enough of!

As with the previous day, all the recent rain made for a large volume of water rushing down the mountain, so there were a good number of waterfalls – which makes me happy!

Just off the Trail
Moose sighting early on the trail


Pawnee Pass Trail
Pawnee Pass Trail


Pawnee Pass Trail
 


Pawnee Pass Trail
 


Lake Isabelle
Lake Isabelle


Pawnee Pass Trail
 


Pawnee Pass Trail
 


Pawnee Pass Trail
Snow still on the trail on the last day of July


Lake Isabelle
Lake Isabelle


Lunch Spot!
A nice spot for lunch!


Pawnee Pass Trail
Dave on the switchbacks


It was an uneventful hike – and that is what this is - a hike - all the way to the summit. I was a little worried about the weather, but there would be no issue other than the clouds were lying pretty low so the views weren’t great. My initial thoughts were to just get up to Pawnee Pass and call it good. Fortunately, when we reached the pass the clouds partially broke open to the west. This made for some great views, and for the first time on the trip I was starting to get excited. We probably spent 30 minutes at the pass before deciding that yeah, we might as well finish the job and bag the peak. Unfortunately, the clouds got thicker and the views got thinner as we ascended to the summit, but it did feel good to finish the job.

Pawnee Pass
Looking west from Pawnee Pass


Pawnee Pass
Looking west from Pawnee Pass


Pawnee Pass
Looking west from Pawnee Pass


Pawnee Lake
Pawnee Lake


Pawnee Peak
Pawnee Peak summit ridge


Pawnee Peak
Mount Toll from Pawnee Peak


Pawnee Peak
Mount Toll from Pawnee Peak


Pawnee Pass
Fog engulfing the Divide


Pawnee Pass Trail
 


Pawnee Pass Trail
 


For not being particularly great weather we weren’t in much of a hurry to descend. At this point I knew that I wasn’t going to catch up with Bill Reed in time. Bill and I had made some plans to meet at Mary’s Lake Lodge for a beer, but it was going to be at least 7 PM before we even made it to the car, and he had to be on the road long before that. He and Nelson were going to be hiking in Wild Basin that day so the lodge was a good meeting spot. Unfortunately the timing didn’t work out. Fortunately we spotted the Millsite Inn on our way into IPW. Located literally just a few feet from Brainard Lake Road, at this late of an hour, it made for a much more convenient spot than driving all the way into Estes.

The Millsite Inn was another treat for the day. The pizza was killer, just like the bartender claimed, and with a steady diet of live Allman Brothers and Derek Trucks pulsing through the speakers the place couldn’t have been much better. The beer list was a little wanting, but overall a great place, which I will be sure to visit again.

And while I was thoroughly enjoying the place, Dave was having his second bad night in a row. He felt worse tonight than the previous night. Along with the massive headache, now he felt a little nauseous and barely touched his pizza. Very un-Dave like! Again, after downing large volumes of water he started feeling better. He came to the conclusion that he wasn’t drinking enough on the descent. He planned on carrying more water the next day, which in the end, may have backfired on him.

With the weather clearing, Alice was a go for Friday. The only question was what time to hit the trailhead. Originally I had hoped to start at 3 AM. This was about the time Rob and I started on our 07’ attempt and it worked out great as we hit Lion Lake No. 1 right at sunrise, so that was my thought for this trip as well. But with getting off of the Pawnee Pass Trail at 7 PM, none of us were interested in such an early start. While not extremely difficult days, between the all night drive and then two good days on the trail, we weren’t feeling it. Rob and I agreed to a 5 AM wake up alarm. Considering the difficulty of Mount Alice, along with how tired we already were, the later start time was probably more reasonable and prudent. Alice is a long route, at 18 miles with 4,810 feet of elevation gain. I knew the late start could possibly jeopardize our chances for success, but it was already 9 PM, and there was no way my legs were going to be ready to go in six short hours. Mount Alice was my primary objective for this trip, and I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t looking so good at this point.

Mount Eleanor aka Mount Alice

Just like Memphis had a long history with Eleanor, I’m starting to develop my own little history with Alice! A few months before the trip Dave joked that Alice was my Eleanor. It’s really startin’ to feel that way!

Introducing Eleanor

This would be the third time I’ve broached the slopes of Alice, although only my second intentional attempt. I first stumbled onto her slopes back in 06’, on what was my introduction to getting off the trail. Rob and I made it all the way up Boulder-Grand Pass and started hiking uphill. I didn’t even know we were hiking up towards Mount Alice. Rob had the cheesy trail map of the park that I had bought earlier on that trip and let me know where we were. The weather wasn’t great that day so we turned around after only a few hundred vertical feet. On that day I didn’t care. I had just discovered off trail hiking and I was elated to say the least!

We came back in 07’ with an actual plan to summit Alice. We planned on making a loop out of the day and ascend Hourglass Ridge and descend via Boulder-Grand Pass. Well, we made it the base of Hourglass Ridge and whussed out! We were both pretty green still, and were a little intimidated by the exposure. It was our last day of that trip, so we turned around, headed for the car, and left RMNP with our tails between our legs.

Fast forward to 2014 and I was all ready to give Alice another shot. Over the previous seven years I have looked at my pics of Hourglass Ridge a number of times, and was pretty confident that the Hourglass wasn’t going to be all that intimidating this time around. I’ve seen worse since then!

Mount Alice is a great mountain! She is aesthetically beautiful, and whether you approach from Thunder Lake or Lion Lakes, the views in all directions from these lakes are just outstanding. And as an added bonus, if you like some solitude, you more than likely will find it on either approach. Both approaches involve long walks in the woods – about seven miles. Add in that Alice is not a 14er or even a Centennial 13er, it probably isn’t on the radar of a lot of hikers, except maybe those people going after Colorado’s 13ers list. In 06’ we didn’t see anyone, other than a hardcore trout fisherman at Thunder Lake, once we were passed Ouzel Falls. In 07’ we didn’t see anyone until we were back in the woods below Lion Lake No. 1 on our descent. Today we would see a whopping four people, and I’ll blame this on our late start. So yes, if you want some solitude, and stellar scenery, I highly recommend Mount Alice.

The alarm went off at 5 AM, not that I needed it, and got around. We made the long ¼ mile drive from the Olive Ridge exit off of Hwy 7 to the entrance of Wild Basin and proceeded up to the trailhead. We started at 6 AM as planned, and from the get go, I wasn’t feeling all that great. We were less than 72 hours into this crazy adventure and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all catching up with me. And from the lack of conversation going on amongst the three of us, I was wondering if Dave or Rob felt any better than I did. With the Ouzel Falls bridge out due to last year’s storms we hit the cutoff trail for the backcountry campsites and took our first break after returning back to the Thunder Lake Trail. Everyone claimed to be feeling OK, but I joked that on a scale of 1 to 10 I was feeling like a 3 at this point.

North St. Vrain Creek
North St. Vrain Creek


Mahana and Copeland
 


We finished up the seven mile hike through the woods and our spirits rose when we reached Lion Lake No. 1. On a clear day, it’s pretty tough to not feel great when you get here. The view is majestic, with great views of Copeland Mountain, Tanima Peak, Chiefs Head and of course Mount Alice. The views only get better as you continue hiking up towards Lion Lake No. 2 and Snowbank Lake. We stopped at No. 1 for some lunch and to get a slew of pictures. But we didn’t stay too long as the skeeters were ferocious!

Chiefs Head Peak
Chiefs Head


Mount Alice
Mount Alice


Tanima Peak
Tanima Peak


Mount Alice Reflection
Mount Alice


Tanima Peak
Tanima Peak


Getting up above the other lakes takes you through a variety of terrain. We crossed streams, worked our way through krummolhz and negotiated a few small snowfields. Everyone seemed to be feeling pretty good at this point. The break at the lake, and being surrounded with incredible scenery, seemed to lift everyone’s spirits. We were all still pretty tired, but spirits were good, so for the first time today I was feeling positive about our chances for success. It wouldn’t last long!

Approach to Mount Alice
 


Approach to Mount Alice
 


Copeland, Mahana & Tanima
Copeland, Mahana, Tanima


Chiefs Head Peak
Chiefs Head in the background


August Snow
 


Lion Lake No. 2
Lion Lake No. 2


Lion Lake No. 2
Lion Lake No. 2


Snowbank Lake
Snowbank Lake


Eventually we made it above Snowbank Lake and headed for what I jokingly refer to as “Rob’s Ridge”. Most route descriptions I have read for Alice tend to take you straight for the Alice/Chiefs Head saddle. There is a nice ridge that connects to the saddle less than 100 vertical feet to the left above Snowbank Lake as you approach Alice. This ridge is obvious when you look at the topo map! To me, this is a less complicated, and shorter approach to the saddle. Attaining the ridge is easy talus hopping, and once on the ridge it is nice walk up to the saddle and the base of the Hourglass.

 Rob s Ridge
Rob's Ridge


Mount Alice
 


The Approach to Hourglass Ridge
Approach to Hourglass Ridge on the right


This is about the time that I now started to doubt our chances for success. First there was the weather. I knew the 6 AM start significantly increased our risk of being run off the mountain with an afternoon thunderstorm, and the clouds were definitely starting to build. If we kept up a decent pace we’d probably be OK. Unfortunately the pace wasn’t decent. I wasn’t exactly feeling great or moving fast, but I knew I had enough in the tank to finish the job. Rob was moving alongside me but was really tired and was talking about needing a nap once we got over to Thunder Lake. With the weather coming I wasn’t real excited about having to break for a long nap. But it was Dave that I was more concerned about. He was coming up behind us and was taking a lot of breaks. Maybe if we had more time he would have been OK, but I knew deep in my heart that there was no way Dave was going to make it. We were at about 12,200 feet with another 1,000 to go. I was ready to ask Dave if he was ready to turn around, but he beat me to the punch. Still 50 feet below us, he stopped, looked up dejectedly and said, “Brothers, I ain’t gonna make it!” He was fine when he wasn’t moving, but every time he started uphill his head would start pounding. He told us to keep on going and that he would head back to the car.

I’m not a big fan of breaking up groups! For safety reasons I just think it’s a bad idea. Even more so when there is a person having some obvious altitude sickness issues. Maybe if we would have been at the base of Hourglass Ridge I would have had Dave sit at the saddle and wait for us to make a run for the summit – he was fine as long as he was sitting! But with how slow Rob and I were moving I knew it was going to be several hours from where we currently were, and with the weather threatening, it wasn’t a very difficult decision. We turned around and headed for the trailhead. Oh Eleanor!

Retreating
Retreating


Snowbank Lake
Snowbank Lake


Lion Lake No. 2
Lion Lake No. 2


Summer Snow and Summer Snowmelt
Summmer snow and summer snowmelt


Chiefs Head Peak
Parting shot of Chiefs Head


We stopped at Lion Lake No. 1 to filter water, and it was here that Dave realized that maybe his demise may have been that he packed too much water. With his dehydration issues he packed quite a bit more water and some other additional supplies and his overall pack weight was much heavier than it had been the previous two days. He just wasn’t used to us stopping on a hike to filter water, so he packed too much! With the heavy pack, and a long approach, it might have been what tipped the scales. Who knows? We filtered a lot of water on this break…and yes it was all gone by the time we got back to the car. Probably not ironically, Dave had no headache issues on the descent.

We headed into Estes again to grab some supper before heading back to camp. The one good thing about finishing early though was we would finally be able to actually enjoy an evening at camp. We had the firewood ready, so I grabbed a six pack of Odell while Dave and Rob did some souvenir hunting for their kids. While I waited I gave Bill Reed a call, mostly to apologize for not showing up on Thursday, but to also see if he hiked on Thursday. He informed me that they had hiked all the way out to Lion Lake. They had arrived there greeted with low lying clouds and probably less than spectacular views. That’s a long way to walk to not get your reward! When he told me this I realized how fortunate we were today. Yeah, we didn’t summit, but we were able to enjoy the amazing scenery of the Lion Lakes area. The summit will just have to wait for another year…

Mount Alice and Tanima Peak Reflection
 


We headed back to camp and started arranging the car for the drive home Saturday. Shortly after that Rob went straight for the tent. At first I thought he just went in to write up the postcards for his three little daughters, but he went straight to sleep, and wouldn’t emerge from the tent until the next morning. Yeah, he finally got that nap! Dave and I burnt up all the firewood and finished the Odell’s before calling it a relatively early evening. The trip was going by fast. Saturday would be the end of our hiking and then it would be time to head for home. We would be meeting up with my niece in the morning for a dayhike and I wasn’t sure yet where we were going to head to. After a long 16 mile day our legs were shot so I figured it might be a short one. And that it would be…

A Bluebird Day in the Land of Industrial Tourism

Industrial tourism is a threat to the national parks. But the chief victims are the motorized tourists. They are being robbed and robbing themselves. So long as they are unwilling to crawl out of their cars they will not discover the treasures of the national parks and will never escape the stress and turmoil of the urban-suburban complexes which they had hoped, presumably, to leave behind for a while. Edward Abbey – Desert Solitaire

What do you get when you combine a national park, a bluebird day, and a weekend with a beautiful lake requiring little or no effort to see? Well, crowds of course! And wow, were there a lot people! But I can’t really bitch. This was a self-inflicted wound and I knew it going into the day. But the scene reminded me again of Abbey’s words. I stumbled across those words earlier this spring. I was reading Desert Solitaire during a short trip to Phoenix to see some friends. Since my wife had never been to Grand Canyon we made a quick trip north for a quick trip to the South Rim. Abbey’s words were fresh in my head, and the zoo of tourists at the South Rim only confirmed how prophetic his words were – nearly 50 years later! That crowd put the Bear Lake crowd to shame. Another subject for another day!


After the long day attempting Alice, all three of us were moving pretty slow on Saturday morning. I originally had hoped to hike deep into Glacier Gorge for our last day, but with how we were feeling, and with the limited amount of time my niece had available, I decided to go touristy and head for Emerald Lake. While the third time will have to be the charm for Spectacle Lakes and Mount Alice, the third time would be the charm for Emerald Lake. I had made Emerald Lake our first day hike on my 05’ and 06’ trips to the park. A good warmup hike! On both of those days it was raining and the mountains were all fogged over. I had heard the scenery was pretty stellar on the hike but I wouldn’t know, with the weather I had those two previous times, so on this bluebird day we were having, it was a good choice. Our legs would thank us as well.

Nymph Lake
Nymph Lake


We broke camp and met my niece Lisa at the Egg and I (of course) for breakfast. We all loaded into her family size necessary Suburban and headed into the park. It was right at 8 AM and I was hoping that the Bear Lake parking lot wouldn’t be full already. Fat chance! The road signs were already flashing to use the Park and Ride. Fortunately there wasn’t much of a line so we were able to get on the first bus. They jammed it full, but it was the first bus.

I had never been to Lake Haiyaha, but had always wanted to see it, so we headed there first. At a little over two miles I figured, incorrectly, that even on a weekend, maybe the lake wouldn’t be all that busy. Chaos Canyon is stunning, and looks like it would be a great place to do some exploring and scrambling.

Chaos Canyon
Chaos Canyon


Hallett Peak
Hallett Peak and Lake Haiyaha


Chaos Canyon
Chaos Canyon


Today was not going to be that day, so after a short visit we headed towards Dream and Emerald Lakes, where the crowds were definitely thicker. With the volume of people around we made our visits short and headed back towards the car. By then it was approaching noon, and wow, the trail down was a lot busier than on the way up!

Dream Lake
Dream Lake


Dream Lake
Dream Lake


Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake


Despite my bitching about the crowds, it was a great day. The scenery was amazing. Yes, the NPS knows what they are doing when it comes to making awesome scenery so accessible.

Glacier Gorge
Glacier Gorge


In ended up being a great choice for a social hike as well. I don’t get to see my niece very often, so with the easy grade, and the short distance, we were able to chat quite a bit and catch up on each other’s busy lives.

By the time we made it back to the car it was only 1 PM. We said our goodbyes to Lisa, and then Dave, Rob and I hopped in the Escape and started the 18 hour drive home. Yes, we would be driving straight through again. No rest for the wicked! It would only end up being 117 hours door to door…

Assessing...Reflecting

The drive home was pretty uneventful, although despite how tired I was I could only manage one very brief nap until we were nearly to Chicago. Things had definitely not gone as planned on this trip, but we were still in pretty good spirits. We scrolled through the pictures and realized we definitely saw some great scenery.

After dropping Dave off, Rob and I headed across town to my house so he could pick up his car. He still had a three hour drive left to Columbus, so we made a full pot of coffee while we unloaded the gear and then sat down and relaxed for a few cups, and discussed our thoughts on how things went. More than the weather, we knew that it was the compressed time schedule that blew things up. We needed an entire week, just like Rob and I had been doing since 07’. Unfortunately none of us had that whole week available this year. The extra days allow for those oh so necessary rest days, or at least easy days. Over the past couple of years I have learned a few things about how my body responds on these hiking trips. After two hard days, I usually need an easy day on day three. Day three was Alice! Hmmm… I also know that I do better with 8-12 mile days. I can’t plan for a hard day after a 15+ mile long day either, (think Chikamin in 13’) but that is what I originally planned for this trip. I desperately wanted to get back into Glacier Gorge, but I wouldn’t have been content with just hiking to Black Lake. I want a shot at McHenrys or Pagoda, and that wasn’t realistically going to happen after attempting Alice. Of course, if we would have had bluebird days our spirits would have been much brighter, and that could have made a difference. Who knows?

But more than anything, I felt bad for Dave. I’ve been fortunate enough to head west every year since 05’, so one less than stellar year is one thing, but for Dave, he had waited six years for this trip. The rain was bad enough, but I think he was most upset about the altitude sickness. I talked with him a couple weeks after we got back and what actually frustrated him the most was getting so close, but not being able to finish what we started. “Twice, we were 90% there, but we had to turn around.”

The mountains will be waiting for us. Another trip, another year…

Hallett Peak Reflection
 

Images


Comments


[ Post a Comment ]
Viewing: 1-9 of 9    

Bill ReedTough Trip!!

Bill Reed

Voted 10/10

Good report-Hope your plans work out better next time!!
Posted Aug 25, 2014 10:10 am

MarkDidierRe: Tough Trip!!

MarkDidier

Hasn't voted

Yeah, it didn't go as hoped! Definitely will be planning for an entire week next year. Safe journeys in the Winds...
Posted Aug 25, 2014 5:06 pm

RobSCNice Report!

RobSC

Voted 10/10

It seems like some trips have everything go right while others like this they don't, but then looking back, like you say, you will have seen some amazing places...

Mt. Alice will be that much more special when you do get to its summit. For me it was probably my favorite peak and climb in RMNP - so remote and beautiful... So stick with it.

Nice report, especially given that everything didn't go as you'd hoped on the trip!
Posted Aug 27, 2014 6:29 pm

MarkDidierRe: Nice Report!

MarkDidier

Hasn't voted

Yeah, I am sure I will get back there again and finish the job. No rush! There are a few other places in the park, particularly in Wild Basin, that I would like to get to. Next time I may approach again from Boulder-Grand Pass. It's been a long time since I have been to Thunder Lake - and it was cloudy that day.

Thanks for reading, and glad you enjoyed it. Happy Trails, Mark
Posted Aug 29, 2014 8:24 am

Bob SihlerBum deal

Bob Sihler

Voted 10/10

Sorry you got such a bad break with the weather, Mark. I remember two three-day weekends I spent in Maine and being rained on just about all day, every day. It was so frustrating. I saw nothing from the top of Katahdin.

I guess I lucked out this summer. Although I had some rain and clouds some days, I didn't have a single throwaway day over two weeks.

The next time you go up to Emerald Lake, consider continuing up Tyndall Gorge. I used a combination of Tyndall Glacier and some rock ribs to climb Hallett on the last day of my trip, and that was very scenic and fun in there. And the views from Hallett were spectacular, so I hope you get another chance at that. They're much better than the views from Flattop.

RMNP is a place I haven't done too much climbing in because I've been so spoiled by the solitude up north, but I think I'd like to go back for the Saber and McHenrys. And now you have me interested in Alice; it sounds like a peak for me!
Posted Aug 28, 2014 4:46 pm

MarkDidierRe: Bum deal

MarkDidier

Hasn't voted

Yeah, the weathe sure can make or break a trip. Go on enough of them and you are sure to get rained out occassionally. Sounds like you had great weather. Good to hear! But only two weeks? Doesn't sound like your normal summer...

Of all the places to hike in RMNP, Wild Basin might just be up your alley. With the long approaches, weekdays pretty much guarantee some solitude. The route difficulty on most of these peaks probably isn't what you typically like, but I am sure you could figure out some ways to spice things up. Hope you have a productive Autumn!
Posted Aug 29, 2014 8:29 am

Bob SihlerRe: Bum deal

Bob Sihler

Voted 10/10

Well, after my two weeks in the mountains, I did get to spend two weeks at the beach, so although that's not quite the same, I had a full month away from home, which isn't bad. Usually we try an August trip out West but couldn't make it work this year, so we went to Shenandoah for a few days instead.

Glad you got into IPW. With the high trailhead and the short approached from Brainerd Lake, that's a great spot for hitting peaks, and highly scenic.
Posted Aug 29, 2014 9:35 am

BobSmithGood essay!

BobSmith

Voted 10/10

Sorry it was not a perfect trip. Rocky Mountain National Park was where I discovered that I get altitude sickness. I'm okay below 11,200 feet or so (why that elevation? I can' say), but above that I get sick. Worst experience was my climb to Chasm Lake. My hiking companions should have stopped me and turned me around, but they didn't. I'm lucky I made it down okay...I was so addled I wasn't thinking straight.

Apparently I'm one of those folk who take about seven or eight days to become acclimated to altitudes over 11K feet. I learned my lesson.
Posted Sep 1, 2014 10:25 am

MarkDidierRe: Good essay!

MarkDidier

Hasn't voted

I remember you commenting about altitude sickness issues after that trip. I fortunately have not had much if any problems in that regard...and I hope it stays that way. Funny, but my nephew Dave runs circles around me when we are down in the Smokies. Get him to Colorado though and things change. Weird how it impacts everyone a little differently.

Thanks for stopping by and reading. Hope you had a good summer hiking. Mark
Posted Sep 1, 2014 8:44 pm

Viewing: 1-9 of 9