Chris Gerber and I had been toying with the idea of running the Boulder Backroads Half Marathon for some time, when the time came for a decision to be made. We made one. Rather than pay $65 to run a half marathon neither of us would likely run well at the moment, we decided to do a difficult day in the mountains, spending the saved money afterwards on beer instead. We had been planning on doing Sanitarado, a 16 mile traverse of all of the Boulder peaks when Charles Danforth expressed interest in doing something. But a fast run/climb of peaks he had climbed before didn’t appeal to Charles, who intrepidly suggested Mummy Mania instead. Of course, Charles bailed on the trip the day before with the out that he and his wife, Amy, were getting a puppy. Naturally, we don’t like Charles as much anymore. ;)
So minus one mild mannered astronomer, Chris and I set out from Boulder at 4 a.m. for RMNP. As we passed through my neighborhood close to downtown we passed a huge 8 or 10 point buck that stood so still we both thought it a statue. Once in the park, we dropped my car at the Lawn Lake Trailhead and proceeded to the Chapin Pass Trailhead, herding a group of elk cows off the road as we went. We started climbing at 6 a.m. under starry skies and made good time (about an hour) to the summit of Chapin Mountain. All along the way our hike was punctuated with the bugling of th elk--beautiful, if somewhat haunting mating cries.
After checking out the sunrise and views on Mt. Chapin, we dropped down the ridge and charged up Mt. Chiquita at a good pace. I don’t recall much, but that we reached the top of it as well, feeling good to have our 2nd summit of the day under our belts. Next in line was Ypsilon Mountain (where the Greek came from I have no idea). Ypsilon was a much longer and more challenging climb, in terms of endurance, but with incredible views of the Spectacle Lakes far below. Given the exceptional surroundings and outstanding visibility of nearly every range in the Park, we lingered here for about 20 minutes or so snapping photos and eating some grub.
Having taken a little break, we descended down the ridge of Ypsilon Mountain towards our next objective, Fairchild Mountain. Once we reached the saddle between the two peaks, we had to choose between the rugged, knife-edge ridge that reaches down from Ypsilon towards its northern counterpart and the relatively steep scree slope that falls from its east side. We decided (wisely we later thought) to take the later route, and after about a half an hour of negotiating large blocks of rock and talus, we found ourselves at the base of Fairchild, with incredible views of Ypsilon to the south and the rugged Desolation Peaks to the northwest.
Chris and I had from the beginning entertained the idea of also climbing Rowe Peak and Rowe mountain, two other summits easily climbed from Hagues Peak. Although we’d felt good throughout the day and thought it probable that we’d get these summits as well, by the time we had to make the decision we felt very differently. We were both very tired by now, and had been climbing for roughly 9 or 10 hours. Not only that, but the weather was changing rapidly and we also wanted to reach the trailhead by dark. So, deciding to leave the Rowes for another day (or not), we pushed on towards our final summit, Mummy Mountain.
If everything in the first half of the trip seemed fun, easy, and quickly achieved, the second half was the very opposite. Hagues Peak had been difficult work, but the traverse across the lower southest ridge to the saddle before Mummy Mountain was both technically difficult and very exhausting. The upper portion of Hagues Peak provided some very interesting climbing, including some 3rd and even 4th class scrambling. For me, this was the most enjoyable part of the trip, as the climbing and route-finding were both challenging and fun.
Descending the east ridge of Mummy Mountain was brutal. The tundra slope was quite steep and both Chris and I were very tired by now and our feet had been in our boots several hours (and miles) too long. Once we reached the plateau of the ridge, we paused to take a look at our route back to the Lawn Lake Trail. Chris made a brilliant orienting decision that took us down the slope between the ridge proper and tree line another 500-700 feet below us, and which bisected the trail and save us another several miles of hiking.
Overall, I regard Mummy Mania as a grueling, torturous slog, in a remote, seldom-traveled part of the Park. Like Andy, I don’t think I’m likely to do it again, but I’m sure I’ll be glad I did the traverse every time I enter RMNP. The quintessence of the “been there, done that” state of mind.
Chris’ stats? :
14hr 40min 22sec