Layne Bracy contacted me a couple weeks ago to see if I would be interested in Mummy Mania, a brutal yet prolific death march traverse that if you survive you pick up the Larimer county highpoint (#1 goal), 4 ranked 13'ers, 1 unranked 13'er, and 1 ranked 12'er. The Rowe peaks are extra credit, but we weren't really interested in those. Since I was already planning on doing a county highpoint this weekend, I was game for the punishment!
An insanely early start is key for this traverse, which was compounded by the fact that the Fall River Rd in Rocky Mtn Natl Park was closed. I left C. Springs at 2am and met Layne at the Lawn Lake trailhead at 4:30. The plan was to do a car shuttle, leaving my car here while we drove Layne's car to the terminus of the Fall River Rd at the Alpine Visitor Center on Trail Ridge Rd. As we climbed, we were impressed by the huge drifts over 10 feet high along the road. I was beginning to wonder if I should have brought the snowshoes. After some confusion of finding where the one way Fall River Rd intersected Trail Ridge, Layne parked his car at the empty visitor center parking lot and we headed out at 5:15am. With a forecast of stellar weather throughout the day, we felt we had plenty of time to complete the traverse despite the added 2 miles on the road to Chapin Pass. We needed all the time we could get!
After about 40 minutes of hiking, we came to the official start of this blitz at Chapin Pass. Here we were quickly greeted with deep drifts, so following the trail was difficult. We picked the most efficient line through the woods, avoiding the drifts as much as possible. The postholing was annoying but not sustained. Further up we found the trail and followed it briefly, then we traversed gentle, grassy slopes, skirting the false summit and arriving on 12'er Chapin's summit at 7:22. From here we were greeted with impressive views of Chiquita's cliffs, our 2nd peak of the day. Spectacular Longs Peak and her neighbors were impressive in the early morning light. After a short 15 minute break, we headed for unranked Chiquita.
The mental challenges of this climb were difficult. On this hike, 3 saddles require 1000' of elevation gain, so all of your work goes down the drain! The first saddle between Chapin and Chiquita descends to 12020', so it is 1000' up to Chiquita. I found a trail descending Chapin, so we followed it until it headed down to the valley. The climb of Chiquita was not bad since we were both at full strength early in the day. We made quick work of it and summitted at 8:30. From here, the terrain would have its' way with us, tormenting us with soft snow and boulders galore. After a 20 minute break of Chiquita, we were off for Ypsilon. Ypsilon was probably the easiest climb of the day, as it requires only 800' of gain from the saddle. It was now getting quite warm, so we hiked much of the day with just a base layer. The west wind was a little brisk in the morning, but it let up later in the day making for perfect weather conditions.
The slopes to this point were very gentle, so we continued to make reasonably good progress, summitting Ypsilon at 9:40. Recent slide activity was evident on Ypsilon's cliffy n.e. face. We left Ypsilon at 10am and this is where the terrain became unforgiving. Since there was quite a bit of soft snow below the ridge, we started out staying on the spine of the ridge. We quickly found out that the ridge was too time consuming, so we ended up skirting below it, crossing snowfields along the way. The grunt up to Fairchild was probably the worst of the day, as the snow dictated the route to take. The unrelenting boulder hopping was starting to take its toll on me, as Layne was having to wait on me more. It took us nearly 2.5 hrs from Ypsilon to Fairchild, our longest segment of the day. On the summit of Fairchild, we took a lunch break and contemplated what route we would take on Hagues. The steep snowfields left few route options on its s.w. ridge, so we were worried how dicey the class 3 section would be.
After some lunch, we set out for Hagues at 12:45 with renewed strength. As we approached The Saddle, the ridge on Hagues looked doable. The 1100' grunt was tiring, but the routefinding was fun and the rock was solid. We were able to stay off the snow for the most part and the class 3 section was fun. We topped out just 100 ft or so west of the highpoint, reaching the top at 2:40. We were the first group to sign the register this year. Only one group had signed the register since the Ryan Schilling/John Kirk group in Sept. I would think that attempting Hagues in winter would be an epic slog. The class 3 ridge route would be dicey and the standard route traverses avy terrain. We were finally relieved to have gotten past the worst part of the day, but the traverse to our 6th and final peak of the day, Mummy Mountain, had it in for us. This traverse looks like a cakewalk on the map as the gain to Mummy is only 400', but the traverse is littered with boulder hopping. By this time, we were tired of the balancing act, so things really slowed down. Mummy was mostly snow free, but it was steep enough to hurt. At 4:37pm, I staggered onto the summit of Mummy while Layne was resting. We were guessing a 12 hr day tops, so we were obviously later than expected!
I called my wife on top of Mummy, telling her that we had completed the traverse and were heading down later than expected. The descent down to the Lawn Lake trail took its toll on me, as my knees were now taking a beating even with poles. We stayed above the cliffs of Mummy, descending into the woods until we found the Black Canyon trail which led us back to the Lawn Lake trail. The final 5.7 miles down this trail was nice and gentle, as we completed this final stretch in 2 hrs despite our exhaustion. About 1 mile from the bottom, I remembered that I left my keys in Layne's car! A long day was now extended by my stupidity! We now needed to find somebody to take us back up Trail Ridge Rd to Layne's car. We made it down to the trailhead at 8:37, looking for potential candidates. A mini-van pulled up and offered to take us down to the park entrance. We obliged their kindness as they also gave us some Pringles and chips! The young ranger initially was not willing to drive us up, but as they closed shop he offered us a ride! All in all, it was a brutal day in the mountains, but you can't complain with the awesome weather and the chance to complete this memorable traverse.