Comanche Peak / Fall Mtn dayhike/climb/scramble
Emily had come to town from Tennessee to explore the idea of moving out here and was happy to be able to come along on this trip. We drove out Friday night to meet two other friends at a National Forest campground up the Poudre Canyon. Arriving there we enjoyed the company of friends and beers before crashing out for the night.
One of the nice things about car camping is breakfast! We got up and leisurely enjoyed the sunrise and some good coffee before heading for the trailhead around 7:00 am on Saturday morning. The easy hike up to Cirque Meadows went fairly quickly. Emily was chugging water hoping to avoid any bad effects from being above 8,000 coming out here straight from Tennessee. Hiking up to Emmaline Lake, we had fun with a brief snowball fight at a still unmelted snow bank and observed how thick the mosquitoes were along the creeks where the ground was damp.
Pausing at Emmaline Lake for some lunch and water refills we visualized the route up the side of Commanche. After discussing amongst ourselves and settling on the approach, off we went. The first section involved circling half-way around the lake counter-clockwise by hopping from boulder to boulder to reach the scree slopes on the opposite side of the lake. This was fairly easy, but took a lot longer than we thought it would.
Finally reaching the area where we wanted to start going more up than around we started to ascend a rather grassy slope. We were doing our best to stay close to the route that we found on summitpost.org from “Andy” (thanks Andy!). Looking ahead we realized that the wall really is pretty steep! John and Danielle were using trekking poles (and starting to curse them some) while Emily and I had opted to leave ours in camp. I started out up following a water flow – seemed like the path of least resistance. From there, I just angled my way up the slope rather aiming for a point on the ridge above that seemed like a good spot to exit the slope. Going up across the scree was frustratingly slow as the stuff just slid around as you stepped. At one point I was able to gain about 50 or 60 feet by climbing up a snow bank.
As I neared the top of the slope I was able to use some larger, more stable rocks to my advantage and finally reached the top of the slope and climbed up over the edge gaining the summit of Commanche! I must say this would be the most satisfying summit I gained so far – way more than a simple hike to the top – and tremendous fun.
Emily summitted quickly behind me and we sat to catch our breath and admire the view for a few minutes. John and Danielle were uncomfortable with the scree slope and had turned back about a third of the way up.
We turned south and began to circle around planning to descend around the back side of Fall Mountain and catch the Mummy Pass trail back to complete our loop.
Fall Mountain proved to be almost as challenging to descend as Commanche was to climb! We negotiated large boulders and clambered and scrambled our way to the bottom where we finally caught the trail and began the simple walk back to camp.
This was really my first experience doing any real scrambling and I loved it. We covered about 15 miles all totaled and did it in about 12 hours. Back in camp (car camp, with coolers and grills) we shared the trip with John and Danielle and really enjoyed the beer and brats that I’d brung along.
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