Desolation Peaks are located on the Western fringe of the Mummy Range in the borders of Rocky Mountain National Park. This mountain technically has twin summits -- West Desolation (12,918 ft), and the true summit, East Desolation (12,949 ft). This mountain is not visited very often at all. In fact, it is rumored that the summit register dated back to 1988 (the jar was shattered and the register was no longer there). The approach is very simple, and most often taken, from the Chapin Pass Trailhead. It is nothing more than a Tundra walk, with some nice cirque skirting and small rises (pt. 12,718), until you reach the base of West Desolation Peak. From here it changes drastically to a talus ridden trek, amongst rugged cliffs and large, loose boulders. The ridge from West Desolation to East Desolation is nothing but rotten, loose, unstable rock....a complete mess. Once you reach the low point in the ridge, it is a simple class 4 scramble to the summit.
You can also reach this mountain from the Corral Creek Trailhead near Long Draw Reservoir.
This is a wonderful mountain in one of the most beautiful areas of the National Park (aren't they all!!). It is a peak that had always stirred my curiosity. It looks so remote and rugged from Trail Ridge Road and other mountain summits in the Park. It proved to be all that and more! It was a lot of fun, and tested my route finding skills in a way that no other mountain has. It also gives unique views toward other Mummy summits.
Round Trip: 11 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,309 feet
To get to the Chapin Pass Trailhead, you can enter RMNP from the Fall River Entrance, just North of Estes Park on Hwy 34. On the Western end of Horseshoe Park, take a right towards Old Fall River Rd. This is a one way dirt road that ultimately connects with Trail Ridge Road at the Alpine Visitor Center.
At around mile marker 6, you will come to the Chapin Pass Trailhead (clearly marked). Follow the signs to Ypsilon Mountain. Keep going, about another 1.5 miles, past Ypsilon until you get to the base of West Desolation.
The only permit required is a pass to get into the National Park. You can buy a week pass for $15, or an annual pass for $30.
Call the Backcountry Office, 970-586-1242, for details on camping.
Fees for admission.
When To Climb
The Summer (June through September) months are when this mountain is most typically climbed. In the Winter months, you will most defiantely need an axe and crampons, and you will only be able to approach this mountain from the Corral Creek Trailhead. Once the snow begins, Old Fall River Road closes for the Winter.
To be honest, I do not think there is any camping in and around the Chapin Pass Trail System. You can camp near Lawn Lake, but this would make an interesting approach to the Desolation Peaks (over Fairchild and up the Northeast ridge of Ypsilon).
Call 970-586-1242 for further details.
To get the most accurate conditions on this mountain, it would be best to call Rocky Mountain National Park directly. 970-586-1206.
Basically, the only things you will need to check on before attempting to summit Desolation Peak, would be the weather for the day.
This is a long, strenuous day hike, so please use your basic knowledge of backpacking/mountaineering. Bring plenty of water, food, and clothing etc......
Note that you will be above treeline for 99% of this hike. It only takes 20 minutes to reach treeline from the trailhead, so you will be at the mercy of the weather for the entire day. PAY ATTENTION!!
It doesn't take too long to drop to treeline if necessary, but don't hesitate to do so. I had to hunker down for an hour and a half in the trees directly below Desolation during one hell of a storm. the walk back to the trailhead was nice along the edge of the trees. Got to see a lot of wildlife.