On our way to Hagues Peak
Mummy Mania! This time I might be biting off more than I can chew. This would be by far my most ambitious hike – 16 miles, 6000 feet of elevation gain, a total of six peaks, five of them over 13000 feet. This would be a tough day for sure.
To join me I’d enlisted some friends from summitpost.org. I’d never met any of them before but had read of their exploits in trip reports and on message boards. Ryan and Erin had just completed the 14ers in three years, John had joined Ryan and Erin on many of their adventures, and Georg had just recently moved to the area but had Mount Rainier under his belt and had racked up an impressive number of peaks in the IPW in short order. We met at the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 4:30, left a couple of cars there, and then drove up Fall River Road to Chapin Pass Trailhead. There was a sign designating the trailhead, but no parking lot and we almost missed it in the dark. We piled out of the car, donned our headlamps, and set off.
The first mile or so was through the trees and then they began to thin was neared the slopes of Mount Chapin. Hiking in the dark always seems to go fast and in no time we were ascending the tundra slopes of Mount Chapin. Georg had been up Chapin before and warned us that there were two summits and the official one was the northern most of the two. Even with his warning we managed to ascend the southern of the two summits in the dark. When we made it to the southern summit it was just beginning to get light out and we put our headlamps away. The wind had picked up and we all donned some warmer clothing and had a bite to eat. After a short rest we set off for the official summit of Mount Chapin. We made it in short order and then descended down to the Chapin-Chiquita saddle.
By this time the wind was howling fiercely. Luckily it was mostly at our backs. As we began the ascent of Mount Chiquita we were treated to a nice alpine glow on Mount Chapin. The rugged east face of Mount Chapin was lit almost blood red. It was also nice to see the same glow on the peaks further away including Longs Peak. We set a modest pace and reached the summit of Mount Chiquita in due time. From Chiquita’s summit I had a great view of Ypsilon’s Donner Ridge. Nelson and I had tried to downclimb it earlier in the summer but were unsuccessful. From this vantage point I had a clear view of the section that turned us back: a 30-foot shear rock wall. We snapped a few more photos had a couple more bites to eat and then headed down Chiquita’s northern slopes to the Chiquita-Ypsilon saddle.
At this point the wind began to die down and the weather looked like it would be beautiful. The climb up Ypsilon Mountain was a steady grind up boulder-strewn tundra. We cranked along until we neared the summit and could peer down the east side to Spectacle Lakes. I had seen all this when I’d climbed Ypsilon earlier in the summer but none of my companions had seen it yet and all were suitably impressed. The Spectacle Lakes basin is very impressive with the two ridges, Donner and Blitzen, sweeping out from Ypsilon’s summit like arms embracing the lakes. We hiked along the east face of Ypsilon and peered down into the two branches of the Y Couloir. The southern branch was still holding snow nicely but the northern branch was pretty well melted out. Some day I would like to be tough enough and skilled enough to climb the Y Couloir. That would be quite a feat! On top of Ypsilon we rested and ate and snapped photos. Besides the spectacular Spectacle Lake, there was an excellent view of Desolation Peaks to the northwest. After our rest we began the descent down to the Ypsilon-Fairchild saddle.
Traversing from Ypsilon to Fairchild took a while. Up to this point it felt like we were flying but I think we started to slow down on this part, particularly me. Also, the hike had all been easy tundra terrain up to this point but now it was class-2 scrambling across boulders and talus. When we began to ascend Fairchild Mountain we chose to ascend the ridge directly. This made for some more interesting class-3 scrambling, but probably took longer than if we’d traversed a little more around the southern side of the mountain. After the tougher part of the ridge we regained the gentle slopes of Fairchild and made our way to the summit. The summit of Fairchild Mountain was strewn with large boulders ranging from sofa-sized to car-sized. These made for some interesting wind shelters – one was essentially a little natural cave formed by these boulders piled against each other.
After a snack and a rest on top of Fairchild we set off down to the saddle with the uncreative name of “The Saddle.” This side of Fairchild Mountain was gently sloping tundra and it didn’t take long to arrive at the bottom of the “The Saddle.” As we began to make the 1000-foot ascent of Hagues Peak some of us stopped for a snack and to replenish their sun block. I could feel myself getting tired and opted to continue on at my slow pace, knowing that they would soon catch me. I plodded along up the slopes of Hagues, which were tundra sprinkled with boulders at first. The higher I got the more boulders there were. About 2/3 of the way up the tundra disappeared and it was replaced by class-2 boulder hopping. I plodded up this and my companions soon caught and passed me. Towards the top we opted to stick closer to the ridgeline and this required some fun class-3 scrambling punctuated by a class-4 move here and there. Easier routes were available. If we wanted to keep it class-2, it would have been possible to traverse the face a little farther down to gain the East Ridge below the summit, and then follow the East Ridge to the top. When I got to the top I took a much-needed rest and ate some food and drank water. There were some other people on top who took a nice group photo of our crew. They had come up from Lawn Lake Trailhead and weren’t going to bag any other peaks.
The clouds were building to the west so we didn’t linger on top. We set off for our last summit of the day: Mummy Mountain. We descended down Hagues’ east ridge, and dropped down on the north side a bit so we could get a good look at Rowe Glacier. While we descended from Hagues Peak’s summit my legs just died. It was pretty amazing really. One moment I was doing fine (though understandably tired), the next I was just utterly destroyed. From this point onward the hike was just real death march for me. It was just matter of putting one foot in front of the other and gutting it out.
After checking out Rowe Glacier we continued down toward the Ypsilon-Mummy saddle. I think Ryan, Erin, and Georg toyed with the idea of bagging Rowe Peak and Rowe Mountain. I think they decided against it more because of the threatening clouds than from being tired. I was totally knackered and didn’t even consider it for a second and I think John sided more with me. I tried to eat and drink on the way down to the saddle but was having difficulty as my stomach was rebelling and my head ached. At the saddle I drank the last of my 4-liter water supply. I had brought some iodine tablets and some drink mix with me so that I could replenish when next we hit a stream, but that was still several hours away.
I gritted my teeth and began the ascent of Mummy Mountain. I told myself it was only 300 vertical feet and the easiest ascent of the day since Chapin. I plodded my way up as the rest of the crew pulled away. I used John as motivation and tried to match his pace as best I could. He gradually pulled out of site, but soon after that I reached the summit. On the summit I collapsed exhausted. It felt so good to lie down. Erin gave me enough water to choke down one last energy gel. And when I say, “choke down”, I really mean it. I just barely managed not to toss my cookies. Besides my stomach troubles, my head was really throbbing. Luckily we’d be losing several thousand feet almost immediately so I hoped my altitude sickness symptoms would go away soon.
After an all-too-short rest on the summit we headed down. Thankfully the rest of the hike was downhill. Although going downhill was much easier aerobically, it was physically more demanding on my legs. Mummy Mountain’s eastern slopes were mostly tundra, but steep enough that it was just murder on my already tired legs. It seemed like it took forever to reach Black Canyon Trail. Once there we stopped to rest. Georg was kind enough to give me half a liter of water so that I wouldn’t have to use my iodine tablets. I figured this would be enough to get me back to the car.
John was running later than he had planned and told his wife he’d be home soon. With that in mind he and Georg decided to hurry ahead of us. Without me slowing them down they could make better time and Georg offered to drive John home. This way John wouldn’t have to waist the time driving back up Fall River Road and then back on Trail Ridge Road. In an effort to make even better time they decided to bushwhacking down to Lawn Lake Trail instead of going up to the junction of Lawn Lake Trail and Black Canyon Trail. I was thankful to be on the trail and wasn’t interested in any more bushwhacking. Besides, it looked like there was a lot of deadfall and the bushwhack might be even more time consuming than the longer on-trail route. Erin and Ryan concurred with me so we said our farewells to John and George and they took off through the bush while we headed up Black Canyon Trail.
It didn’t take long for us to reach the junction with Lawn Lake Trailhead. This point was a good spot to witness the destruction that occurred when the Lawn Lake Dam failed in ’82. I wide swath of the valley had been carved away and there remained lots of dead trees and boulders tossed around. After pausing to survey the aftermath we turned downhill and churned out the final miles. Ryan and Erin were machines, but I suffered all the way down. I promised myself a rest when we reach the Ypsilon Lake Trail junction as motivation. Erin and Ryan sat with me as I rested my weary legs and gathered my strength for the final push.
The last mile and a half went relatively quickly and soon we were back at the car. We piled in and I drove Ryan and Erin back up their car at Chapin Pass. It was amazing what sitting in a nice car seat did for my spirits. While I’d been hiking I felt absolutely exhausted but once seated in the car I almost felt good.
The drive up to Chapin Pass seemed to take a lot longer than it did in the morning but we eventually made it. I dropped Erin and Ryan at their car and then continued up Fall River Road. I’d never been up Fall River Road or Trail Ridge Road so this was new scenery for me. I made it down into Estes Park as it got dark and stopped at a convenience store for a coke. After that it was a quiet ride home and then a collapse into bed. As Mark Twight said, “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” I think Mummy Mania falls into this category. It was a good way to hit the high peaks of the Mummy Range and I was glad I did it, but I don’t think I’ll ever do it again.