Otis Peak - 12,486 ft
Rocky Mountain National Park
I've been on the mend from ankle surgery (March 5, 2007) so this was my first hike of the season. I've been getting tired of the elliptical at the gym and my therapist says it's time to get out and hit the trail. I figured 6 miles @ relatively low altitude should be a cake walk right?
Departed Bear Lake TH @ 05:30 with light breeze from the west and clear skies. I thought I would head for Lake Haiyaha and cut down to the Loch Vale Trail and summit Otis. That puts me home in time for lunch. The first leg is paved-ish and makes for easy walking even at altitude. I Cleared Nymph lake as the sun started above the horizon and got this great shot of Longs Just above the lake.
Longs from above Nymph Lake
The first Detour
Hiking thus far is easy - I'm noticing patches of snow and ice as I hike in further but no big deal until I hit Dream Lake. A magnificent view of Hallett Peak draws me deeper towards Emerald lake.
I seem to recall needing to go left towards Lake Haiyaha but I don't see any markers and as you can see there a clearly foot-prints heading straight towards Hallet so . . . yes i keep heading straight for the vortex of Hallett & the Dragons tail.
Approx 1/2 mile in (map says 6/10) the trail ends at Emerald Lake - it's beautiful but not exactly where I was hoping to be. I munch on a fruit leather as a group of three guys approach. Seems they are heading up the Dragons Tail. "NOT FAIR"
I say to myself wanting to be in the coulior as well but knowing I'm not equipped to for that climb and for now it's just a day dream. We exchange pleasantries then I backtracked while they press on for the good stuff.
The second detour??
At the head of Dream lake i see a small sign clearly marking the trail to LH but the trail, it seems, has disappeared. Actually it's just disguised with crusty snow. I actually saw it on the way in but apparently ignored it. We'll blame that on the view of Halletts. I start heading up and encounter an . . . um' obstacle.
"NO BIG DEAL - just kick in some toe-holds" I tell myself and then start to kick my way up the bank which ends up being solid ice. I was secretly hoping that this was only a roadblock and the trail would clear so I somehow scrambled up the ice using my trekking poles and some funky stretches I'm sure I will never be able to repeat. Then I looked ahead.
Did I mention I have on hiking boots, I have no crampons or ice axe and I'm standing on the side of about a 30 ft drop to the lake? Not a straight drop mind you just enough angle to keep you from stopping and enough trees to throw me like a pin-ball. Clearly I am not equipped for the North Route and should have opted to go South.
I made it back down to the fork in the trail with a weird if not profain rendition of a mini-glisade using only my two treking poles anchored under my arm and angled back. It was something like 10-15 feet but felt like a mile. The ice devoured one of my carbon fiber poles - light weight and unbreakable I thought. (actually somehow the internal piece that holds it together fell out) - regardless it's now 2 pieces of light-weight and broken carbon fiber.
***note - sliding on snow/ice in columbia cargos = wet butt
The final leg
By now it's 07:30 and I've hiked all of about 2 miles and I"m not even close to Otis Peak. I hastily back out all the way to TH. In an effort to save my first day back on the trail I head towards the Loch Vale.
Hiking is easy and pass only the occasional fly-fisher heading to their favorite spot. Along the way I stop for rasins and a gatorade at Alberta Falls.
I press on for another 45 minutes but realize I'm just too tired to make it to the summit. What the heck, I took two detours, broke my trekking pole and bruised my pride. I'm thinking i'ts time to head in. Besides my ankle held up and I did get a glimpse of the peak
far right . . . sort of :-)
Plus there's always next weekend - Now about those crampons and ice axe!