I had heard about this epic loop a very long time ago, when I was just a kid. It was said that it was possible to summit up to eight peaks in one long day of hiking and scrambling through the Mummy Range in Rocky Mountain National Park. Leaving from Chapin Pass trail head, traveling along the ridge summiting the major peaks of the Mummy Range and then exiting at the Lawn Lake trail head.
There are many versions of what has become known as Mummy Mania or The Mummy Kill. One such route(seems to have become the standard) is to tag the six major mountains that are connected, for the most part, by a common ridge. Mount Chapin, Mount Chiquita, Ypsilon Mountain, Fairchild Mountain, Hagues Peak and Mummy Mountain. A tall order to say the least. Estimates range from 16 to 18 miles with around a 6000ft elevation gain. Up and down 6 major summits. There are the hardcore that will add a summit tag of Rowe Peak and Desolation Peak to make for a complete stomp around the range. The elevation of all the summits, aside from Chapin and Desolation, are over 13,000 feet.
I would just go for the major 6 and depending on how I felt maybe I'd get Rowe too. That was the idea...
I didn't seem to have too much trouble getting outa bed at 2:30am. I was excited, anxious and a little nervous. I would be going at it alone. A solo flight.
I had asked a good friend to shuttle me up to the Chapin Pass TH and then meet me at Lawn Lake with supplies(i.e. water, food and an emergency helicopter if needed). It didn't take much nagging, she agreed to be apart of this epic adventure quite easily. She dropped me off in complete darkness at said TH a little before 5a.m.
Marching by the light of my head lamp and starting to feel very alone I kept my head down and settled into a rhythmic stomp. I quickly pulled above tree line. Darkness cut through by the power of AAA batteries. Talus and scree fields were hard to negotiate at that hour. Breathing heavily, still wiping sleep from my eyes I started to see the sky changing from black to the darkest blue. A few more steps and the sky went to a rich orange. I looked back, over my shoulder and cussed. I cussed again. Due to my excitement and eagerness to get to the meat and potatoes of this journey I had stomped right past Mount Chapin and was a stones throw away from the summit of Chaquita. I decided in an instant that now Rowe Peak was a must. I was too far past to go back, the sun was up and moving fast. I still had a mouthful of meat and potatoes to go.
Sunrise on Mount Chiquita. A quick stop and photo of the destroyed register.
Ypsilon was up next. I have enormous respect and admiration for this mountain. It holds the beautiful 'Y' couloirs and the awe inspiring, frighting and ever impressive Blitzen Ridge.
Now then, on to Fairchild. I had opted to stay on the ridge, climb and scramble. I would try to keep the line and was welcoming some class 3 groping on my way up to the next summit. I hit the low point and started to climb. Realizing what a beautiful day had bloomed around me I paused for a moments breath when from behind a very close rock a head popped up followed by a long slender body. A Pine Marten. I was invading his turf. He eyed me and I him. We seemed to have come to some kind of an agreement.
Climbing, climbing, 'Hey, there he is again!'.
Climbing, scrapped elbow, climbing
'Is that the same little guy?!?'
Climbing, 'Phew, almost up!'
'Holy cow!! That can't possibly be the same marten!'
Sure enough. The little guy I saw all the way down at the first slopes of Fairchild decided to follow me up to the summit. I have done some research and have come to find out that adolescent Pine Martens are very inquisitive and curious creatures. I had a local escort all the way to the top. I had also come across the only person I'd see all day(until Lawn Lake) at the top, in a wind bunker. A brief hello to the person and a good bye to the furry little dude and I started my decent into 'The Saddle'.
I stopped and sat down for the first time since I left Chapin Pass TH. I ate my noodles and loaded up on carbs and water. Stretched out my legs took in a little sun and wondered at the brilliance of the genius who named this place 'The Saddle'. After cleaning up, standing up and inspecting my rest area for any signs of of my visit I decided it was time to stomp on up Hagues Peak.
My plan was to go up, cut the slope to the east, take the ridge and backtrack to the summit. Well, I got up saw the radio antenna and threw out my plan. I made straight for the the top. It was tough, very tough. My legs now feeling the heavy toll I'd put on them throughout the morning. I just couldn't seem to find my groove ever since I stopped for lunch. I would climb a few feet and then have to stop, climb a few more feet and stop. I had to repeat this routine a dozen times to reach my goal. For some reason, looking back on it, it seems like this was the hardest summit to get the entire day. It was hard. I'm not sure if it was my route decision, my lunch stop or if I was just that much of a wimp but I just trudged on and finally summited, inspected the radio antenna and plotted out my course to Rowe Peak.
I was tired. There was no denying it. Lawn Lake sat down in the valley almost taunting me. I could bail back down to The Saddle and be at the lake in no time, then it was just a short(yeah right, short)6 mile walk out on a maintained trail.
'I'm going for it!'
'Rowe Peak, here I come!'
I sunk down the north side of Hagues, continued on the east side of Rowe Glacier and lake and the claimed the ridge. I turned east and continued down the ridge to the high point, looked around, didn't see the register and said screw it I'll stop and take a break here. After sitting, eating and drinking I began to hear that alarm go off in my head. Did I just do what I think I did? I stood, almost jumped to my feet, spun 180 degrees and stared Rowe Peak right in the face. I had passed it. When I gained the ridge I unconsciously started climbing the highest point in front of me. Well, Rowe wasn't in front of me. It was back and to my left. Again cusses shot from my mouth. This time they were many and colorful. I had mistakenly gone way outa my way. No time to dwell on it now. The day was getting on and I had to meet my re-supply at Lawn Lake soon. I still had to get Mummy too. Sigh...
How could I be so stupid? Did I really just pull my second amateur move of the day? What was I thinking? I gotta be more careful, I don't have that kinda energy to be spending on stupid mistakes.
Jogging up to the long skinny register of Rowe Peak I pulled my camera from my pocket and snapped a few pics. Still fuming from my mis-navigation I headed myself in a degree and a fashion to gently climb the back side of Hagues and Mummy.
And I thought I had a hard time with Hagues. Coming up the back side of Mummy proved to be one of the hardest things I've ever done. My body completely spent. My legs wore out and the afternoon sun beginning to pound down. My 3 quart water reserve running low. I decided not to filter water at Rowe because of the time it would take. It was gonna be close. I had to meet at the junction of Lawn Lake and Black Canyon trails before 3pm or my friend would hike out to check for emergency messages from my SPOT messenger.
Positive affirmations started to chant in my head. Syncing with the stomping of my feet.
'You can do this',
'You're so close',
'One more step'.
I did this all the way to the top of Mummy Mountain. The sight of the short stubby register at the top made my heart sing a sigh of relief. It was all down hill from here, which proved to be not as easy as one would think. Down the gentle eastern slopes and then south out the first drainage where I planned to meet up with the Black Canyon Trail.
Every step brought me closer to a livable altitude. Bugs and butterfly started to buzz around me and a few afternoon clouds blew in at the perfect time to give me some shade. The tundra gave way to grass, dried up flowers and the occasional weed. Stunted trees came into view and the sound of running water nearly quenched my thirst without even drinking.
I found the drainage, followed it to the trail where I found a bridge. Dunked my head in the cold water for a rejuvenating douse, hung a right and stomped down the trail to the junction. Knowing I still had a good haul out to the TH. Hiking a maintained trail, under shade of trees after a long break with someone else leading sounded like a cake walk after what I had just put myself through. I wasn't there yet.
'It should be right around this next bend.'
'Really, I thought it was just right up here.'
A grin. No, a smile filled my face. There was my friend, waiting. I had made it.
Departure from Chapin Pass TH: 5:00am
Mount Chiqutia, 13,069ft
Ypsilon Mountain, 13,514ft
Fairchild Mountain, 13,502ft
Hagues Peak, 13,560ft
Rowe Peak, 13,404ft
Mummy Mountain, 13,425ft
Aprox. Miles: 18+(due to navigational error)
Aprox. Elev. Gain: 6000ft
Arrival at Lawn Lake TH: 5:00pm
6 summits, 12 hours, on the button.
A Special Thanks Goes Out To:
This wouldn't have been as easy as it was without you.
and my Pine Marten friend on Fairchild