Climbed on way to Surprise Lake from Stillwater. Nice game trail from the pass up to the summit. We saw lots of elk moving up past the summit onto the broad plateau to the west and north.
September 4-5 2016
The weather was bad around here on September 3, plus it was my first full day off in almost two months, so we didn't start our hike until September 3. It was decided that we go to the Flat Tops in order to climb or attempt three of the mountains there.
The weather looked threatening and it was very windy, but Kessler, Shaylee, Kimberly, and I started up the Stillwater Trail late morning. The forest has all burnt up and hadn't recovered since the 2002 fire, so there was no trees to block the wind. We followed the main trail (meeting two small groups along the way-the only people we saw the entire weekend) up to the plateau. Along the way, we stopped at a big group of perfectly ripe raspberry patches and had a delicious snack.
From the top of the plateau, an old map we had showed an abandoned trail to Surprise Lake. We wanted to see if we could follow it. We found the old trail, losing it in a few places and made our way to the saddle just north of Surprise Lake. It was still really windy and there were some small snow pellets, but we decided to climb the peak anyway since there was no thunder. We made our way to the west and found ourselves on the summit. The summit of the peak was really pristine and there wasn't even a summit cairn. After climbing the peak we descended to the saddle and then to Surprise Lake, where we set up camp. It was a really secluded lake and we had it all to ourselves.
After a windy night, we awoke to clear skies and 31F degrees. It was still windy, but the sky was completely clear.
We headed cross country towards Peak 11968, a.k.a. Island Lakes Peak North. It was a fairly gentle climb, but there was boulder-hopping near the end. It took a little bit longer than expected as well. Near the summit we saw many pikas and an ermine/weasel, the first we have seen in Colorado. On the summit, we found the register and found that it was last signed in 2015, but the signature before that was in 2004.
We took a pretty long break on the summit and headed south towards Peak 11926, a.k.a. Island Lakes Peak South. We decided to skirt around the west base of Point 11824. There was some boulder-hopping, but it wasn't that bad. Once we were at the saddle between Island Lakes Peak South and Point 11824, Kim decided to wait and Kessler, Shaylee, and I headed for the summit.
We found the summit to be very pristine with no register or summit cairn. It was getting late now, so we hurried back to the saddle where we reunited with Kim.
We still had seven miles to go, so we headed back towards Trapper Lake as quickly as possible. We only stopped a few times to get drinks and to look at the map. Along the way we did see one big marmot. We arrived at the trailhead at around 5 PM. It was a great trip, but we were all tired. I was the last one back to the car.