"Thunder Peak" (Larimer ranked peak 10134')
Joe and Dave Grim
~2,000' elev. gain (16% avg. grade)
4 hours, 50 minutes
My brother and his family were visiting from Indiana, and he wanted to join me on one of my off trail hikes, preferably one I hadn't yet done. "Thunder Peak" seemed like it wouldn't be too tough, and hopefully would provide great views for him. Leaving from home in Loveland it was drizzling with low clouds, so I was hoping we wouldn't just get stuck in the clouds the whole hike. But as we got up to Estes, we started seeing small patches of blue in the sky. As we drove up highway 66, it started to clear even more, although the summit of "Thunder" was still enshrouded in clouds. We parked along the side of the loop at the end of the road (N40.32825 W105.57565, WGS84), stretched, drank a little, and were soon ready to go.
We started by walking across the dam for the Reservoir at the East Portal of the Adams Tunnel and then on a path along the north side of the Reservoir. At the far end of the reservoir, the trail started to climb and soon entered RMNP. Along the left side of the trail was a beautiful aspen grove with a fern-lined floor, while to our right a scrubby dry slope headed upward. We followed the trail, the Wind River Trail, as it made its way through cool forest and past a couple tiny pools dammed up on the creek (officially it's a river, but really, it's just a creek.) One pool had a rock outcrop leaning over the pool, daring a foolish soul to take the 50 foot plunge from above. Neither of us took it up on the offer.
Near the horse hitch, we decided to cut off trail to the left and soon crossed the creek (N40.32313 W105.58342). We were aiming towards the drainage that leads up to the saddle between "Lightning" (aka 10,567') and "Thunder" Peaks. After climbing over a bit of a ridge, we soon reached the drainage filled with lodgepole pine. We generally followed the drainage for a ways, although fallen timber encouraged us to climb upslope to the right a bit too much until we decided it was best to cut back over to the middle of the drainage. This was a good choice as the base of the drainage here had a lot less downfall and wasn't slanted. We stayed at or near the bottom of the drainage until its slope eventually began to lessen and the forest began to thin(N40.31285 W105.57218).
Here, we decided to head diagonally uphill to the east toward the summit. The trek up was rather steep (30 degrees) and was on sandy soil. The forest was also somewhat open here so we worked up a good sweat. Before too long, we were passing to the west of the summit rock outcrop and did the final easy rock scramble up its western side. The panoramic views from the summit were amazing! To the south, we could see Thunder's sisters: Lightning and Estes Cone, and behind them were Longs and Meeker partially wrapped in clouds. There was also the line of snow-fringed peaks of the Divide and the Mummy Range. And of course, there were many smaller yet still interesting peaks. I pointed out many of the peaks to my brother, describing a few of the fun climbs I had had climbing them. We signed the summit register and hung out for a while before heading back down.
Going down, we headed straight for the saddle. Both of us have knee trouble, but the sandy soil took a good deal of the pounding off our knees, so we were grateful for that. As we headed down, we noticed that there was a sandy open spot just to the southeast of the saddle, so we opted to check it out. Upon reaching it (N40.30984 W105.56785), we discovered that it sometimes held water, as indicated by the rocks there. We also got a nice view back at the summit rock outcrop from here. We then walked back up and over the saddle and headed back generally the way we had come. However, this time we kept to the northern side of the drainage once it started getting thick in the bottom. We then ended up going along a minor ridge with several interesting rock outcroppings. The way we took back down is definitely the better route, although overall this hike was a good deal easier than a lot of off trail hikes I've done.
Finally, we crossed back over the creek and were on the trail. Before we knew it, we were back to our car, happy to have done such a neat little peak. And we were also glad to have shared this experience together.
Photo slideshow link
For a photo slideshow of the hike, Click here
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