Friday, February 1, 2019

The Rawahs Part 4.

As detailed in the previous post, I made a pretty dumb navigational/identification mistake and got pretty close to but did not summit Snowbank Peak in the Rawahs.  Hopefully I won't make a mistake like that again, or at least for awhile!
I set out the next week to correct that error-it would've been a pretty mellow day otherwise.  Well, relatively speaking.  But having to kick back north added about 7 miles and 1000 feet of elevation gain to the day.  
Then again, the area is awesome, and I was looking forward to the day ahead.  Like the previous week, the weather didn't look so great in the sense that a storm had come through the previous night, and it was predicted to be super windy again-if it weren't late September, I probably wouldn't have gone due to that.  But it was late September, and I REALLY wanted to get these ones done this year.  Not going now risked the chance of snowfall, which would make these peaks more difficult and maybe impossible to access.
I headed up, sleeping at home this time and getting up at dark o'clock to make the long drive- nearly two hours from my house, and I started from the trailhead at 5:30 am.  Follow the same directions provided last time, taking road 103 north from CO 14.  Park and start from the West Branch Trailhead, on your left shortly after Tunnel Campground.
Since it was dark and I was covering ground both down in a valley and which I'd covered before, I didn't take any photos for the first few hours.  I'd stay on the West Branch Trail until I reached the Rawah Trail, and then take that toward Twin Crater Lakes until I found an appropriate looking place to cut off towards Snowbank Peak.
I used a technique I'd used several times this year to lighten my load a bit, starting with minimal water and a filter, so I could carry less weight initially and fill up at a source before heading up to the peaks above.
I stopped at the creek exiting the lakes, and filled up.  I saw and waved to two people who were camping in the area, the only two I'd see for most of the day.  I started up, at first following a route I'd mapped as it looked like access might be a little tricky.  I didn't follow that completely in the end, and the way I went looked (via the satellite images at least) to cover more grassy/tundra terrain instead of the rocky and possibly loose stuff I'd planned to ascend.
I reached the summit shortly before 9, entering the clouds.
Rockhole Lake.
The summit of Snowbank Peak, finally.
Though I still felt like an idiot for walking by it the week before.
I continued south to Rawah Pyramid.
Looking into my still socked in future. 
And more...
Out to Dodad Peak from the descent of Rawah Pyramid.
I stayed on the south ridge from Rawah Pyramid for a bit longer this time, hoping this might lead me to a better way down, since I would be generally trending south from here.  The descent seemed a bit more stable, but no major difference.
Clouds kind of clearing...
I was able to get up to a jog here in places, passing Carey and Island Lakes before hitting the talusy terminus of the east side of Mount Ashley.  This looked like it would be one of the most difficult sections to get though, with rock of unknown size, quality, and stability.  But it really wasn't too bad, with a small loose section here and there.
The small lake after the rocky section provided a nice leeward respite, and I stopped to refill my water.  The area around the small body of water south of that was slightly marshy and muddy, and proved a challenge to cross while keeping my feet dry.  Some animal trails helped me through the brushy small growth here, and soon enough I was climbing yet again, on my way to Lewis Peak.
Finally in some sun looking back.
I sat here for what felt like a long time.  It was warm in the sun and I was mostly out of the wind.  I wanted to stay there forever!  But of course those peaks weren't going to climb themselves.
As I gained altitude, I tried to find a way to optimize the route to avoid any rock but also keep out of the wind.  That was interesting. 
Looking south from the summit. 
And back to the north.
I descended towards Clark Peak, taking the path of least resistance, which put me full in the wind most of the way, though I was eventually able to cross a small rock rib.  This made the movement more difficult, but at least I wasn't in the wind!
To Cameron Peak from near the summit of Clark Peak.
After visiting the summit, I headed east just a bit and found a nice sunny spot out of the wind.  I was cold, right on the edge and also wearing every piece of clothing I'd brought for the day.  I felt tired after the early wake up, and was not super enthused on the idea of continuing on.  In fact, that east ridge towards Cameron was looking quite appealing.  I could take that to descend to the pass, hit Cameron, and call it a day.  I even decided to do exactly that.
But I sat a bit more and looked at the map.  If I didn't do peak 12386 today, it didn't look like there was any easy way to get to it by itself.  It looked like the Mongomery Pass trail would be an option, though not a short effort for one thing.  Sawmill Creek was another possibility, and the most direct, but it looked like that ended in the trees well east of the summit.  More bushwhacking for one thing.
I came to the conclusion that the easiest approach was from right where I was at- maybe twoish rolling miles stood between me and 12386.  I could stay down east of the ridge as much as possible to avoid the wind, and my mood had improved dramatically as I warmed up in the sun and had a snack.
I'd already messaged my wife that I was turning around, now I messaged her back to say I was just kidding and was going for it.  As it's something I like to do for motivation, I set a goal of one hour to get to 12386.
Looking south.
I let the wind carry me at times, and fought it at times, but I also warmed up with the lower altitudes ahead.  Along the way I passed a large cairn on the summit of unranked Pipit Peak, stopping briefly.
At the base of 12386 from the north- aim between the two humps visible at the top, the true summit is beyond those.
The final climb went quickly, though the wind was inescapable.
Looking back to Lewis and Clark.
This small summit had been visited more than I expected for a random not easy to access 12er.  Besides the usual suspects, a number of people with Gnar Runners in Fort Collins had signed in, coming over from Montgomery Pass.
Along the way to this summit, I was constantly checking out the terrain to my east.  I'd originally planned to climb back north along the ridge from 12386 towards Clark Peak, and drop into the drainage where Fall River starts.  This would also put me north of the ridge extending east from Pipit Peak.
After checking things out, I decided that option didn't necessarily look any better than just heading east from the saddle north of 12386, contouring around the ridge to the north and going over when appropriate, and then generally trending northish until I hit the Blue Lake Trail.  Plus I was out of water again, and the small lake below me was looking mighty appetizing!
And it was!
From here, I headed NE until below the ridge.  Upon reaching it, I kept looking for a way up and over, but in studying the terrain and the map, I could see no benefit in gaining elevation, and continued at around 11100 feet until I topped out the ridge, and started down on the other side.
Things look bad here, lots of forest and no trails.  But movement was surprisingly not too bad at all, thanks to various animal trails and open avenues that allowed me to head north.
At one point it seemed like things were getting a little steep and rocky, so I descended about 200 feet before continuing on.  Eventually I came to a series of pleasant meadows, with some views of Cameron Peak to the east.
It wasn't long after this before I arrived at the trail.
I stopped for a short snack break and then started up towards Blue Lake.  It was nice to be back on a trail again, as it had been almost 8 hours.
As I headed up, I was doing the math in my head.  It would probably take me at least an hour to get to and back from Cameron Peak from the western saddle.  Then maybe 2ish hours to the trailhead, and 2.5 or so to get home from there.
I sat and looked at Blue Lake below, taking in the views until the group I'd passed lower on the climb nearly caught up to me.  It was 4pm and while I wanted to do Cameron, and it made alot of sense to do so now, it also made sense to just pack it in and make some of the drive home in daylight at least with sunset shortly after 7pm.
Looking west from the saddle.
Up to Cameron.
I guess it would've been easy to just go hit Cameron and make the entire drive back in darkness, but I already started forming a plan to visit it and some of the others next week.  As long as it didn't snow!
I started the jog back, met by immense beauty within a few steps.
Scenery: pretty okay.
While I'm sure the many switchbacks between the saddle and the intersection with the West Branch Trail must be some sort of are we there yet purgatory to climb, even at an easy jog the descent was quite fun and roller coaster like.
I continued on the trail, passing the intersection with the Rawah Trail where I'd broken off that morning.  I jogged most of it, but walked some of it.  The scenery up here is really too good to speed by, and it's nice to slow down and take some of it in.
I ended up in this grove of Aspen pretty close to the trailhead, and found things quite satisfactory.
I got back to the car a few minutes before 6 pm, and made the long drive home.
What an awesome day, and a fun and engaging loop.  I was kind of bummed to leave Cameron Peak as an orphan, but my plan for the next week was already in place by the time I got home.  As long as it didn't snow!  And it's difficult to be upset about having to go back to this area.  It is astoundingly beautiful, with postcard like views in nearly all directions.
And say visiting peaks isn't your thing?  With a multitude of trails and several trailheads in the area, it would be easy to plan a several day backpacking trip and visit any number of stunning lakes, or just do a fun loop on trails.
Link to hike map/GPX on Caltopo (in green).
The Rawahs Part 4.
Snowbank Peak, 12522 feet: 8.4 miles, 3959 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Rawah Pyramid, 12460 feet: 9 miles, 3897 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Lewis Peak, 12654 feet: 12.4 miles, 4091 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Clark Peak, 12951 feet: 13.3 miles, 4388 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Pipit Peak, 12433 feet: 14.3 miles, 3870 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
12386: 15.5 miles, 3823 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
As a whole, this day covered 29.08 miles with 8664 feet of elevation gain.  The terrain was maybe up to third class in short stretches, but those sections could be bypassed if desired.  Strenuous+.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Rawahs Part 2 & 3.

Back to the Rawahs, as if my arm had to be twisted at all.  My plan was to try to visit the areas farthest and most inaccessible from my house first, while the weather was still good.  And now, in wintery weather, visit the closer and easier to get to summits.
Thus I set out with a partner to do a fun loop from the Link McIntrye trailhead, near Glendevey.  To get here, take CO-14 to 103.  Turn north on road 103, and continue on this dirt road until you get to road 190, where you'll take a left at a pretty obvious intersection.  The trailhead and parking are on your left just AFTER Brown's Park Campground.  
My partner for the day: none other than peak bagging legend Alyson Kirk.  I'd have to move to keep up!
We'd start on the McIntyre trail, which was fun and in pretty decent shape.  We were both speculating that probably not many people hike here, so we didn't know what it would be like, but it was generally well maintained, though slightly wet in places.
We got to a point south of our first objective of the day, peak 10100, and headed up.  The movement was pretty easy and pleasant, with the forest being pretty open.  (Note that I only took three photos on this day.)
From there we continued north and faced a little bit of bushwhacking before reaching our next destination, peak 10148.  From there, we dropped west to Shipman Park.  
While strolling through this grassy meadow, we discussed how it was unusual that we hadn't seen any animals.  It looked like Elk or Moose would love it here.  
We also said that this was the first day it truly felt like fall, and this was on August 23rd.  Summer always goes by so quickly.  
Trees on the other side.
From here, we ascended, encountering a little more bushwhacking.  But it never got too bad, and soon enough we broke out into some more open terrain near tree line.  We hit the trail and had to back track slightly to visit peak 10620 before heading south along the Medicine Bow Trail.  This trail pretty consistently flirts with tree line, and the views just get better and better.
But the easy movement would come to an end, as we'd drop east to visit our final and highest peak of the day, 10790.
It really wasn't too bad at first, with no bushwhacking, but steep terrain.  It got flatter, but the bushwhacking increased in difficulty, though again it was never too bad.
I stopped to grab some water from McIntyre Creek before we started the final climb.  It wasn't too long before we topped out and signed in at the last register.
The long downhill back to the car was just stupid fun, fast and flowy, though we never got up to a true run.  There was one section where we got off the main trail due to some social trails, but we were back on it shortly.  We'd originally talked about doing a few other things in the area, but with a long drive back and a longer than anticipated day, we decided against that.
This was a fun loop, and a good way to visit this group of four.  The scenery is beautiful and the trails in generally good shape.  And the bushwhacking wasn't too bad really.  While not a short day, this would certainly be recommended as a fun one.
Link to hike map/gpx on Caltopo (in orange).
The Rawahs Part 2:
10100: 5.6 miles, 1653 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.
10148: 8.4 miles, 1701 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
Shipman Park, 9559 feet: 9.9 miles, 1112 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
10620: 12.5 miles, 2173 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
10790: 20.9 miles, 2343 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
As a whole, this loop covered 28.32 miles with 5902 feet of elevation gain in up to second class terrain with a fair amount of off trail but not too bushwhacky time.  Strenuous.

A few weeks later, I set out for a pretty grand loop.  Due to the length of this day, I made the decision to drive up and sleep in the car at the West Branch Trailhead (follow previous directions, and you'll pass it on your left as you head north on road 103 just AFTER Tunnel Campground).  These planned early starts are always a crap shoot.  While the idea is that I can get up at the same time as I would at home and have that much more time out there, I also never sleep as well, so things are kind of a wash.
I tried to sleep in the reclined front seat, then in the back, then in the seat again... I eventually fell asleep somewhere, as I snapped awake when my alarm went off, but I did not feel well rested.  I also took a look at the weather, and if it wasn't September with an unknown time before the first snow, I probably wouldn't have gone.  No precipitation was predicted, but the winds were gusty (40+ miles per hour), and I could hear it as soon as I woke up.  Unfortunately, this wind led to a pretty major navigational error, which really put into question my ability to finish up the goal for the year.
I got ready in the early morning darkness and started up the trail.  I had a partial GPX file in the Gaia app in my phone, and occasionally stopped to check it since I'd never been here before and was not one hundred percent familiar with the trails.
The plan was to do a nice loop, starting with peak 11330, so I kept an eye out for the Camp Lake Trail.  I would continue going the way I was for a bit after that, and then break from the trail and head northwest up the hill to visit that summit first.
The bushwhacking was okay, nothing too heinous, though it was more difficult in the darkness, as I could only see as far as my headlamp shone thus it was hard to pick the best way forward.  Some of the terrain was steep, but most of it was pretty manageable.
I was around treeline when daylight broke, and thus far on the leeward side of the peak and out of the wind, but I could hear it ripping.  Soon enough, I popped out on the summit and into the full force of the wind.  Though the area was beautiful, it was pretty miserable.  Not quite enough to knock me off my feet, but certainly enough to alter my course here and there.
From 11330, I jogged a bit while en route to the next summit of the day, Sheep Mountain.  I was able to find and follow some animal trails that made the going easier.  I decided to sidehill north of point 11787, which worked alright terrain wise and kept me out of the wind for the time being.
Looking into the future from Sheep Mountain.
This was the first time I was fully exposed to the wind, and I already knew it was going to make the day challenging.  I crossed Grassy Pass, and visited Lake 4 to refill on water.
Lake 4.
I was quite mercifully out of the wind here, and most of the climb up to North Rawah Peak.
Looking south from the climb.  What a stunning ridge!
At the summit and back in the wind.
This would be pretty fun if not for the wind.
I decided to stay down a little bit from being right on top of the ridge, this seemed to help mitigate the wind a little.  I also felt this got rid of the possibility that a really strong gust might hit me out of no where, and cause me to stumble the wrong way, resulting in a serious fall.  At least this way if that happened, I'd only stumble and have a short fall up a slope vs off a cliff.
But still, it was windy and miserable.
I'd planned to possible drop down after Rawah Pyramid, and continue on to Lewis and Clark, but the lack of sleep the night before and the conditions today cast serious doubt on this actually happening.
At this point, I made a pretty dumb navigational error.  I'll chalk it up to the wind.  I had the idea in my head that one of the peaks I intended to do, Snowbank Peak, was south of North Rawah Peak.  In reality, this one is south of South Rawah Peak.  I thought about pulling out my paper map to check "just to make sure", but I thought I was remembering things correctly, and it was so windy I didn't think I could manage a paper map, and that it would likely end up somewhere east of me.
From the "summit" of what was definitely not Snowbank Peak.
I did not find a register or cairn, which wasn't really that big of a surprise.  There was indeed a snowbank to the east of this summit as well.  It had to be it, right?
Stupid me, I never realized it until I was back at home that night logging my peaks for the day, and looked at the topo.  Uhoh. 
A flat, leeward area just past the false snowbank.
The summit of South Rawah came pretty quickly and easily, which should've been another clue that this was not a ranked peak- it just didn't have enough elevation gain.
South Rawah Peak.
Back to the north.
Looking back to South Rawah Peak.
And east from the saddle.
I started up again, keeping myself down and east of the ridge as it again looked pretty rocky and with possibility of injury.  There were some times with less wind, but I never stopped to check the map because I thought I'd visited the summit!
Looking west to 11580 and the plains beyond.  A pretty neat perspective on that one as well as Clear Lake.
Looking ahead.
That prominent, hard, peak looking thing?  Snowbank Peak.
But I stayed down and east of it, thinking I was easing the way forward.
Apparently, I didn't take any photos from the summit of Rawah Pyramid, but this unranked peak provided one of the best views of the day.  The terrain eased up a bit from there, so I continued on the east side of the ridge and descended a bit north before heading east.
South from the ridge, what beauty!
The decent was a little loose and rocky, but became better as the steepness lessened.  It was GREAT to now have that massive land mass at my back and be out of the wind.  I was able to delayer finally.  It felt pretty good to enjoy the day.
More beauty, but I would not get there on this day.
I made my way around the rocky humps between myself and Dodad Peak.  It looked like a very easy walk up from there.
Dodad Peak.
On the summit back to Rawah Pyramid.
The sharp tooth looking peak is Snowbank, argh!  South Rawah on the right.
Looking back to summits visited earlier in the day.
To past and future- Clark, Lewis, and Island Lake Peak as seen from my 500th summit in Colorado.
As I climbed up to Dodad, I kept my eyes open for the best descent route.  I spied a gully that looked like it would work well and also not have me descend all the way back to the saddle. 
Twin Crater Lakes.
The trail starts on the other side of the smaller lake.  As I descended, I noticed some haze and a smoky smell from the multitude of forest fires burning over the summer.
Always a unique perspective to be at a lake that is only a few hundred feet lower than one of the earlier summitted peaks. 
Peak 11330 as seen from the trail.
Headed down...
The trail back down was pretty fun, largely joggable with one steeper switchbacky section.  It felt like it took forever, but I was back at the trailhead less than three hours after standing on the summit of Dodad Peak. 
Well, I had initially planned for more, but I couldn't be unhappy with this day.  Except for the wind.  The wind sucked.  But what a pleasure to spend 12 hours in this place, to celebrate my 38th birthday with my 500th summit in Colorado, and still be able to get home at a reasonable hour and spend some time with my wife and pups. 
Though I was tired, I enjoyed a nice dinner at home, and was feeling pretty good until I finally took the time to log my peaks for the day.  It was only then that I discovered the identification mistake I made.  It was pretty dumb, and could've been easily avoided if I'd just stopped to look at the map.  But oh well. 
There went the nice, easy loop I'd do next week to complete the peaks in the area, as I'd definitely have to go out of the way to visit Snowbank Peak.  That would take enough time that I might not have the time to get everything else; therefore the goal of finishing up all ranked peaks in Roosevelt National Forest might not happen.
But, I suppose time passes, and time would tell.
Link to hike map/gpx on Caltopo (in blue).
The Rawahs Part 3.
11330: 5.2 miles, 2767 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Sheep Mountain, 11820 feet: 7.55 miles, 3257 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
North Rawah Peak, 12473 feet: 10.4 miles, 3910 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
South Rawah Peak, 12644 feet: 12.5 miles, 4081 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Rawah Pyramid, 12460 feet: 14.5 miles, 3897 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Dodad Peak, 12060 feet: 15.7 miles, 3497 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
As a whole, this loop covered 23.8 miles with 7388 feet of elevation gain in up to second class terrain, and is a supremely awesome way to link up these peaks.  Just don't walk by Snowbank!  Strenuous+.