The bushwhack up from the lake was a bit difficult. In addition to the bush, you start to encounter some slabs which are extensions of this peak. This made picking a route somewhat difficult, and I had to turn around more than once.
You come to a point where some rock blocks the way up/forward, and face a decision. Either stay to the left on some less steep third class, or enter what I guess is the 5.4 route to the right. The left side seems like an obvious choice, however, upon surmounting the third class you have to make a fifth class lateral mantle onto a slabby boulder to your right to continue on. Either way, you will end up at a saddle.
From there it's a tame third class grass and rock ramp to the flat summit plateau.
On the way down to the lake, I stayed a bit more east than the route I took on the way up. This worked out alot better, and I'd advise traveling maybe halfway between Lake Verna and Spirit Lake before making the turn uphill. The terrain was much easier to cover.
Fosters description is pretty good. When hiking up, you'll come to a left hand switchback which will take the trail around a rocky outcropping. Turn around at this switchback, and head back down the trail for a couple of hundred feet. When the terrain to your south looks suitable, start heading down. As a fair warning, it's a heady bushwhack to even reach the creek. But there are tons of wild raspberries growing in the area, so that makes up for it.
Upon reaching the creek, rock hop or find a downed tree to cross. You have to be on the south side of the creek to get to the falls. Now, simply follow the creek up. Simply might be an understatement, as the going is not easy. But trust me, it'll be worth it.
I made it safely down and back to the trail, eating a bunch of wild raspberries along the way.
Back at the trailhead, I got into the car and started the drive back through RMNP. There were a few things I'd been intending to visit, and it was early enough that I had the time.
First I stopped by the Harbinson Picnic area to visit the River and Valley Trails. From the picnic area, take the short set of steps near the restroom down, and follow the thin trail into the woods. Don't worry, as it soon becomes a very good trail. This is the Valley Trail, and closer to the south end than the north end. I went left here to do the loop.
I got to the north intersection of these trails, which is pretty close to but across the road from the Green Mountain th. This could also be a possible starting place. From here, I took the Valley Trail back.
When I got back to the car, my feet were killing me. It again seems like my left pinky toe will be my Achilles heel for hiking this year. It gets rubbed raw, and since I forgot to put some Vaseline on it in the morning to help with lubrication, I resorted to the only thing I had- sunblock. It worked alright.
Next up, I stopped by the Holzworth Historic Site. I'd been by this before, but wanted to try to come back when it was open for tours. But I feel like I won't even be near it during the times it's open, so I just walked out to the site.
Back at the car, I continued my drive back home. The weather looked good, so I would interrupt it one more time.
This was a very peaceful place, and close to the busy road. Again, please obey the signs at Lava Cliffs and pick a way to the lake to minimize your impact on the tundra.
Back at the car I decided to call it a day. Besides, it was getting dark by now. And I wanted to get home and go to sleep!
This was one of those days that just makes you feel good to be alive. From climbing a remote and difficult peak, to hiking some of the easier trails on the west side, I enjoyed every second of it. I am very glad that Aiguille de Fleur proved to be climbable, but I think another visit would be easier to do, since I now know a better way to get up to it than the way I took. East Inlet Falls was simply amazing, well worth the difficult bushwhack. As I said, the River Trail was my pick of the two trails, and would be great for little kids or when run as a loop. Like Lulu City, the Holzworth Historic Site offers a chance to slip back in time, and imagine what things might have been like a hundred years ago. And Iceberg Lake was sublimely beautiful, and quite easy to get to for such a high elevation body of water.
There are now less than fifty named destinations left to visit in RMNP. It's going to be a fun summer and fall to try to get to them all!
Link to hike map/GPX on Caltopo.
Aiguille de Fleur, East Inlet Falls, Valley and River Trail, Holzworth Historic Site, Lava Cliffs and Iceberg Lake (distances as part of the hike):
Aiguille de Fleur, 11980 feet: 10.8 miles, 3580 foot gain. 5.4. Strenuous.
East Inlet Falls, 8733 feet*: 18.95 miles, 333 foot gain. Second class. Moderate.
Valley Trail and River Trail loop, 8683 to 8858 feet*: 4.6 miles, 175 foot gain. Easy+.
Holzworth Historic Site, 8917 feet*: 1.2 miles out and back, 23 foot gain. Easy-.
Iceberg Lake, 11860 feet: .5 miles out and back, 220 foot gain. Easy.
Lava Cliffs, 12000 feet: .5 miles out and back, 80 foot gain. Easy-.
As a whole, I did 28.85 miles with 5738 feet of elevation gain on this day. The vast majority of that came as I journeyed up East Inlet, so let's look at that by itself. This covered 22.7 miles with 4911 feet of elevation gain at up to 5.4 in difficulty. Strenuous.
*= My GPS readings.