Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mahana Peak.

With the hiking season rapidly winding down and quite a bit still left to do on my list for this year, I had planned a long long day hiking in the park this week. I was able to leave work early and got to bed at an ok time (considering my alarm was set for 345am), but like a kid the night before Christmas, I had trouble falling and staying asleep. I woke up when my alarm went off and didn't feel rested, but got up and got ready to go...
Early morning from Thunder Lake trail.
Meeker and Longs.
Tanima Peak and Mt. Alice.
Mount Copeland. I was not happy to see snow on it already.
Wild Basin in the early morning.
First sun strikes the land. I could see frost on many of the low lying plants, and everything was glittering in the dark as I used my headlamp.
The trail splits and I stayed right to go to Bluebird Lake. Left would take you to Ouzel Lake.
I saw these deer above me. Two ran, and one kept a sharp eye on me as I passed.
The Bluebird Lake trail is steep and definitely more difficult than the trail proceeding it. I was happy that the trail had been cleaned up from the avalanche over the winter of 2011. There was a part that was hard to pass.
This area is something to remember because it looks like the lake will be right after it. But it won't. Still a little more to go.
Looking back.
The snow cave cut by Ouzel Creek had finally collapsed.
When you see this area you know you are almost there.
Bluebird Lake in the early morning.
Since I wanted to do Mahana peak, I crossed Bluebird at its outlet, and headed around. Supposedly there are cairns marking the way up to the higher lakes, but like last year I didn't see many. I should have taken a picture, but look for a large boulder with some overhung sections on the right. Head up the talus to the left of this, cutting west and north as you are able. This will take you above the granite benches on the north side of the lake and you will avoid all of the trees and most bushwhacking.
Above Bluebird Lake.
The tiny Lark Pond overlooked by Ouzel Peak.
Pipit Lake and Ouzel Peak.
Being above Pipit Lake will allow you an 'easy' ascent up into the saddle between Isolation and Mahana peaks. There is a short scramble up some talus. I made this hike up last year and it is just silly how much better shape I am in this year. Last year I remember feeling fairly like I was dying. This year I could feel a little burning in my legs and quickening of my breath and pulse, but no more.
Copeland and Ouzel as seen from the foot of Mahana Peak.
Shortly, you top the rocks and see Isolation Lake. This lake has got to be one of the highest in the park at 11980 feet, and at around 8 miles in with a 3500 foot gain, truly one of the most isolated.
Ouzel Peak as seen from Isolation Lake. A nice place to stop for a high altitude snack and great to pump water from- it'll be ice cold!
From here you head north up into the saddle. Head west to get to Isolation Peak or east for Mahana.
Looking up into the saddle.
The climb up the talus is not bad really. The time of year made it a bit trickier. There was not enough constant snow to put on crampons, but my shoes were slipping all over the place. I played it safe and stayed on rock only. There is one false summit, but the real summit is shortly after. I took a long break here.
Mount Copeland from Mahana Peak.
Ouzel Peak and Pipit Lake from Mahana.
Longs and Meeker.
Isolation Peak as seen from Mahana Peak.
North along the continental divide you can see Tanima Peak, Boulder Grand Pass, Mt. Alice, Chiefs Head Peak, Longs Peak, and Mt. Meeker.
Panorama showing five peaks over 13000 feet- Isolation, Mt. Alice, Chiefs Head, Longs, and Meeker.
Panorama from Copeland to Isolation.
Panorama from Isolation to Copeland.
Your somewhat cold friend on Mahana Peak, 12632 feet.
I had planned for a somewhat longer hike here. I was thinking of ringing the bowl of Ouzel Creek and Cony Creek atop the continental divide. But I hadn't planned on the snow! Just two weeks ago there was no snow on Copeland and the divide south of Mt. Alice was clear three weeks ago. Looking across at a fourth class descent with some snow on it did not inspire me to attempt this.
I wasn't feeling so hot either. I think the lack of sleep from the night before was getting to me. Now, if I had known before I had ascended Mahana that my day was going to end there, I probably would have done Isolation first and then Mahana. But I wasn't feeling great, and thought it would be in my best interest to start back. I decided to take Mahana ridge down east and rejoin the Bluebird Lake trail near Chickadee Pond.
The tundra hiked well. There was already intermittent snow up to two feet deep in places, in addition to snow from last year that hadn't melted. In fact I encountered a large snowfield in my way and decided, for a cheap thrill, to glissade it. The old snow was smooth sailing, but the newer, softer snow on top of it put the brakes on and I actually had to use my ice axe to propel myself forward! Ah well.
Glissading down this was not all that thrilling but it was cheap- only cost me a wet butt.
To give you some scale the snow field above is the highest and largest one pictured here, to the right and above center of the image.Sandbeach Lake as seen from Mahana Ridge.
Chickadee Pond and Ouzel Lake seen from above.
A good look at the entire forest fire area.
Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker from the ridge.
Three pictures of the same view? I thought it was about the best I got on my hike.
Back below tree line. This was in the forest fire area, and at the altitude there has been little regrowth. It was kind of creepy to walk through- like a tree graveyard. Going was easy until I started to hit the bigger trees, a large portion of which have now fallen over. This made navigating a pain. In addition the hill down to Chickadee Pond as recommended by the book is very steep. For those reasons if you would like to do Mahana Peak I would recommend the approach via Bluebird Lake as described above.
At Chickadee Pond overlooked by Copeland.
Back up from farther down.
I kept seeing these discolorations in the fire area and though it was soil erosion or something. When I got closer, I could see it was Aspen groves that are changing color.
After a long day I finally made it back to the car. This hike took me around eleven hours, but really could have been much shorter. The descending the ridge took much more time than the longer ascent. But oh well. As always a fun day in the park.
Hiking to Mahana Peak will allow you some great views of surrounding peaks, lakes, forest, and the continental divide. It seems to be a hike that not many do, but it is fun and the reward is high.
Mahana Peak(12632 feet) from Isolation Lake:
8.1 miles one way, 4132 foot gain. Easier strenuous hike due to gain and distance.
Other destinations:
Isolation Lake:
7.8 miles one way, 3480 foot gain.
Pipit Lake:
7.2 miles one way, 2920 foot gain.
Lark Pond:
7 miles one way, 2840 foot gain.
Bluebird Lake:
6.3 miles one way, 2478 foot gain.
Chickadee Pond:
4.8 miles one way, 1520 foot gain.

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