Thursday, May 31, 2012

St. Vrain and Meadow Mountain.

It's been a little while unfortunately.  The test I had been studying for for months finally came this week, and I am happy to say that I passed and I am now a Certified Sommelier according to the Court of Master Sommeliers.  This is a huge weight off my shoulders and I am now looking forward to enjoying the Colorado summer as much as possible.
Also unfortunately, I had to make this hike twice due to weather conditions.  I went for it the first time about a month ago, and after losing the trail in heavy packed snow, headed for the most visible high point.  This of course turned out to not be Meadow Mountain.  But when I figured out where I was and needed to go, I could hear thunder from over the mountains.  I was right at tree line and decided to sit tight and see if I could figure out which way the storm was moving before continuing or heading back.
After ten minutes of waiting, it looked like it was coming directly towards me, so I hastily headed back down.  I did get snowed on a little bit, nothing too bad.  But after my experience of getting caught in a full on pouring down rain, hailing, lightning strikes right near me thunderstorm, I couldn't risk it.
A few weeks later I got up early, and with a better idea of where I was going, headed out for these two peaks.

In the beginning...
This is an interesting hike as the vast majority of your day will be spent in Roosevelt National Forest and Indian Peaks Wilderness, with only brief forays into RMNP.  The southern boundary of RMNP actually intersects both of these peaks.  To get here, take Route 7 to Allenspark.  Turn west onto business route 7.  Look for Ski Road on your right.  Turn onto it and stay on it for about a mile and a half until you reach a fork.  At this fork stay right for another half a mile or so and you will come to the trail head parking.  The road is a little rough after the fork, but I did it in a Ford Focus and your car can make it.
The trail starts out nice and easy, heading through some aspen and pine.
Some early views...
On my first attempt, I felt like I hit snow rather quickly.  At this point all I needed was gaiters though.  Two weeks ago there was significantly less snow, and I am sure alot has melted since then even.
 Storm clouds rolling in over Meadow Mountain, and time to get going.
Looking back down to the plains on my way down.
  Two weeks later I saw the moon set over the peaks to the south of Meadow Mountain. 
Again, I hit a spot where the trail just disappeared in snow.  I followed the creek up the hill, and since I now knew where I was going, I kept on in the right direction.  I decided I would summit St. Vrain Mountain first, and hit Meadow Mountain on the way back.
The first glimpses of RMNP from the saddle between the two peaks.  Mount Copeland visible.
Just a little farther in and a great view of seven peaks over 13000 feet.  From left to right- Mount Copeland, Isolation Peak, Mount Alice, Chiefs Head Peak, Pagoda Mountain, Longs Peak, Mount Meeker.
I stopped at what you might call the base of St. Vrain and put my snowshoes on.  From what I could see, it was still pretty much covered on its south and east exposures.  Going up wasn't too bad really, and the snow might have made the going easier as there was little bush to contend with or rocks to scramble up.  It is pretty steep any time of the year, gaining about 700 feet in the last .6 of a mile.
Looking into Indian Peaks Wilderness from the summit of St. Vrain Mountain.
West along the ridge connecting to Elk Tooth and Ogalalla Peak.
Panorama Indian Peaks to Longs Peak.
Close up of the massive eastern flank of Mount Copeland.
The bowl formed by Mount Alice and Chiefs Head Peak.  I spent alot of time wandering around in there last year.
Pagoda Mountain, Longs Peak, and Mount Meeker.  Dragons Egg Rock visible, and it looks like Sandbeach Lake has melted out entirely.
I headed back down, trying to glissade here and there, but the snow had gotten too soft and I was stopping myself.  However, going downhill in snowshoes over mostly packed snow is still pretty fun and slidy, and I reached the trail in no time at all.  I headed back down, and when I reached an appropriate place, I took off up Meadow Mountain.  This felt a little harder going up as the snow was melted for the most part and some scrambling was involved.
Hello down there!  The view to the east from Meadow Mountain.
Yours truly enjoying the view.
I made this cairn in the windbreak on top of Meadow Mountain.
It was easy to refind the trail once I was above it and could see where it was going.  I was actually pretty near it most of the way up.
Of course I made good time on the way back down.  I felt like I made good time on this entire hike, and though I can't remember exactly now, I feel like it took me only in the six hour range to get both of these peaks and back.
I definitely liked the view afforded of Indian Peaks Wilderness.  It might be fun to spend some time there this summer.  And the views of RMNP are great- you can see the entirety of Wild Basin laid out before your eyes.
Meadow Mountain (11632 feet) and St. Vrain Mountain (12162 feet) via St. Vrain Mountain Trailhead:
Meadow Mountain: 3.7 miles one way, 3142 foot gain.  Moderate plus due to elevation gain.
St. Vrain Mountain: 4.8 miles one way, 3672 foot gain.  Strenuous minus due to elevation gain.
Combine both for a longer strenuous minus hike.
Snowshoes or traction devices may still be desired to tackle St. Vrain Mountain.