Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ptarmigan Point and area north, Tourmaline Gorge via Flattop.

Summer weather is upon us (kind of) and the threat of afternoon thunderstorms means earlier starts, particularly when heading up above tree line.  We met up in Lyons at 5am.  I felt surprisingly good despite not getting to bed as early as I wanted to.  There's always so much to do when I get home from work Monday evening.
We arrived at Bear Lake shortly before 6.  There were a few other cars in the parking lot, and we immediately saw a few people when we hit the trail, this being why....
Early bird gets the worm with reflective photographs.
The Flattop trail is still mostly packed snow covered, and was a bit slippery in the morning cold.  My truck said 32 at Bear Lake when we started. 
Uncompromising views to the south- Glacier Gorge, Longs, Half Mountain.
Looking east we could see lower lying clouds, but it was nice and sunny up here.

Mummy Range to the north.
Hallett Peak comes into view.
Holy corniced snow Batman!  This was about the size of two houses.  It would have been neat but terrifying to see it fall.
On the divide and looking south to Ptarmigan Point.  A quick off trail jaunt brought us its summit.
While it was sunny, it was super windy.  I was expecting to be in a t-shirt most of the day, but found myself in long sleeves, outer layer, and winter gloves. 
Ptarmigan Glacier.
Next we found the summit of Knobtop, and a bite to eat.  The tundra was pleasant enough hiking despite lingering snow and ice.  We decided to head down a little bit to scope out the south-east face of Gabletop and see if we could find a way down. 
The glacier and steep snow that overlooks Tourmaline gorge.
Gabletop as seen from the divide. 
The steep cliff face proved to be quite photogenic.
We had briefly considered a glissade down this, but from this perspective we could see it was 60 to 70 degrees.
And more north.
Near the summit.
There were two blocks that looked like they could be the summit.  Here is Dan atop the westerly one, which we decided looked lower.  It was one harder move to gain the east one.
From the top we could look down the slope and found a way that seemed to avoid most of the snow to get down.
As I said, most of the snow.
Descents like this make my legs ache worse than anything else, but I also find they are always worth it.
At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us, because unfathomable.- Thoreau.
Neat cliff features on the way to Little Matterhorn.
And Little Matterhorn.
The south-east cliffs of Gabletop.
Tourmaline Gorge opening to Tourmaline Lake. 
Tourmaline Lake and The Gable. 
Back up some talus slopes.
Boulders everywhere.
Arriving at Tourmaline Lake, still mostly completely frozen.  We saw some tracks on the south side that looked like possible mountain lion.
We saw a few cairns, but generally, it was a snow bushwhack to get to Odessa Lake.
And a fun glissade!
It was a bit of work to get to Odessa Lake.  Postholing combined with bushwhacking combined with trail finding.  We were pretty sure no one had been up to Tourmaline Lake anytime recently.  At least we didn't see any foot prints. 
Joe Mills Mountain as seen over Odessa Lake.  Glad to see the lake is melting but there is still a ton of snow up there.
Looking north over Odessa Lake.
A great view looking south over the lake.
We could see intermittent trail here and there, and some footprints.  At least someone had been up to here.
The way back was a little sketchy at times, with traverses across steep snow fields.  It was funny that this stuff really freaked me out, yet I have no trouble in very exposed fourth or fifth class.
Notchtop over Lake Helene. 
Two Rivers Lake.
Notchtop stands out from both of these lakes.  Hopefully to be ascended at some point this year.
When we did it, we could barely see Joe Mills Mountain from the trail.  All we needed was a clear day. 
Mount Wuh and Steep Mountain.  I remarked to Dan, 'It's pretty cool that we have done that entire ridge."  Indeed.
We got back to the truck at Bear Lake around 2, giving us eight hours of hiking.  Not too bad, but this would certainly be easier in summer conditions.  I was surprised there weren't more people at Bear Lake, but I guess with the construction it is a bit harder to get to unless you get up early.
We headed down to Sprague Lake for some R+R and IPA.  Not bad...
I am glad summer is coming and we are able to get out for these longer days.  I suppose it is only a short amount of time before ten and twelve hours days are upon us.  And I relish these.  For now, I would still want traction devices and at least trekking poles if not an ice axe to get to Odessa Lake.  Flattop is pretty well beat in and needs no additional gear.  To go off any beaten path will require traction devices and route finding. 
Ptarmigan Point and area north, Tourmaline Gorge via Flattop:
Flattop Mountain: 4.4 miles one way, 2874 foot gain ( 9450-12324).  Moderate +.
Ptarmigan Point: 5.3 miles one way, 2913 foot gain (9450-12363).  Moderate +.
Knobtop Mountain: 6.4 miles one way, 2881 foot gain (9450-12331).  Moderate +.
Gabletop Mountain: 7.2 miles one way, 2489 foot gain (9450- 11939). Moderate +.  One classed move to gain the summit.
I have ranked these all the same basic difficulty because I feel the hardest part is gaining Flattop.  One you are there it is not very hard to stay at elevation or gain small amounts.  
Tourmaline Lake: 4.5 miles one way via Bear Lake TH, 1130 foot gain (9450-10580).  Moderate +.  Note there is alot of up and down to get here, and while it lies at the same elevation as Lake Helene, it is decidedly more difficult.
Odessa Lake: 3.9 miles one way via Bear Lake TH, 570 foot gain (9450-10020).  Moderate +.  Again, there is a lot of up and down to get here, and it is more difficult than the gain would lead you to believe. 
Lake Helene: 3.2 miles one way via Bear Lake TH, 1130 foot gain (9450-10580).  Moderate.
Two Rivers Lake: 3.1 miles one way via Bear Lake TH, 1170 foot gain (9450- 10620).  Moderate.

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