Thursday, July 11, 2013

Castle Rock, Gable Gate, Primrose Pond, and Loomis Lake.

*A later edit...  Every time I mention "The Gable" in this post, I am actually talking about Gable Gate.  I did not know at the time that these were two separate things, and Fosters book doesn't give a goo distinction.  Gable Gate is easier and higher- it is the true high point at the end of the ridge.  The Gable is lower and more difficult (4th class).  It is not the high point at the end of the ridge.
With the typical summer weather of Colorado arriving, we're now contemplating even earlier wake up times for the high altitude days.  The trouble with this for myself being that I work on Monday evenings, and the earliest I can reasonably get to bed is 11pm.  Last week proved that the early wake ups after just a few hours of sleep don't do it for me.  
So we settled on something a little less high, but still bushwhacky and scrambly at times.  I tried to get up to Loomis Lake in March, but turned back in thick forest and waist deep snow on steep slopes.  Now it is all melted and time time has come.
Fern Falls.  Last time I was here, it was frozen.
It was quite a bit easier to get to Spruce Lake now that there was a trail the whole way.  Castle Rock on the right and Gabletop center.
There is a trail, albeit faint, that heads up along the creek running down from Loomis Lake and Primrose Pond. 
A small and scenic water fall along the way up. 
Things level out a bit, and you happen upon Primrose Pond.  The trail goes right next to it.
We had planned to first reach Loomis Lake, and then set out for Castle Rock, then The Gable, then make our way back to Primrose Pond or pick up the trail at some point between it and Spruce Lake.  But we noticed Loomis Lake was somewhat below us, so we decided to just head up to Castle Rock directly, rather than loose and regain that elevation.
Bushwhacking up the slope brought us to a ridge, with some exposure to the north.  We simply followed this ridge along until we reached the high point.  And yes, it is only class 2 despite the looks from below.
Some notable names in the summit register. According to it, we were the first two here in 2013.
And this...
Someones summit register from 1951!  Though I feel if this stays up here, it will certainly continue to degrade.  It should be taken and given to the park for preservation. 
This high point on the ridge offered some great views, here of Spruce Lake with Mt. Wuh and Steep Mountain in the background.
Looking across to the ridge that holds The Gable.  It was hard to tell exactly what the high point was, and I am pretty sure it is off camera left in this photo.
The ridge extends from Gabletop Mountain, here seen over Loomis Lake.
Stones Peak.
Back west along the ridge we'd taken.
North.
And more fun exposure.
We did see a few cairns up here, and took a different route down attempting to follow them.  Of course we lost them and just ended up descending.  It looked like we were going to end up back at Primrose Pond and then head up the The Gable before heading back down to Loomis Lake, but we decided to just contour a bit west when descending and hit the lake first.
A cool point over the lake.
Back up the ridge to Castle Rock.
I have long wanted to jump in for a swim in one of these high lakes.  I was thinking this might be the day, as there was a spot that looked deep enough for me to actually jump in.  In the end I wimped out, and just stuck my feet it.  They almost instantly went numb, but the cold water felt good.
Dan started nodding off as I took in the sights and a snapped a few more photos. 
Wildflowers next to Loomis Lake.
We were discussing ascent routes, and spied a few possibilities.  This gully was closest to us, and though it looked a little bit loose, everything did.  So we went for it. 
Up from Loomis Lake.
Well, it worked out fine.  We just spread out to avoid kicking stuff down on each other. 
Near the top of the gully, Castle Rock is hard to pick out with the background.
North to the Mummies.
Dan stops to put on gaiters for bushwhacking protection.
The way to The Gable is heavily krumholtzed, and there is no way to avoid it.  Just push through.  Much to our surprise, as we got closer we noticed three people on top.
Little Matterhorn.
We met them as they were descending the talus pile that surrounds The Gable.  They were heading on to Gabletop.  Conditions looked good for an ascent.

At The Gable, south to Joe Mills Mountain, Half Mountain, and Longs beyond.

Odessa Lake below us.  Looks alot different than the last time we were here and it was still half iced over.
We went out to a lower but wider point and ate.  Here I'm looking back at the high point and the ridge extending west.
Spectacular scenery.
The views of Fern Lake partially obscured.
We decided to take a more direct route down the slope to arrive back at Spruce Lake.  It was bushwhacky and loose, but probably no more so than going back to one of the gullies. 
We eventually made it back to Spruce Lake, had a snack, and for the second time in the day I dunked my feet in for a cool down. 
Castle Rock over Spruce Lake.
Here fishy fishy.  My feet must have smelled like a fish buffet, as several of them came around and circled right in front of us. 

Yum.
At Spruce Lake, we each put in a guess on how many people we would see on our way back to the trail head.  Dan said 50, I said 75.  We got to 60 by the time we reached The Pool, and stopped counting.  Obviously, we were both going to be under.
We got back to a now crowded parking area 8.5 hours after we left the car.  The drive back was the normal Estes Park and 36 in summer.
For an added bonus, I went mountain biking the next day and was able to obtain the summit of Button Rock mountain, giving me three peaks on the week.  Not too bad.
While shorter, this hike does entail some heavy bushwhacking, route finding, a fair amount of elevation gain, and a bit of scrambling.  Be prepared!
Castle Rock, The Gable, Primrose Pond, and Loomis Lake:
To string these all together gave us an estimated 13 miles and 3300 feet of gain for a strenuous- hike.
Primrose Pond: 5.4 miles one way, 1990 foot gain (8150-10140).  Moderate+.
Loomis Lake: 5.6 miles one way, 2070 foot gain (8150-10220).  Moderate+.
Castle Rock: 5.7 miles one way, 2490 foot gain (8150-10640+).  Second class.  Moderate+. 
The Gable: 5.8 miles one way, 2890 foot gain (8150-11040+).  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Along the way you will also pass:
Spruce Lake: 4.8 miles one way, 1510 foot gain (8150-9660).  Moderate.
Fern Lake: 3.8 miles one way, 1390 foot gain (8150-9540).  Moderate.
Fern Falls: 2.6 miles one way, 650 foot gain (8150-8800).  Moderate-.
The Pool: 1.7 miles one way, 150 foot gain (8150-8300).  Easy.
Arch Rocks: 1.2 miles one way, 70 foot gain (8150-8220).  Easy-.
For added bonus the next day:
Button Rock Mountain: 4.5ish miles one way, 1095 foot gain (7350-8445).  Moderate.

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