Thursday, July 4, 2013

CYC, or CCY the hard way.

*Edit 7/3/14.  Since I keep getting search hits from people looking for 'CCY trail' or 'CCY route' I thought I should post here that the standard route from Chapin Pass will not be accessible in 2014 due to flood related damage on Old Fall River Road.  Read below for another method to obtain the summits of these peaks...
My cute dog to start you out with.
I will first start by saying this is not the hike I had planned for this day.  I had been preparing for several days, getting up earlier and earlier in hopes of getting to bed earlier the night before in preparation for a monster hike, starting at 2am from the trail head.  I had planned to gain Mummy Mountain, and then get as many peaks in the area as possible.
It seemed like a good plan on paper- I had great weather predicted, only a 10% chance of precipitation, a route with plenty of bail out options, and a fun and long day above tree line.
I got to the Lawn Lake trail head and started out a bit late.  By late, I mean 230am.  The night sky was impressive, and with no moon, things were totally black.  I was moving at or slightly above my predicted pace, covering the 3 miles or so to the Cutbank campsite in an hour.
But I was feeling bad.  In the end, I did get in bed at 7 the previous evening but endured several hours of the kind of restless sleep where you think you're actually awake.  I didn't get to real sleep until after 11.
Walking in the cone of my headlamp, I kept wondering if I was awake or asleep.  Was it possible for someone to walk while asleep?  Was I hallucinating?  Did I crash my car on the way up and was now in some torturous limbo?
I wanted to go back to sleep badly.  I felt hungry and stopped for a bite to eat, including a few chocolate covered espresso beans.  The food did little to slake my appetite, in fact it made me feel like I was going to puke.  I pushed on a little bit farther before I stopped again.  "I can't do this today".  I'd only felt this bad on two other hikes in memory- one I severely cut down but still had an ok day, another I pushed on and spent the day dragging, wishing with every step I was turning around and going home, but willing myself on.
I turned around, thinking I could make it back to the parking lot by 430, home by 530, sleep for a few hours, get up and go for a long mountain bike ride.  That was the plan anyway.
But heading back, I was really regretting it.  I wished I had just reset my alarm for three hours later and went for something shorter, like CCY.  I cursed myself for the waste of gas to get up and back for nothing.  I wanted to do something while I was up here, should do something while I was up here.  Maybe I'll get to the Ypsilon trail and see how I feel.  CCY could be fun, and would still be a challenge.
Despite the actual sunrise being shortly after 530, I got back to the Ypsilon trail around 430 and noticed a sky that was gaining some light, and I now had a sliver of moonlight.  I guess the caffeine was kicking in and I was starting to feel better.
I knew this trail gets a bit steep when compared to the Lawn Lake trail.  So I'll go on a bit and see how I feel on the steeper stuff.  I am alot closer to the trail head, and can still turn back.  Maybe sunlight will make me feel better.
Despite already doing 5 or so miles, this is where my hike started.
Sunrise was still yet to come.
Last time I was here, someone had built a snowman in this clearing.
Mount Chiquita was now my first destination of the day.  When you look at a map, the Ypsilon Lake trail essentially gains elevation on and crosses the eastern ridge of this peak.  Stay on the trail until you are almost at Chipmunk Lake.  If you've never been up this trail before, wait until the views of Chiquita through the trees become eclipsed by high points on its ridge.  Ypsilon should be visible northwest at times.
Pick a place and start to bushwhack up.  There are of course the requisite downed trees, but not too much brush in the knee height region.  Most of it is shorter and easy (relatively) to move through.
Eventually you will start to reach some clearings, and encounter something that looks like this.  
If you choose your way carefully, you can totally avoid all of the krumholtz, there are paths through the trees.  Crest the ridge where appropriate.
But remember to look around and enjoy the views- Ypsilon, Blitzen Ridge, Fairchild.
Upon cresting the ridge, you are granted this beautiful sight.  Chapin on the left, and point 12005 and Chiquita in front.  And this is actually the summit you can see.
I am guessing at this point I was around 11500 in elevation.  I could see Bighorn Mountain to the east and it looked like I was about even in height with it. 
Down to Chiquita Lake.
Donner Ridge, Blitzen Ridge, and Fairchild Mountain.
I stood on top of point 12005 and contemplated the rest of the way up.  Still 1000 feet to go over talus and tundra. 
Looking down a couloir to Chiquita Lake and Ypsilon Lake
Near the summit, I found the east ridge of this mountain quite a sight. 
Looking into the scree filled basin between it and Ypsilon wasn't so bad either.
Mount Chiquita, 13069 feet.  It was actually pretty cool with the wind.  I wore long sleeves most of the day, and threw on a vest before I continued over to Ypsilon.  While still not at 100%, I was feeling better. 
My next goal involved a loss of 300 feet and subsequent regain of 700 feet over the next mile and a third or so.  I was expecting pain on the way up.
Down one of the Y couloirs to Spectacle Lakes.  Must get there soon!
Spectacle Lakes and beyond.
Down the other Y couloir to the lakes.
Despite feeling pretty crappy, I performed well at elevation.  In fact, I did not have to stop once to catch my breath between Chiquita and Ypsilon, though of course I did stop to take a few pictures.
I was discussing this with Dan recently.  I feel that with each year of hiking, I have slowly raised the elevation where I really start to feel it.  A few years ago I would have to pause with some frequency once above 11500 or so.  Last year I reached my best at 12500+.  And now I had marched up to 13500 with out pause.  I know the terrain does play a role, as this side of Ypsilon isn't too steep (estimate of maybe 900feet/mile from the saddle).  But still.  What if I had went back to sleep for a few hours and felt alot better going up?
Desolation Peaks to the west.
Fairchild, Hagues, and Mummy to the north.  Another day.
Looking down Blitzen Ridge, Fay Lakes visible.  This was the sight of the fatal accident over the winter.
Back to Chiquita.
I sat in the windbreak on Ypsilon (13514, 5th highest in RMNP) and ate.  I was naming all the surrounding peaks and destinations, which I have now ascended many of.  I was thinking it would be fun to try this hike from Chapin Pass with my wife, and the invitation has been extended. 
Going back, I made my way down to the saddle and then contoured around Chiquita.  The going was relatively easy over tundra and mostly stable talus.  Eventually I picked up a path and followed it down to the saddle between Chiquita and Chapin.  Much to my surprise, I saw another hiker here!  He told me Old Fall River Road had opened at 9am, and he was hiking from the Chapin Pass trail head.  Probably a bit easier than the way I came.
Down the trail to more.
I started cross country, but soon picked up the trail up to Chapin.  This leads you to a wind break, which is obviously not the summit.  Look up hill behind you and see another wind break.  Head to it and a summit cairn comes into view just beyond it. 
Interestingly, there weren't any registers that I could find on any of the peaks.  Ah well.  Mount Chapin, 12454 feet.
I planned to descend the east ridge of this mountain.  I was surprised to see an obvious trail, since the book describes a arduous bushwhack down.  Well, that could still be true once I hit the trees. 
Mount Chiquita as seen from Mount Chapin.
I started to descend, and caught this view of the Longs Peak group and others.
Some cool rock features on Chapin.
Much to my chagrin, the trail did have a little bit of elevation gain at times.  It seemed like a better choice to stay on it rather than talus hop.
More cool rock features.
Approaching tree line.
Back up to Chapin.
This is where things got interesting.  As I approached treeline the trail disappeared at times, and all I could do was look for a grassed over depression on the grounds surface.  Once I broke treeline, I was absolutely astounded to find not just one well worn trail, but a multitude.  They seemed to weave in and around each other, but kept meeting back up.  I've never seen anything like it!  They were obviously not NPS trails, but maybe an old hunters trail now mainly used by animals, who made other trails around dead fall?  It was pretty interesting.
Perhaps I got a little over confident in being able to refind the trail, as I lost it!  The book also says, and I quote directly here, "Several short cliff bands must be skirted on the east."  Yesterday, this did not make any sense to me, as the ridge runs west to east.  How is it possible to stay east?
But looking at it now, I can see.  The ridge runs SEE, but a better way of saying this is to prescribe staying on the north side of the ridge.  I was on the south side and eventually got somewhat cliffed out.  Looking at going back up or finding a way down to Old Fall River Road, which I could now see, I chose the obvious solution: go down.  With careful route finding I encountered one third class move, though the going down was steep.  
I captured this waterfall on the north side of Sundance Mountain.
The cliffed south face of Chapin Ridge.
I popped out right above Chasm Falls, and braved the hordes of tourists for a quick photo.   I think I scared them.  
Chasm Falls, scared tourists.  Maybe it was my ice axe, arms scratched from bushwhacking, or perhaps the increasingly aromatic bag of poo tied to my backpack.
I had several more miles of walking back to the trail head, mostly down hill thankfully.   
I could see Chapin from the road, and noticed that right near Lawn Lake trail head I could see most of Chiquita as well.  I wish someone had asked me where I'd come from so I could point them out.  The look pretty impressive from below!
When I got home, I noticed the pattern of dirt on my legs and feet from where my socks had let some in or kept it out.  Pretty funny!
Overall, a pretty fun hike, though when CCY is done by this method, a considerable amount of difficulty is added.  For instance, the round trip distance of CCY is 8 miles or so.  This method takes 6.6 miles just to summit the first peak.  The elevation gain of CCY is a bit less than 2500 feet.  Here it's a bit less than 5000.
But if you are determined, this is a unique way to summit these peaks.  Either way, I would recommend CCY.  The views from the peaks are absolutely incredible!
CYC, or CCY the hard way:
14ish miles round trip, net elevation gain of 4974 feet, gross gain of approximately 6100 feet.  Strenuous.
Individual peaks:
Mount Chiquita:
6 miles one way, 4529 foot gain.  Strenuous-.
Ypsilon Mountain:
7.25 miles one way (ascending from Chiquita), 4974 foot gain.  Strenuous.
Mount Chapin:
4.1 miles one way (from Lawn Lake TH), 3814 foot gain.  Strenuous-.
Chasm Falls:
3.2 miles one way (from Lawn Lake TH), 520 foot gain.  Easy+. 

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