Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lake Powell, Mount Alice, and Pilot Mountain.

My friend and regular hiking partner Dan had Mount Alice on his list for this year.  This is such a spectacular peak and of course Wild Basin is so beautiful it didn't take much to convince me to go for a repeat.  My only condition was that we additionally attempt the "easy" way to get to Lake Powell and possibly add Pilot Mountain on the descent so I could get some photos of it.
He was game, and off we went!
We started from the Wild Basin TH at 3:50am, which set off pictures of Loch Ness Monsters in my head...
We got to Lion Lake one just before sunrise, with the nearly full moon soon to set behind the continental divide.  Already two of our days goals were quite visible.  The distinctive diamond of Mount Alice and the crumbling arm of Pilot Mountain.  Very little wind this early in the morning gave some nice reflective photos, but nothing like we'd see later. 
Sunrise and Chiefs Head Peak.
Lion Lake Two, which lies a short hike uphill from number one.
Snowbank Lake, which lies a short hike uphill from number two.  The namesake snow bank is actually pretty small at this point.
From here we went left or south to gain the ridge and continue west to Hourglass Ridge.  This is pretty mellow over tundra and talus, with a faint trail visible most of the way up. 
Sunrise casts the shadow of Pagoda Mountain onto Mount Alice.
We arrived at Hourglass Ridge proper, and snared this great view of Mount Alice in the morning sun.  It certainly looks alot different and less intimidating from this angle.
From here, we went north.  The ridge can be taken to Chiefs Head Peak, and farther even to McHenrys.  There is a finger of land that extends northwest off the ridge, and this is the way to descend to get to Lake Powell.
McHenrys Peak and Notch along with Stone Man Pass.
We finally gained sight of the lake.  I didn't realize how reflective it was when I shot this photo.  It looks like a whimsical upside down heart shape from above.
The descent is on tundra, with more and more large blocks of talus towards the bottom.  A loss of almost 1000 feet brought us here, to a place of true solitude and peace.
Reflections of things to come.
What is wrong with this picture?  Notice the rock and grass in the upper right hand corner...
Well, if you haven't figured it out, I flipped this photo.  The top part is actually the reflection in the lake.  That is how amazingly still the water was. 
Here is a second photo the right way.  It looks like a mirror was laid down below me.  Incredible!
Due to there being no trail to it, and the "easy" way requiring an 18+ mile round trip with around 5000 feet of gain, this lake is seldom visited.  But it is worth it.  We thought this lake probably sees the same number of visitors each year as Pilot Mountain, which is to say in the single digits.  
We took a nice snack break, and then made our way back up to Hourglass Ridge.
On the way back up, points west.
Now back on Hourglass Ridge, we make our way to Mount Alice.  Though it looks intimidating, the worst part is probably on the small connector between the ridge and Alice.  Things narrow, with some easy scrambling and a bit of exposure.
On the way up, we both stayed near the west ridge of the mountain to find a fun scrambly route to the top.  You could also stay more to the east for a less scrambly option.  Staying near the ridge did provide some great views!
And then we were there!  The good thing about Alice is the high point you see from the bottom is actually the top.  No false summits here.  It is hard to tell what might be the true highest point, though the western hump is cairned and holds the register, which was missing a cap and anything inside.  See also in this photo Chiefs Head, Pagoda, Longs, and Meeker.
And looking south along the divide to Wild Basin.  It was good to be back and see so many familiar places and relive so many memories.
We descended south and east from Alice, continuing to cut south as we could.  I thought this gave a unique perspective on the mountain.  The diamond looks alot different from here. 
And again, the third, seventh, first, and second highest peaks in the park.  I've now ascended them all.
On the way to Pilot Mountain.
We arrived at the top of the loose scree and talus gully I had ascended to get to this peak last year.  There is a large boulder near the top of this which blocks the way up.  This also marks the place to start out on the grassy ramps towards the peak.
Pretty mellow travel at first on wide grassy ramps.
Which narrow slightly...
And then slightly more...
Until you come to a pile of talus which you climb over, loosing some elevation on the other side.  This is where the going gets tough.  Ascend the fourth class chimney feature.
Dan going up.  Last time around, I commented that I found the transition to and from the chimney to the face on the other side the hardest part.  I'd say that held true again.
Upon arriving at the top of the chimney, you'll now have to traverse and ascend some cracks in the rock to the top.  This keeps you in third class territory. 
This summit is tiny, with room for just a few people.  Dan looked south over the edge and uttered an expletive.  It is also super exposed.
There is alot of history here.  The register was placed in 1974, before either of us was born.  Actually the year my parents married.  It has not seen many ascents in the time since.  Last year wrapped up with a whopping ten.  This year we were numbers two and three.  That is pretty incredible to think about, and why these minor peaks are places that stand out in my mind. 
We went back up the gully and traversed over to descend Mount Alice's grassy eastern slope.  This was way better than taking the gully back down from Pilot.
Pilot as seen from below.
We were able to pick a good way through the trees, and avoided any bushwhacking for the most part.  The day was heating up pretty well, and I was quite warm.  "Unless it's thundering, I am swimming in Lion Lake," I said. 
Not pictured this time, but this lake is not very deep and it was less of a swim and more of a fall backwards into thigh deep water. 
It's always hard to believe we were up there shortly ago.
Chiefs Head Peak.  We saw two other parties of two at or near Lion Lake, and very few others on the way back to the car.
I did see this bunny along the trail!
Here are some beta photos to help you along the way.  I have circled the large boulder blocking the scree gully in pink.  If you take the gully up, continue up to the right of this boulder before crossing over to the grassy ramps above it.  If you come from Alice, just consider this boulder a marker to find the right place to start.
 The boulder.
 Route on the grassy ramps, with the chimney crux circled in red.
 The boulder as seen from below.
Route as seen from below.
We made it back to the car right around 3:30pm, giving us an almost twelve hour day.  All things considered, not too bad.  I think we estimated something like 5700 total feet of gain over 19ish miles. 
All in all, a great day in the park, visiting or revisiting some very worthy destinations.  Mount Alice is fun in and of itself, but for those of you with the spirit of adventure, consider adding a visit to Pilot Mountain on the descent.  Lake Powell is breathtaking, and worthy of a visit.  Consider the effort to get there and back well worth it to have this alpine tarn all to yourself!  It was rewarding to climb Longs, but it is the destinations like these that my heart truly seeks.
Lake Powell, Mount Alice, and Pilot Mountain:
Lake Powell, 11540 feet: 9.1 miles each way, 3040 foot gain (but close to 4000 total since you ascend to around 12500 on Hourglass Ridge).  Strenuous.
Mount Alice, 13310 feet: 8.8 miles each way, 4810 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Pilot Mountain, 12200+ feet: 9.5 miles each way via Mt. Alice, 3700 foot gain.  Fourth class.  Strenuous.
Along the way you'll pass:
Lion Lake 1, 11080 feet: 6.3 miles one way, 2580 foot gain. Moderate.
Lion Lake 2, 11420 feet: 6.9 miles one way, 2920 foot gain. Moderate+.
Snowbank Lake, 11521 feet: 7.1 miles one way, 3021 foot gain. Moderate+.

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