Friday, November 22, 2013

Bighorn Mountain and Mount Tileston.

Fall of 2013 was going to be epic.  We'd already discussed a few options that would give us very long days in the park.  Milner Pass to Bear Lake was one of those ideas, and another was a variant of Mummy Kill starting and ended at Lawn Lake TH.
Of course neither of those happened due to the floods.  Mount Tileston was something we'd planned on adding to our long day in the Mummy Range, but with snow now becoming a factor, we decided to make it a destination in and of itself.
I'd already done Bighorn Mountain in tenuous conditions last year, but while we were in the area....
A windy day on the divide plus clouds along the front range equals...
A neon morning.
I'd read that both the Lawn Lake trail and Ypsilon trail had sustained some damage from the floods.  Here was the first real sign of it.
Where the trail ends.  Of course it was easy to bypass it, and there is already a little bit of a social trail developing through the forest.
We stayed on the trail past the sign for Cutbank campsite, and for a time after as it took two switchbacks up.  We then made our way east, starting up the steeper slopes of Bighorn Mountain.  This time was much easier than last, and we were soon nearing the top.
Cloud watching near the summit of Bighorn.  Soon after I saw the low clouds on the right absorb the summit of Longs
Peaks of the divide and trail ridge road.
Summit cairn in front of Fairchild, Hagues, and Mummy.
Though the day was cold, it didn't feel too bad until the wind hit you.  After a quick snack in a wind break, we set off downhill towards Tileston. 
Bighorn from Tileston.
Chiquita and Ypsilon in winter clothing. 
After summiting Tileston, we descended towards Potts Puddle.  This small body of water looks to be easily accessible from the Black Canyon Trail.  A very peaceful and off the beaten path to enjoy lunch in the summer, we now circled almost the entire way around it to find a place to eat that was out of the wind. 
Ice nine and Mummy Mountain.
Some wipsy clouds over the puddle.
I'd never been to Lawn Lake before.  Though the recent floods were bad, it is hard to imagine what things would've been like to witness the dam break and make this canyon in minutes.  This event provided the impetus to remove the dams at Pear(also), Sandbeach, and Bluebird(also) Lakes. 
At Lawn Lake, Fairchild Mountain behind.  With no trees to provide cover, the wind was absolutely ripping.
Up to the saddle.
After a few pictures, we turned back to find our footprints from mere moments ago completely obscured in places. 
As we made our way back, we came upon the tracks of someone else who had made it most of the way to the lake before turning around. 
I walked over to the creek to check out the Ypsilon trail.  Here is where the bridge used to be.  You can see the trail center left.  There were footprints on it, so at least a few people made it across.  Be very careful if you attempt this!
The canyon now looks even deeper. 
The power of water.
We made it back to the car after nine and a half hours and started on our way down. 

Due to some road work, we stopped on 36 right around Big Elk Meadows, and I was able to get this photo.
Here is a very similar before view from Google Maps.  Again, sobering to see the amount of destruction driving down 36. 
Bighorn Mountain offers a great vantage point to look into various parts of the park, most notably the Mummy Range with a unique perspective given on the Longs Peak area.  I feel that Bighorn would offer those of you looking for something off trail and a little bit more challenging a good option.  And while you're there, Tileston adds some distance but not much more difficulty.  As I've said before, it would be fun to try these peaks in summer just to get a good idea of the difficulty in better conditions.  I found Bighorn to be easier this time, while still in up to knee deep snow.  
Bighorn Mountain and Mount Tileston:
Bighorn Mountain, 11463 feet: 3.9 miles one way,  2923 foot gain.  Strenuous-.
Mount Tileston, 11254 feet: 5.8 miles one way, 2714 foot gain.  Strenuous-.
Potts Puddle, 10900 feet: 6.5 miles one way, 2360 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Lawn Lake, 10987 feet: 6.3 miles one way, 2447 foot gain.  Moderate+.

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