Saturday, March 15, 2014

Flattop, Hallett, Otis, and Taylor via Bear Lake TH.

Spring isn't quite here, but the recent warmer weather has finally given me hope that we are on the back side of winter and on the way to warmer weather.  After weeks of storms in the high peaks, we finally had a clear day predicted this week, and I had to make the most of it!
Reaching these peaks via Bear Lake had been on my radar for awhile.  The best thing being that Flattop Mountain isn't steep enough to avalanche, making winter travel much safer.  This also makes Flattop quite popular for back country skiing.  
I set out from the Bear Lake TH at around 630 am.  Daylight savings time means I started in darkness, but the sun was already starting to lighten the horizon as I left the parking lot.
Here is the sign marking the trail split.  Stay left to go to Flattop or right to head to Odessa Lake.
The sun just about the break the horizon and Longs Peak catching some alpenglow.
The trail was very well packed in and delineated, though the route I followed didn't quite follow the summer trail.  As is usual, there seem to be many footprints that lead in all directions, though I found on the way up no matter which split I followed, things seemed to come back together.  I didn't even need traction devices or snowshoes on the way up!
As you gain altitude, the trail becomes less distinct, but of course you can just continually head towards the high point.  The views open up as tree line gets left behind.
Hallett Peak.  This sharp, rocky face is what you see from Bear Lake, and it looks pretty spectacular.  The true high point is nothing more than a lump of rock well behind this.
Wind blown snow sculptures.  The snow here was hard crust for the most part.  I still had my snowshoes on my back.
North to the Mummy Range.
There are a few rocky high points to the south of the trail and you can go stand on them to get this great view, looking down into Tyndall Gorge with Emerald Lake at bottom left and the summit of Hallett on the upper right.
I saw two bighorn sheep.  Quite a rare creature to sight up here, as this marks only the fourth sighting in all the time I've spent in the park.
The true summit of Hallett Peak comes into view as altitude is gained on Flattop.
I made sure to actually get to the true summit of Flattop.  Though I've been up here a few times, I don't particularly remember ever going over to it.  Much like the summit, it is a rather flat rounded boulder with a few rocks stacked on top.
Down the Tyndall Glacier.
Snowdrift Peak is definitely on the list for this year, especially with a previously aborted attempt.
Looking south from Hallett to my other goals of the day.  The slope up to Taylor was looking huge already.
Looking east along Hallett.
I descended, heading south as much as possible.  From now on, my goal was to avoid unnecessary elevation gain or loss.
Otis Peak over Chaos Canyon.  Pretty spectacular.
Otis isn't much gain above the divide.  The rocky summit came quickly.
Looking south again.  Here we can see the Sharkstooth almost dead center.
Andrews Glacier was looking like a mighty fun descent option.
From Andrews Pass, it is a little over 1000 feet of gain to the top of Taylor.  It'd been a bit since I'd been this high in elevation and I was definitely feeling it.  And of course, last time there wasn't all that much snow to contend with.
I was dragging, but made it to the top a little after 1.  Looking towards Longs Peak.
Huge cornices lie above Sky Pond.  I was trying to figure out which peak I could see in front of me (just right off center here).  It took me a bit to realize it was Mount Alice
Summit cairn on Taylor Peak.
I had originally planned to continue on to Powell, but it took me quite awhile to get here and my energy was seriously waning.  That will have to wait for another time. 
But I was already not looking forward to the bit of gain I'd have to do to get back to Flattop.
I'd been in boots only most of the way up, but now strapped on my snowshoes to make my way down.  In retrospect, those might have been a good idea to wear up Taylor as well.  But they made the travel down go fairly quickly- in the end it took me seven hours to reach the highpoint, but only four hours to descend back down.
Another view of Longs from the Flattop trail, now in the late afternoon.
Staying on the trail on the way back down proved to be somewhat of a challenge.  It had seen a fair amount of traffic over the day and I could see it pretty well, or so I thought.  But I lost it and ended up taking a more direct route down rather than the zigzagging as if I'd followed the trail.
Back at Bear Lake I saw the first four people I'd seen all day, taking in the views of Hallett over Bear Lake.  I always like days like this when you are able to see some or all of the peaks you'd not long ago been standing on from below. 
Plenty of snow this year.  This is the small NPS structure at the trail head.
It's been pretty hard to get out this winter between the weather and avalanche conditions.  It's been more difficult as I've now gotten to most of the stuff on the eastern side of the park that's accessible in winter.  But the seasons are changing.  Recent warmer weather has made it clear that we are finally on the backside of winter.  While we may still get a snowstorm or four, we can rest knowing that it should melt shortly after.  I found it almost unbelievable that the huge amounts of snow at altitude will be gone completely in just a few months.
It was great to have this weather window, and great to get back out to higher peaks.  I can't wait for this summer. 
Flattop, Hallett, Otis, and Taylor via Bear Lake TH:
Flattop Mountain, 12324 feet: 4.4 miles one way, 2874 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Hallett Peak, 12713 feet: 5.1 miles one way, 3263 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Otis Peak, 12486 feet: 6 miles one way, 3036 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Andrews Pass, 11980 feet: 6 miles one way, 2530 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Taylor Peak, 13153 feet: 7.1 miles one way, 3703 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
To string these peaks all together will give you something like 14.5ish miles round trip and 5000ish feet of gross elevation gain.   This would be strenuous in difficulty. 

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