Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Mount Lady Washington Loop.

It's been a little while.  My shoulder has gone back toward better and then back toward worse.  It doesn't feel one hundred percent yet, but I think that is close.  With this in mind, great weather predicted, and calendar winter set to end in about a week and a half, I HAD to get out.
Of course, the problem is now that I have largely climbed out the east side of the park.  There are a few odds and ends here and there that I am either saving for later, or waiting for better conditions on.  In the meantime, I have been poking around on Lists of John looking for any destinations I may have missed.  And I discovered one- a small, unranked high point that Gerry Roach named Pine Ridge.  This is at the extreme northern end of the ridge that extends north east from Granite Pass, the large pile of rock that marks the intersection for the Longs Peak trail to turn up into the Boulder Field.
It seemed silly to go up just for this.  I thought it would take me no more than six hours.  As I left the house, I kept in mind the option of making a loop by adding on Mount Lady Washington.
The trail up was in pretty good shape.  I ended up taking the shorter winter trail, which basically heads straight uphill instead of switch backing.  This of course cuts some distance off, but is significantly steeper.
Soon enough I was approaching Chasm Junction and had some great views coming.  This was my first time since mid-November above treeline and I wondered how it would go.  I was feeling pretty great so I decided to go for Mount Lady Washington first, and then take the north ridge down to Granite Pass and head out to Pine Ridge.
The quality of the sights increased. 
I started up the east ridge of MLW.  Here you can see Mount Meeker, The Loft, and Ships Prow.  With mostly larger and stable talus, this route up to the summit is second class.  You pretty much go directly up the ridge, staying north of any steep stuff.  It's around 1700 feet of elevation gain and .8 mile from Chasm Junction to the summit.
Across the bowl of Jim's Grove, I got some views of the rest of the days destinations.
They are hard to pick out, so I labelled them here.
At first I thought I'd go all the way out to Pine Ridge and then back to Granite Pass to take the trail back down.  But I spied what looked like a good route heading down towards Jim's Grove. 
Here is the approximate route I took.  Nibbles?  We'll get to them later...
The summit of MLW provides some spectacular views of Longs.  Here is Lambs Slide.
And the North Face/Cables Route.
And of course the Diamond as a whole.  It is amazing how huge it looks from here.  It is truly astounding, certainly one of the best views in the whole of RMNP.
Mount Meekers' Iron Gates.  I had a quick snack.  I could not find the summit register.
Looking down the north ridge, which looks a whole lot like looking down the east ridge.  Again, larger and mostly stable talus.  I stayed to the west side to keep out of the drifted snow.  I rejoined the trail pretty close to Granite Pass, and then went around to the north side to ascend to the high point.
From here I could see out to my final goal. 
And had a good view of the peaks to the south. 
I had to marvel at the amount of snow on the mountains.  It is crazy that this will all be gone in a few months.
I've covered Battle Mountain before, but approach from the west side and then cross to the east of the high point for the easiest going.  From here just continue on to Pine Ridge.  There are two high points: it is the one on your left.
Not too amazing.
But with great views of Meeker, MLW, Longs, and Storm Peak.
I could see Twin Sisters across the way.  Note the landslide that resulted from the 2013 floods on the lower left.
These are the high points I labelled "The Nibbles" above.  I found them to be a good landmark, and since they are the only thing around, why not check them out?  All are short second class, and after a fair amount of elevation gain, provided just a small nibble.  According to my GPS, they are between 11600 and 11555 feet in elevation, and are at N 40 16.5541' W 105 35.4891', N 40 16.5425' W 105 35.4708', and N 40 16.5420' W 105 35.4545'.  Or you can just look for the three lonely high points on this ridge.
My descent plan worked out perfectly.  I stayed in the dirt/rock section for as long as possible, then passed through a short section of snow in the trees before popping out on the trail.  I took this back down.
Goodbye for now.
I have a tendency to get lost briefly up here in the winter.  I think this marked the first time I was able to find the trail easily and follow it down.  Again I took the winter short cuts, and arrived back at the car right before 2pm.
This was a fun loop, and a great way to get back into the mountains again.  Mount Lady Washington is a great peak to try as a warm up for Longs, or just for the views.  I am very much looking forward to the year ahead.  Unfortunately, I've got two plus months before Trail Ridge Road reopens.  I foresee alot of long drives in my future.
Link to Caltopo Map.
Mount Lady Washington Loop:

8.8 miles, 4026 feet gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Including (all distances as part of the loop):
Mount Lady Washington, 13281 feet: 3.5 miles via east ridge and including winter short cuts, 3881 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Granite Pass, 12120+ feet: 4.3 miles, 2720 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Battle Mountain, 12044 feet: 4.7 miles, 2644 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Pine Ridge, 11909 feet: 5.3 miles, 2509 foot gain.  Moderate+.
"The Nibbles", 11555-11600 feet: 5.9 miles, 2200ish foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.

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