Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Lily Lake, Lily Mountain, Rams Horn Mountain, and Prospect Mountain.

It had been almost a month since I set foot in RMNP, and with warm weather predicted for the day, it seemed like a good opportunity to spend some time here last week.  Of course, with warm weather in the winter often comes wind, but I'd be pretty low- no higher than 9786 feet.
Lily Mountain was something I had been purposely avoiding, as it is a destination that seemed like a good possible point to finish up this website on.  But in the end, something else has been definitively decided on at the suggestion of my good friend Dan.  I think it will be a fitting end to this project, and crazy that after five years I can finally allow myself to think and talk about an end.
Lily Lake is easy to get to, and I arrived in darkness, hence no photographs of it from it.  Head out of Estes Park on Rt 7 and you'll find parking for the lake on your right after a few miles.  There is some additional parking on the other side of the street, at the Twin Sisters trail head.  If you are coming from below, take Rt 7 up past Allenspark, Wild Basin, and Meeker, and find the parking for Lily Lake on the left side of the road before dropping to Estes.
The parking for the Lily Mountain trail is maybe .6 of a mile more towards Estes Park.  I have a picture later to help you find it, as I drove by it twice in the darkness.  Despite that bit of additional driving, I left the car just as dawn was breaking.  Which of course provided some great photographic opportunities.   
Neon sunrise.  The air was warm, but the wind was roaring even at the low elevation. 
More sun.  So pretty and peaceful.
The trail does some undulating in the first bit, with some up and down before taking a sharp left and steadily gaining altitude.  There are several places you can get off the trail and to a few good look out points to capture a nice view of Estes below.
I decided to head over to Rams Horn Mountain first, and left the trail at around 9000 feet to contour around and north to this peak.  I've heard there is a social trail to this peak that can be easily found in summer.  I did stumble upon it, but lost it coming back, so I am not sure where it joins the Lily Mountain trail.  It is marked by cairns and some orange ribbon in the foresty sections.
Another unofficial trail that was good to find.  The snow wasn't too bad though, maybe 8 inches deep and intermittent. 
Some good views of Longs and company.
Here is where I could really start to feel and hear the wind.  I kept thinking I was hearing planes moving overhead or water rushing nearby.  Nope, just the wind. 
Lily Mountain from Rams Horn Mountain.
Rams Horn Mountain.  The true summit is the northern most prominence by just a few feet.
Twin Sisters proved a good subject to look at for most of the day.
From here, I simply followed my footsteps back south, and then took off toward the summit of Lily Mountain.  Deciding that on trail movement would be easier, I crossed the 'ridge' of Lily Mountain and contoured up and east until I hit the trail.  Then I simply stayed on that to the top.
From there, I could see several of the features comprising a climbing area called Jurassic Park.  It lies between Lily Lake and Mountain and holds some nice moderate climbs.  I wanted to check it out, so I found a descent from the summit, and headed south.  Shortly after, I stumbled upon another social trail marked by small cairns.  I followed it the best I could, and arrived at the crag in half an hour or so.
Little Fin and The Fin.  I intended to take the easiest routes up these features, but the wind had picked up, and after doing some second and third class, I decided to call it a day and head back as I was literally being blown off my feet.  That would have been a bad thing when standing on top or or climbing up any of these!
Frozen Lily Lake from above.
I headed back, again having the benefit of my own trail to follow.  The summit of Lily Mountain came quickly enough, but again it was so windy that I was blown over while squatting.
In contrast to some of the awesome old registers I've found this year, this one was filled with business cards, and the two notebooks within dated all the way back to August, 2015, and were mostly full.  The oldest register I've signed this year dated to 1975 and was less than half full.  This was a good day to do this peak and have it to myself. 
Jurassic Park from the summit.  
Twin Sisters and brooding clouds.
I ran into a few people on the way down, and made it back to the car by 1230. 
Here is the parking with the trail heading up on the left.  A good place to get a new start.
I headed into Estes with the goal of heading up Prospect Mountain.  This peak is not within the RMNP boundaries, but was included in Fosters book, so I headed for it.  She talked about gaining permission to climb the peak, but some research showed there is a public access trail that is even on the National Geographic topo.  I guess you can make your own decision there.
Head north on 7 toward Estes, and turn left on Marys Lake Road.  Make a right on Peak View Drive, and find a small parking area on the left near a horrendous green shed.  The roof of the thing is neon green and can be seen from quite a bit away!  This is shortly before Curry Drive.  The trail starts behind the shed- please be respectful of the signed private property on the way up. 
The summit?
The summit?
There were a few places that looked like possible high points.  The first photo above looked like the highest to me.  Again, I could feel the wind, and was eager to make a descent.   
The green shed.
All in, this peak took me a few minutes less than an hour to climb.
I decided to finish the drive into Estes and take 36 back down due to the higher speed limit on it.  It was nice to get home with some sunlight and time left in the day to do a few things!  A change from most of the year. 
Lily Mountain has a whole lot going for it.  The trail head is close to Estes and you don't need a pass to get in, it is short but steep enough to make it feel like you've accomplished something when you get to the top (at least I did!), and there are some great views in every direction.  I can tell why it sees so much action.  Rams Horn Mountain is a fun addition to this, just bring your navigational skills.  Heck, even dropping down to Jurassic Park might be fun even for a non climber, as the rock features are pretty cool to check out and scramble around. 
Likewise, Lily Lake is easy, accessible, and offers some great views of the surrounding area.
Prospect Mountain is fun and short, and as far as I can tell, this is a legal way to access the summit, or at least a way to do so on a early winter weekday when no one happens to be around.  I did see another person up here, so at least I wasn't the only one.  The views here are minimal since the summit is quite well treed in. 
Lily Lake, Lily Mountain, Rams Horn Mountain, and Prospect Mountain:
Lily Lake, 8927 feet: .8 mile round trip via loop trail, minimal elevation change.  Easy-.
Rams Horn Mountain, 9553 feet: 2.9 miles one way, 773 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.
Lily Mountain, 9786 feet: 1.8 miles one way, 1006 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.
Prospect Mountain, 8900 feet: ~1 mile one way, 985 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.

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