Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Lumps of Lumpy Ridge Part One.

When life gives you lumps, make lumpenade?
Two weeks ago, I spent some time hiking and climbing at Lumpy Ridge.  This area of RMNP is one of the most immediately visible when dropping into Estes Park from highway 36, and contains what is one of the most recognizable and iconic rock formations in the area, the famed Twin Owls.  The Diamond of Longs Peak might be more impressive overall, but the Twin Owls are, in my opinion, more visible.
Before I even start, please note that most of the features discussed here are subject to a annual raptor closure, generally lasting from March 1st- sometime in early July.  The NPS website will have information about exactly where you can't go, and when you can't go there.  Please respect these closures.
The second thing I will mention is something I have never said before.  Having a GPS along with you would be a very good idea.  There are so many lumps and rock formations up here, and the things you'll be going for aren't always the most prominent.  Which is to say you may think that higher, more spectacular looking pinnacle is where you want to go, but in looking at that, you already walked by the thing you wanted to go for.  I will give GPS points for everything discussed on a map at the end.  Simply print it out and take it with you, and you'll have all the information you'll need.
Getting there: From Estes Park, take highway 34 towards RMNP.  Turn right on MacGregor Ave. after you've passed The Stanley.  This will take a sharp right and become Devils Gulch Road.  Lumpy Ridge Road is well signed, and on the left shortly after.  Take this to the parking area.
For here, you have a few options.  I'd suggest taking the trail west, toward the Black Canyon Trail, and the climbing destinations.  In short order, you'll reach an intersection, prompting you to turn right and take it to head toward the Twin Owls.  Take this climbers trail.  I stayed on this for quite awhile- almost the entire way to the intersection with the Gem Lake trail.
Basically, I wanted to be to the south east of my first objective of the day, the 8,540 foot Triangle Rock. 
Early morning, climbers trail.
I made my way up to Triangle Rock, using GPS to confirm I was in the correct place.  Interestingly enough, the GPS point on LoJ was (provided I was reading things correctly) slightly east and on flat ground of the formation I IDed as Triangle Rock.  I found a way up some slabby stuff on the south east side of the feature, and got a great view of the Twin Owls from the top.
Twin Owls.
Near the top of Triangle Rock.
After getting back to the ground, I started gaining elevation and moving west.  I knew the easiest ascent up Twin Owls was from the back, or the side you can't see from Estes.  The feature finally came into view, and I was rapt.  It looked like it would go!
I cut toward it, and found myself in some snow leading up to the large cracks on the backside.  Unfortunately, as I got closer things looked worse and worse for soloing this feature.  Before I left, I told Katie there was a big difference between soloing 20 feet of juggy 5.4 and 20 feet of slab of the same grade.
My shoes got wet in the snow, and my confidence in their ability to grip diminished.  If I had one of the following: climbing shoes, a partner, or a rope for descent, I might have just gone for it... but I had none of those.  So I'll have to go back another day.  It really is very close to the TH and not difficult to get to. 
Until we meet again, and I climb you.
I started heading west, toward the next most prominent outcropping.  Along the way, I stopped to look at my GPS.  It was then that I discovered I'd already gone too far north and west, and would now have to backtrack to visit Rock One.  From above, it was easy to pick out the point that I'd walked right by, and equally easy to see why I walked right by it.  
Rock Two from Rock One. 
Rock One and the view into the Estes Park valley.
I was able to reach my former high point with a few more minutes of effort.  I made my way to Rock Two.  The information I had said the easiest route up was 5.2.  I'd already decided the 5.0 Twin Owls was a no go. 
The climbing here was a bit more friendly despite the tougher grade.  
A nice view from Rock Two.  The cairn as pictured does not lie at the true high point.
A good view forward to Rock Three and Rock Four, Batman Rock (left background), and the Lumpy Ridge Highpoint, the domed and treed feature left of center in the background. 
Rock Three.
Rock Four, and getting closer to Batman Rock.
I made my way west, trying to neither gain nor loose elevation as I worked through rock and trees.  I could see Batman Rock on my left, and passed by the high point before doubling back to try to find a way.  This got a rating of 4th class on LoJ, and I found that difficulty to be somewhat lower down.  But you'll definitely find a few climbing moves before making some more solid textured granite slabs.   
Batman Rock.  
Looking back from whence I came.
Looking forward to Left Book and The Citadel.
The descent through the fourth class featured a short jump down over a crack with some exposure.  Then I was back in the trees.  While I wasn't on a trail for the vast majority of this day, the bushwhacking wasn't really too bad at all, with the forest feeling rather open.
The summit of Left Book, which was a fairly easy second class walk up.  I'd have to prepare myself though, as the next two destinations would bring a punch of difficulty. 
The Citadel, pictured dead center, was up next and listed at fourth class.  Lying directly downhill from it was the distinct shape of The Pear, a 5.0.
Since approaching these features from the north side seemed to be working well, I continued with that general philosophy while moving towards this feature.  This is the one place where I felt this was a mistake.  I ended up wallowing in some deep snow, basically getting stuck without being able to make progress, and then decided to exit onto some slabby moss covered rock.  Fortunately, everything stayed in place for this.  
Nearing the summit, which is impressively guarded by sheer faces on all sides.  I took a different way up and down, both I'd say 4th+ to low 5th class.
Summit of The Citadel.  This was a fun one!
Now, I mentioned that I felt approaching this feature from the north was a bad idea.  I'd suggest taking the long, slabby ridge up from the east.  You can see it quite well two photos above.  You might have to loose a little bit of elevation to get to a good place to get onto the ridge, but I feel this will be the best way to go.
I headed down from the summit, cutting east and south as I could.  I looked at my GPS to find I was almost directly east of The Pear, and started to head west. 
Here you can see The Pear almost all the way to the right, about midframe vertically.  While slabby on the south facing side, you can see the north side is flat and looks steep- exactly what I was looking for.
I got up into this north side saddle, and found a fun and easy juggy route to the top.
This is what the start of it looked like, but some of it is off left.  You can't see the huge drop to the right, but note the fully mature tree growing there, and how the top of it is almost level with me.  It's a long way down.
Batman Rock from the summit of The Pear.
I carefully down climbed the same route I'd taken up, and then started down in earnest.  I still wanted to visit Checkerboard Rock, but thought the easiest way to get there would be to head all the way back down to the Black Canyon trail, and take the climbers trail up from there. 
I was able to get a good view of Lumpy Ridge from below.
I hit the climbers trail to Batman/Checkerboard and started up.  Again, I had some problems determining what was what, and scrambled up to the top of an impressive looking rock below Batman.  According to my GPS, I was too far north of the LoJ point, but online research shows this may have been it?  Some of the routes I could find photos of look like they climbed this piece of rock.  So I headed down until I was at the GPS point, which was on a small dome of granite to the left of the trail.  The same online source says Checkerboard Rock is left of the trail as you head up.  So I'll call that it.  
Checkerboard Rock, a short scramble up.  This was also at the correct altitude.
This illustrates the value of using a GPS up here, I'd say.  Even after a full day of scrambling and route finding up here, I still walked right past the thing I was looking for.
I headed back down the climbers trail to join the main trail back to the parking area.  In the early morning, I was the first person there.  Now, there were 8-10 other cars, and a few people in the parking lot.
Ten new destinations in a day- not bad.  This day gave me the lead on LoJ (whatever that might be worth), and I have now climbed 177/204 peaks listed on that website, more than anyone else.  Of course, that doesn't include the Estes locals who don't use LoJ like Pomranka, Dale, Disney, and Foster.
If you like scrambling and feel comfortable moving in up to easy fifth class, this would be a good day to take on.  An added bonus is that you can visit an area that is quite busy, and likely not see much of anyone the whole day.  At least that's a plus in my mind.  Just remember your GPS!
GPS and altitude information courtesy of
The Lumps of Lumpy Ridge, Part One:
I've included all the lumps on the map above, with GPS coordinates.  Please view that for elevation and technical difficulty.  The total distance wasn't great, I'd estimate only a few miles.  But of course there is lots of up and down.  I'd suggest this day to be a moderate+ hike, mostly due to the technical difficulties.