Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lily Mountain Ridge and Twin Sisters Mountain.

With the previous two difficult outings coming in three days, I decided to head out for something a little bit easier on my last day off between jobs.  I could sleep in a little bit, and would be comfortably on solid ground the entire day.  Which is to say, no snow climbing!  
It's interesting to look at a topo sometimes.  With this look, I noticed that Lily Mountain and Twin Sisters Mountain are essentially one long ridge, albeit with a deep pass in the middle.  Which is where Lily Lake is located, and where Route 7 runs.  I had a few things to do on both sides of this ridge from Route 7, and decided to park at the lower parking on the Twin Sisters side and head toward Lily Mountain first.  
Fosters book lists the Lily Ridge Trail as a destination, so I had to do it, and this was my reasoning for approaching Lily Mountain from Lily Lake.  I could also climb a few of the technical destinations in Jurassic Park that are listed as peaks on LoJ.  Last time I'd ascended three of them, but felt it was too dangerous to continue on to the more difficult ones, as it was super windy.  
There are several pretty well put in unofficial trails that run up toward this area from the Lily Ridge Trail.  I just picked one and moved up until I reached the climbing destinations.  I was surprised to see someone had already beaten me to the rock.
A climber on Dinosaur's Foot.
I did the fun fourth class climb up the back of The Fin, and had some decent views from the top.
The Fin, 9510 feet.
Looking toward Long Wall, The Crags, and Twin Sisters Peaks from The Fin.
And the views into the Longs Peak cirque were breathtaking and inspiring.
I then headed downwards to enjoy some third class climbing on Big Ass Slab.
The top of Big Ass Slab, 9510 feet.
A short descent and more third class brought me to the top of Left Hand Rock, 9470 feet.
I turned north and was able to pick up a cairned climbers trail toward Lily Mountain, which varied in condition from pretty well put in and distinct, to barely visible.  There are a few high points you can go around before you reach the summit, but trail or not, the navigation is easy.  Just stay close to the top and you'll eventually hit the summit.  I felt the forest was pretty open, and movement wasn't too bushwhacky.  At least thus far!
Since I have covered Lily Mountain and Rams Horn Mountain before, I won't go into great detail here.  I headed down the Lily Mountain trail for a bit, and then took a left into some bushwhacky terrain when it looked like I was a little bit lower than Rams Horn Mountain.  I eventually stumbled on a trail, and was happy to have it most of the way to the top of this peak.
Without snow on the ground, I could now see that the trail continued beyond the summit of Rams Horn.  I kept on it, staying close to the ridge.
Gianttrack Mountain is a pretty tricky one to get.  While the summit lies in RMNP, it is completely ringed by private property.  As you descend north, you'll find the kind of indistinct trail becomes a really great trail that someone has obviously spent some time building and maintaining.  It looks like it gets a fair amount of horse traffic.  Up until around 630 feet until the lowest point of the saddle you are still on NPS property, and completely legal.  From the saddle it's around 680 feet until you are back on NPS property.
Thus, you need to cross about .25/mile of private property, which is not signed or fenced.  How to do so?  Use the Larimer County Land Locator, find the owners of the saddle, and ask for permission.  Or maybe miracle yourself to the top of Gianttrack and back.  Or maybe go in the middle of the week when no one is around.  I'm sure you'll figure it out.  
Gianttrack Mountain, Rams Horn visible behind.
Bushwhacking this in reverse wasn't so much fun, and I was glad to finally hit the Lily Ridge Trail again.  I decided to take a relaxing stroll around the lake.
Jurassic Park as visible from the Lake.
I got back to the car.  I took a nice break here, and thought about whether to continue on or not.  The traverse of Lily Ridge had been time consuming, but the weather looked and was predicted to be good.  I felt slightly tired, but not too bad.  I drank an entire 3L bladder of water already but had more.  Ditto for food.  I'd be able to move alot more quickly on the well defined trail to Twin Sisters.
I applied more sunscreen, refilled my water, and left anything I felt wasn't essential behind. 
As I got above treeline, I could see a blanket of clouds hovering over the front range.  Pretty cool!
The trail goes directly to Twin Sisters Peaks West, 11413 feet.  There were two other people here.  It had taken me exactly 1.5 hours to get here from the lower parking lot.  Again, take in great views of the Longs Peak area.
If it matters to you, West is not the true summit though the trail goes directly to it.  Get back to the saddle and make a fun second class scramble up to East, which is fifteen feet higher, and therefore has geographical prominence.
Twin Sisters Peaks East, 11428 feet.
East and Twin Sisters Mountain, 11384 feet.
Looking back to Lily Ridge.  It looked tiny from here.  It didn't feel tiny while traversing it.
West from East.  Click to zoom in and you can see the two people still on top.
I looked to Twin Sisters Mountain.  While not included in Fosters book, this peak does lie within RMNP.  I headed east off of East, and then worked south as I could.  This brought some second class scrambling on mostly solid talus.  
The benchmark on the top of Twin Sisters Mountain.  
Twin Sisters Peaks from Twin Sisters Mountain.
Rather than go back up and over East, I stayed down in the saddle between the two.  I don't think either route was easier, and both were fun.  I topped out into the saddle between the peaks and then started down on the trail.
Just two more things to visit!
I've been up Twin Sisters multiple times now, and had always though I'd missed a sign or trail for Lookout Springs.  I finally realized there wasn't one.  But I did write down a GPS point that should give me a pretty good chance of finding it.  After a short bushwhack, I came upon this:
This small seep was the only flowing water I could find in the general vicinity of where Lookout Springs is supposed to be.  Honestly, I expected more!
Foster also lists The Crags as a destination.  Since this is a larger indefinite area full of towers of various heights and loose rock, I decided that visiting the 10831 foot high point would count.  It was a short and easy bushwhack to the summit.
Much to my surprise, I found the first summit register of the day here, calling this "The Highest Crag".  I guess a few others had the same idea as I did!  
My visit was cut short due to mosquitoes, but this summit again held some magnificent views.  Here see Lily Lake and the climbing areas above.
The register had been in place since 2005.  The jar was broken, so I took the paper with me, hopefully to return it as soon as I can.
This was a pretty cool little summit, and it took me about thirty minutes out and back from the trail to get here.  I'd highly recommend it.
The trail down was mercifully unpopulated.  Earlier, I'd had two separate encounters with people playing music on external speakers.  This behavior annoys me to no end.  Why?
I'm sure some of you are old enough to remember the days when restaurants had smoking sections.  Of course, there was no real divider, and if you sit in a large box with a person smoking on one side, you're smoking because you are in that box as well.
It's the same sort of thing.  When you listen to music in this way, you set your environment, but everyone else now has to live in your environment too, whether they want to or not.  So please be considerate and use headphones!  I even liked the band the second person was playing.
I was able to jog some of the flatter sections of the trail and the road back to the lower parking.  I arrived back at the car almost exactly twelve hours after I left it in the morning.  Again, I drank 3L of water on this leg of the day.
What a day!  When I had the opportunity to map it, I discovered this "easier" day was actually the longest mileage wise of the three days I did this week, and had around 1000 feet more of elevation gain than the previous day.  Not bad for never going above 11428 feet!
While it was fun to do all of these peaks and points together, this could easily be broken into two days for something shorter and easier.  The parking lots for Lily Lake and Twin Sisters are directly across the street from each other and easy to get to.  If you want to avoid crowds on either, start early!
Lily Mountain Ridge and Twin Sisters Mountain (distances as part of the hike):
Lily Ridge Trail, 9120 feet: .8 miles in length, 180 foot gain.  Easy.
The Fin, 9510 feet: .65 miles, 570 foot gain.  Fourth class.  Moderate.
Big Ass Slab, 9510 feet: .7 miles, 570 foot gain.  Third class.  Moderate.
Left Hand Rock, 9470 feet: .7 miles, 530 foot gain.  Third class.  Moderate.
Lily Mountain, 9786 feet: 1.2 miles, 846 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.
Rams Horn Mountain, 9553 feet: 2.5 miles, 613 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.
Gianttrack Mountain, 9091 feet: 3.75 miles, 151 foot gain*.  Second class.  Moderate.
Twin Sisters Peaks West, 11413 feet: 11.7 miles, 2480 foot gain**.  Second class.  Moderate.
Twin Sisters Peaks East, 11428 feet: 11.85 miles, 2405 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
Twin Sisters Mountain, 11384 feet: 12.4 miles, 2451 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
Lookout Springs, 10561 feet***: 13.8 miles, 1628 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
The Highest Crag, 10831 feet: 14.2 miles, 1898 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
As a whole, this hike covered 17.14 miles with 6988 feet of elevation gain in up to fourth class terrain.  Strenuous. 
*= Obviously, this will be a bit more than 151 feet of gain when starting from Lily Lake, as you need to go up and over.
**= This figure comes from my GPS at the lower parking right off of Route 7.  There will be less gain the closer up the road you can park to the actual trailhead.  Or just use the lower parking and walk up an easy dirt road.
***= This elevation figure comes from my GPS and likely had a +/- x number of feet status when sent.  Foster says 10550 feet.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Taylor Glacier, Powell Peak, Taylor Peak, Otis Peak, Hallett Peak, and Flattop Mountain.

The last time around, I'd written about one of the more difficult glacier/snow climbs in RMNP.  But, of course, there was one more on the list: Taylor Glacier.  Gerry Roach has called this "moderate my ass glacier", and I have seen estimates in the 50-55 degree range, though 60 seems to be most commonly agreed on.  Foster says 60 degrees, AI3.  Rossiter says steep snow, AI2.  The author of this report actually measured low 60's in the higher up sections, and 68 degrees near the top.  That is steep!
Again, I did as much online research as I could, and there are actually a few trip reports out there, and they seem to range the full gamut of human experience.   
This one, which my friend Gary was a part of, is more toward the "this was an awesome life affirming experience".  In this one, a very experienced climber talks about being happy they had a rope along, which they almost didn't bring.  This one calls it "the worst mistake I've ever made", and unreassuringly, starts with a short letter the climber had written his family while clinging to rock near the top.  This one describes a fall and near fatal injury.  And this one, a sobering reminder that it could happen to any of us, and that skill is no replacement for good judgement.
I went to bed planning on about three hours of sleep, but felt nervous about the day ahead and didn't sleep well.  I was up fifteen minutes before my alarm went off, and on the way to Estes earlier than planned.  
In Lyons I had the second oddest gas getting experience of my life, right behind the time the pump didn't shut off when my tank was full and gas was going everywhere.  Fortunately, I was able to get to Estes with what I had left and fill up there, but this took twenty minutes, and negated my earlier than intended start.
But soon enough I was at Glacier Gorge, and headed up, taking the Fire Trail shortcut.  I made good time to The Loch, where I was greeted by twilight.
Early, early morning.  I love this photo.
From The Loch on, I'd face some snow, and got out the microspikes.  They certainly helped on the steeper slopes around Timberline Falls.
Getting close to the falls.
True sunrise hit right as I got to Sky Pond.  Sometimes I hate getting up early on little sleep, but then I am reminded that it is worth it to get to see the very first light of the day from somewhere special.
First sun on Cathedral Spires.  Like seeing god.
I was able to get the first good views of the goal for the day, lurking at the back of the gorge.  And from this vantage point things didn't look so bad.  It's always hard to tell with snow, as I have seen steep things be flattened out, or look steeper than they are.
I stayed on microspikes as I walked on the apron of the glacier, stuff in the 20 degree range.  But it soon became clear that things were turning up, so I stopped to change into crampons, don a helmet, and get out an ice axe and an ice tool at around 11,500 feet.
Still looked pretty okay.  I'd take the right finish as described in the TR Gary was along on, and I could not see that from here.
Two days before, I'd looked down at this option, but the snow isn't continuous to the top, and the rock looked slightly loose.
I started up the glacier, getting into a rhythm of movement and breathing.  I felt like I was moving pretty well, and my tracker shows that in the first twenty minutes of the climb, I'd taken down about 500 feet.  Not bad. 
I found a small depression to rest in and take some layers off.  I was in direct sun, and the wind I'd encountered earlier on was completely gone for now.  What a beautiful view. 
Looking to the south, you can already see how steep things were at this point.  Looks like slightly more than 45 degrees.
I continued up, and travel slowed remarkably when the snow became firm enough that I couldn't kick steps in.  I had to use the other side of my ice axe to chop in some steps, which of course took alot of time. 
I was now clearly entering the steeper sections of the climb.  I started to get jimmy leg, and made my way right to some rock for a rest.  Since I am more comfortable on rock, I stayed on this for a bit, moving up slowly but surely.
Eventually I reached a place where I could not continue up on rock, and got onto a small snow platform to examine the options.
I had stopped for a snack at the rock band right of center on the way up.  It looked pretty far below now.
I was looking at this to continue up.  I was so close!  But this stretch was super steep, and I could see a near vertical headwall at the top.  I looked at the rock across from me, but it looked too slabby and not featured enough for my tastes.  I felt a down climb would be extremely dangerous.
Looking across from this platform.  Now things looked steep!
I geared up again, and moved out onto the snow carefully and purposefully.  The good news was that it had now softened up enough to allow me to kick steps directly in, and the movement was quicker.  At this point the snow was steep enough that my knee would hit the slope in front of me when I stood up on the step I just kicked in.
I got to the headwall, which was taller than me.  I started right, but then decided to look left.  That didn't look like a viable option, so right it was.  I put the axe in around a corner, and then the tool in over the top.  I pulled in, and got the right heel up to sink the crampon in.  Yes, I found myself mantling at the top of a 1,200 foot tall snow field!  One or two more hand movements, and I was on flat ground.  I was pretty happy to be there.
I inexpertly stitched three photos together to give this complete view from the top on down. 
Another shot of the headwall and the last section of climbing.  You can see the small platform I stopped at near the lower right hand corner.
While I climbed the first 500 feet in 20 minutes, it took me about an hour and forty minutes to cover the remaining 700 feet to the top.  An hour of the was spent on the final 400 feet alone.
This climb was definitely the hardest snow climb I've done to date, and I would say right at the limit for me.  I think having better/nicer boots and crampons would have made a difference, but the only way I will ever climb this again is with a partner and protection.
I cooled off some in the wind on the continental divide.  Powell Peak wasn't too far away, and I decided to go visit it again. 
Near the summit of Powell, with McHenrys center, Longs left, and Chiefs Head right.  I had packed pretty lightly, and needed to keep moving to stay warm with the wind.  This kind of sounds like an amateur mistake, but I know what I am capable of, and how fast I can move, and often trade comfort for less weight and the ability to move quicker.  Which of course, keeps me warm.
I broke one of my hiking poles on Powell.  This peak eats them, as last year I'd broken one of my previous pair on the same peak!
Looking back to Taylor.
From here I didn't know what to do.  I could descend Andrews Glacier again, but it was now getting pretty late (relatively) and I felt like the slope below the tarn is steep enough to slide.  And I was mentally done climbing snow!  That of course, left one option- traverse back to Flattop and take the trail.  Why not.  This would be a good period of exercise above treeline, and still get me home at a reasonable time.
I could see Lake Nanita and Nokoni from here, with Ptarmigan Mountain above.  Some fun times there.
Cathedral Spires from above, with the Mummy Range visible behind, and Sky Pond, Lake of Glass, and The Loch down in the gorge.
Getting close to the summit of Taylor Peak.  The second time I would stand on it in three days.
Taylor Glacier looks steep as insert swear word of your choice here.  You cannot see the exit I took, but you can see some of the stuff I climbed at the bottom middle of the photo.
The more mellow snow slopes of Andrews Glacier and Otis Peak behind.
Otis Peak again.  The long ramp up Taylor behind. 
Since it was all cloudy two days before when I climbed it, here is the top of Chaotic Glacier.  It looks steep for sure, but not as much as Taylor.
Down Chaos Canyon.
This sign probably once said something about danger and steep snow fields.  It has worn in a pretty unique and beautiful way. 
I made it to the top of Hallett, which provided the requisite great views in every direction.  I would certainly suggest Hallett as a great more difficult moderate hike. 
To the north.  The snow has melted significantly in the two weeks since I'd last been there. 
It was slow going down Flattop.  I wasn't motivated to really try, my knees were feeling it, and there was still a fair amount of snow below treeline, though it is melting quickly.  It was pretty wet overall.  I'd like to get back up there this week, but I think I'll wait until the snow is gone completely.  It took me about two hours to descend back to the Glacier Gorge th, which seems average.  I was really looking forward to getting back to the car!
What a day!  While I can certainly look back on some days that have pushed me to the limit mentally or physically, I think this was one that really pushed skills and equipment to the limit.  I was definitely a little freaked out once I got up high and looked around to see how steep everything was.  I did the best thing I could do for me, which was to just think about the options and examine where I was.
I would suggest Taylor Glacier to be one of the most difficult non technical snow climbs in RMNP.  This was definitely a step above Dragonstooth or Chaotic Glacier.  I would suggest AI2, as that grade equates to consistent 60 degree slopes, while AI3 suggests sustained 70 degree slopes, with even steeper sections.  I feel the top few hundred feet are definitely 60+ degrees, and depending on exactly what exit you take, you will likely have a few feet of near vertical climbing, as seen on the photos from higher up.
Of course, there are other thoughts out there, and I have linked to some of those reports.  But most of these TR's seem to indicate what I feel.  This is the real deal, people have died climbing this, and you must be prepared.  Absolutely do not head out to this glacier without a helmet, two ice tools, and good crampons and boots, my weakest link.  I would really suggest bringing and using protection.  But this is one persons opinion, and we all have our own comfort levels.   Decide on yours and climb on!
Taylor Glacier, Powell Peak, Taylor Peak, Otis Peak, Hallett Peak, and Flattop Mountain (distances as part of the hike):
Taylor Glacier, 11500-12700 feet: 4 miles to apron, 3520 foot gain to top.  1,200 feet of climbing on 60+ degree snow, AI2, fourth class.  Strenuous+.*
Powell Peak, 13208 feet: 5.5 miles, 4028 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Taylor Peak, 13153 feet: 6.9 miles, 3973 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous. 
Otis Peak, 12486 feet: 8.4 miles, 3306 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Hallett Peak, 12713 feet: 9.5 miles, 3533 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Flattop Mountain, 12324 feet: 10.2 miles, 3144 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
As a whole, this hike covered approximately 14.8 miles with 5945 feet of elevation gain.  Strenuous. 
*I felt the rock I climbed was fourth class.  If you stay on snow all the way to the top, it'll be second class.  Again I will state that climbing Taylor Glacier requires special equipment and skill.  Do not attempt this climb unless you have both. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Chaotic Glacier, Otis Peak, and Taylor Peak.

I am in the middle of a week or so off between jobs, and have been enjoying some time in the mountains.  It seems as though I have inadvertently left some of the most difficult destinations in the park for last. With a fair amount of snow hanging around, I thought I'd use this time to tackle two snow climbs I have yet to do.  Unfortunately, these are both toward the steeper and harder side, and with sunrise about as early as it can possibly be, this meant a very early wake up to ensure firm snow from bottom to top.
There were some thunderstorms at the beginning of the week, but good weather predicted for the rest.  Monday night I got to bed late with my alarm set for two am.  I hadn't been able to find much on Chaotic Glacier, the snow and ice headwall that lies at the end of Chaos Canyon, home to Lake HaiyahaThis page talks about Chaos Couloir, which directly ascends Hallett Peak, but also mentions Chaotic Glacier as 60 degrees AI2.  This page talkes about skiing down it.  And this page does actually talk about climbing it, though she says 35-40 degrees and mentions it only took 15 minutes!  Foster says 50-60 degrees, AI2.  Rossiter says steep snow, AI2.  That's about all that's out there on the internet and in books that I own.
Because I could find lots of ratings but only one account of someone actually climbing it, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  There is a big difference between 35 and 60 degrees of course, but from the photos I could find, it looked closer to the latter.  Consider 35 degrees is around what you'd find on Ptarmigan Glacier, or on the easier sections of Tyndall Glacier.  It definitely looks steeper, though it's always hard to tell.
I left the car at Bear Lake shortly before four and set off.  I didn't sleep well the night before, I think due to nervousness about the day ahead.  But I felt pretty okay. 
Presunrise from the trail.  There was still some snow here and there, most notably after passing the turnoff for Dream and Emerald Lakes.
I lost the official trail as I neared Lake Haiyaha, but all I had to do was go around the lake and head up, so it was pretty easy.  Easy in the talus hopping scramble sense.  
Above Lake Haiyaha as a new day starts.
There was pretty consistent snow from the lake on up, and I generally tried to say on that.  I wore microspikes for this.  Things were firm and looking good.  Except for the lingering weather, hanging on the continental divide.  I was pretty far up the canyon before I was able to briefly see the glacier, and determine that there definitely wasn't a cornice at the top.
It's almost directly in the middle here, not that you can tell!
Some avalanche debris visible near the bottom.
I stopped at a rock before things got too steep and got geared up.  Helmet, crampons, ice axe, and just in case, an ice tool.  
The entrance to the glacier wasn't too bad, I'd say up until that rock band in the middle nothing more than moderate.  I took this photo from that band.
Here's what things looked like from that band.  Doesn't even look like 45 degrees here.
But all I had to do was look up to see that things were going to get steeper.  
From closer to the top, but still not at the steepest section.  
Looking down from there.
I definitely felt having a second tool added a sense of security, and I was able to move more confidently though the steeper stuff.
At the top.
The weather prediction was high of 49 and sunny.  Yep.  It was around 30, windy, and either gently precipitating, or blowing whatever had fallen the day before all around.  In other words, I was glad to have brought some colder weather gear, as I almost hadn't, and the day would have been pretty miserable without it.  As it was, I was right on the edge of discomfort.
Since everything was covered in a thin layer of ice, I put the microspikes back on.  From here I planned to summit Otis, and then go to Taylor before returning to and descending Andrews Glacier.  I'd already done the thing I came for, but figured some time at altitude working hard couldn't hurt.
Going up Otis.
Very close to the summit, which almost looks like being on another planet.  
At the summit of Otis Peak, 12,486 feet.
Now it was a short descent to Andrews Pass.  Since I wasn't going up and generating as much body heat, I felt a little chilly, again right on the edge of being cold.  But I was able to get below the cloudline, and while still quite windy, enjoy some sunshine and warm up a little at Andrews Pass.
This sign says something about how descending Andrews Glacier can be dangerous.  
Looks nice down there!
There is a small boulder at the pass, which was a nice wind block.  I put on the last layer I had, ate a snack, and shivered.  I wanted to go down, but Taylor Glacier was also something I intended to climb in this week, and I wanted to get a look at that.  Well, if the clouds broke.  I could not see the summit of Taylor from where I was.
Which made it look reasonably shorter.  This is one of those peaks that just doesn't seem to end.  It is less than a mile from Andrews Pass, but around 1200 feet of gain, so it takes some time. 
Sky Pond from Taylor Peak.
Taylor Peak summit cairn, June 14, 2016.
I headed down the other side for a short distance, and was able to catch a few glimpses of the Taylor Glacier through the clouds.  It was enough to tell me it looked good to go.  Well, steep and intimidating, but without a dangerous cornice at the top.
I headed back around Taylor, staying on snow almost the entire way down to the pass. 
The clouds briefly broke and I got to see Hallett for the first time this day.
Andrews Glacier was already pretty soft at ten thirty in the morning.  I had a nice glissade down some of it.  I was surprised to not see anyone at the tarn. 
But not surprised when I saw the slope below the tarn, which looks to be steeper than Andrews Glacier.
There was a fair amount of snow from here back to the trail to Sky Pond, and I lost the broken in trail.  No worries though, I just had to descend into the valley to pick up the trail.  From there, I started seeing the first people I'd see this day.  I took the Fire Trail down, but then had to take the trail back up from the Glacier Gorge intersection to Bear Lake.  I must've passed thirty people on this trail.  Bear Lake was teeming with people.  It's always strange to come back to that after being alone most of the day.
So, about that glacier.  I would say maximum of 50-60 degrees, which comes shortly before you reach the top.  To my eyes, the side to the right (north) looked slightly steeper than the side on the left.  It took me exactly 50 minutes to ascend from 11,350 feet, what I would consider the apron of the glacier, to the top at 12,040 feet, so we'll say 700 feet of climbing.  It really didn't feel too bad overall, but of course you must make sure you have the experience and equipment necessary to climb this glacier.  This would not be a good place to learn how to self arrest, and a fall could certainly result in serious injury or worse due to some of the lower rocky sections.  I found a second tool to be of great benefit while climbing.  I'd suggest late spring as a good time to go, as conditions were great and the snow coverage above Lake Haiyaha definitely made the approach alot easier.
There you have it internet world.  Some definitive information on climbing Chaotic Glacier.  Do with it as you will, have fun, and be safe out there!
Chaotic Glacier, Otis Peak, and Taylor Peak (distances as part of the loop):
Chaotic Glacier, 11,350-12,040 feet: 3.15 miles to apron, 2590 foot gain to top.  700 feet of climbing on 50-60 degree snow, AI2, second class.  Strenuous.*
Otis Peak, 12486 feet: 3.8 miles, 3036 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Taylor Peak, 13153 feet: 5.3 miles, 3703 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
As a whole, this hike covered approximately 10.6 miles with 4700 feet of elevation gain.  Strenuous.
*= Again, I will say this requires special equipment and skill.  Do not attempt this climb unless you have both.