Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pierson Mountain and Area.

With a 60% chance of thunderstorms after noon, I didn't have a great weather prediction for July 18th.  Instead of looking above treeline, I decided to stay safely below and visit some of the peaks east of RMNP that are in Fosters book.  
A little research on LoJ let me know that there were also two ranked peaks in the area that weren't in her book.  I am not sure if I should add these to the list or not, as they are all located between peaks that are in her book.  But then again you could probably add 10-15 more that are located in between peaks in the Eastern Perimeter section of her book.  
I will talk about them below, but not add them to the list for now.  Just in case you want to do them while you're at it!
One of the biggest changes that has occurred since her book was published was the acquisition of some land by Larimer County Open Space.  Thus, you can now do Kruger Rock legally from the east, which makes it much, much easier to access than the ridge line bushwhack from Lion Head described in her book.  
To get here, head west on 36 from Lyons.  Take a left into Hermit Park, located shortly before 36 descends into Estes Park.  There is a six dollar day use fee (card only, no cash) which was well worth it.  There are toilets and water available within.  You can also pay more to have a campsite if you wish.
I planned to visit peak 8820 first.  This is to the north, closest to Hermit's Hollow.  I drove up, found a unused parking space, and headed uphill.  This round trip journey was a whopping .95 of a mile with 486 feet of gain.  It took me 39 minutes round trip. 

8820.  Not too many views from here.
Next I drove farther into the park, to the Kruger Rock trail parking.  I was the first car there a few minutes after 7 on a weekday.  
The start of the trail and summit in the distance.
The map supplied at the trail head indicated this was "~2 miles" one way.  It took me 42 minutes to reach the top.  
Great views from an unforested summit.  Here, I could look south to see Lion Head, Pierson Mountain, peak 9475, and House Rock, all goals for later in the day.  
Looking west over the Estes Park valley.
Through some rock to Twin Sisters and Longs.
Uncharacteristic for me, I hung out on the summit for a little while before heading down.   It took me 23 minutes to get back to the car once I left.
Next, I got back into the car and headed to Estes.  Pierson Park was my goal.  Getting to this area was a little more complicated.  From 36 you want to turn south onto Fish Creek Road.  From there, take a left onto Little Valley Drive, a dirt road.  There is a fork soon after- stay right.  Follow the road as it heads uphill and switchbacks.  Eventually, you'll reach Moss Rock Drive.  There are a few parking spaces cut in next to the road.  I took a hard left to continue on Little Valley, and found parking off the road a few hundred feet from this intersection.  At first read, Fosters book made it sound like there was a parking lot here.  There isn't, just a few spaces here and there.  With 4wd, you could continue farther up.
The other side of Kruger Rock from jeep road 119.  Originally I planned to head to Lion Head first and continue south to House Rock, but I was feeling good on the road and decided to do the opposite.
I could see the other side of Twin Sisters Peaks and Mountain from some of the clearings.
But the good times came to an end, as the jeep road was essentially bulldozed over with a turn around put in.  I went over the logs and found a thin trail.  Soon, there was nothing, but the bushwhacking was still pretty reasonable.
I came to an area hit by a landslide resulting from the 2013 floods.  There are a few in the area, most notably in the vicinity of Lumpy Ridge, and right on the other side of Twin Sisters Peaks.
Looking down this area.  It's always neat to see the destructive force of nature.
I was sidehilling in an attempt to not loose too much elevation at this point.  Eventually I got sick of the effort needed to do so and decided to just drop down a few hundred feet.  This proved to be a good strategy, as the ground was more level and movement was easier.  I came to the remnants of a campfire where someone had left a bunch of trash, and shortly after, the other side of 119.
I was happy to be back on a distinct trail, and enjoyed the easier movement.  Soon enough I found myself approaching the saddle between House Rock and Twin Sisters.  I took off through the woods and headed up.  It was a short distance to the summit.
House Rock, 9632 feet.  You could have a little scrambling if you wanted, but it was easy movement to the summit.
I could see down to Homestead Meadows, and noted some threatening looking clouds in the area. 
Looking back north to 9475 and Pierson Mountain.
I followed some cairns off the summit, but eventually lost them and just went downhill until I hit the road.  I had left a stick to mark where I got on the road from the bushwhack, and went back the same way so I could clean up the campfire I'd found.
Why do people leave trash out in the wilderness?  I don't have any idea.  This campfire was about 50 feet from the road.  Always pack out what you pack in!  And if you find someone elses mess, pick it up.  By the time the day was over, I had a bunch of wrappers, cans, and bottles with me.
I stayed down to avoid the sidehill, and traveled through pretty pleasant terrain.  I came to a clearing, and could see 9475 in front of me.  I decided to go for it from there rather than go farther up into the saddle between it and Pierson.
Looking north from the summit.
I got a pretty good view of the landslide from here.  Crazy.  I just drew a line on a satellite view- this slide ran for 2.9 miles and nearly 2500 vertical feet!
I headed southeast off the summit and into the saddle between 9475 and Pierson.  I was able to find a trail here, and took it for a few minutes before determining that it was descending too much.  From there it was simply up to my 450th named destination in and around RMNP.
The summit of Pierson is treed in, but like all of the peaks I'd visit this day that had registers, a real treat.  These lower ones bring out the whos who of Colorado Mountaineering.  As I was eating a snack, a ladybug landed on my arm.  I could only take that as a good sign, and felt that life was perfect for a brief moment in time.
I continued on to Lion Head by heading around the lower, northern summit of Pierson to the west, encountering some rocky terrain.  Back in forest, I was able to move reasonably quickly.  The weather finally changed here.  I heard a loud peal of thunder and then it started to rain.  It was coming down at a pretty good rate for awhile, but all I had to do was get out the rain jacket and keep on.
I found a pretty well put in trail between Pierson and Lion Head.  I looked for the cairned route Foster suggested in her book, but didn't find it.  Ah well.  Once again, the bushwhacking wasn't too bad at all.
I reached the summit, and looked around.  It looked like the true high point was actually a little bit south of there it is marked on the topo, and the cairn and register are here as well.  So I had a bit of searching to find it.  But I'm glad I looked around, because I saw something at the summit that I've never seen before!
It might be hard to tell, but the summit cairn was absolutely covered in ladybugs!
Thousands of them. 
And so was the register, placed by none other than Jennifer Roach.
It was pretty neat to sit and watch them milling around- apparently this has something to do with mating season.  It had stopped raining, so I sat for a bit. 
Twin Sisters from Lion Head.
I started back down to the saddle between Pierson and Lion Head.  I was hoping against hope that the trail I found there would head back down to Pierson Park.  Though the movement wasn't bad, I'd spent alot of time off trail over the day, and hoped I would have an easier way to get back.
Some young Pterospora along the way.  Note the dried out stalks from last year in the same place.
The trail I was on seemed like it was going the wrong way at first, but I had faith and stuck with it.  It eventually turned south to wrap around Pierson.  It intersected with an old jeep road, and I headed down to Pierson Park.
More Twin Sisters from Pierson Park.  The last leg of this hike took me seven hours and twenty minutes.  I guess not too bad for some trail and what felt like alot of bushwhacking.
From here, I just motored back to jeep road 119, and then headed back to the car.  Down the windy road I went.  I decided to stop by Lake Estes, since it is named as a destination in the book.  While I've driven by it plenty of times, I've never actually stopped. 
It certainly looked pretty cool in the late afternoon with clouds above.  I picked up the last of the trash here- an empty six pack of Bud Light with Lime bottles, a plastic water bottle, and two shooters of Smirnoff flavored vodka.  Keepin' it classy people!
Overall, this was a pretty fun day, and definitely a good plan for a bad weather day.  And as on my recent foray to Twin Sisters, I didn't get very high in elevation, but still racked up a over a mile of vertical gain due to all the ups and downs over the day.  Not bad at all!
As a note, I now have a GPS capable device, so I should be able to provide actual GPX files from here on out.  This was the first time I used it and I accidentally shut it off at some point, so some of the track is hand drawn.
Link to hike map on Caltopo.
Pierson Mountain and Area (distances as part of the hike unless noted):
8220: .95 mile round trip, 379 foot gain.  Second class.  Easy.
Kruger Rock, 9355 feet: 4.04 miles round trip, 927 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.
House Rock, 9632 feet: 4.7 miles, 1053 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
9475: 7.7 miles, 896 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
Pierson Mountain, 9803 feet: 8.8 miles, 1224 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
Lion Head, 9740 feet: 9.7 miles, 1161 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
As a whole, this hike covered 17.58 miles with 5759 feet of elevation gain.  Strenuous-.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Comanche Peak and Area.

Last year I looked wistfully towards the Comanche Peak area, but in the end, time ran out.  I was pretty excited about the idea of ringing the bowl of peaks above Mirror Lake, a big day above tree line.  I was not excited about the prospect of the long drive to get to the trailhead!
But the time had come.  Just the week before I'd spent some time in the Mummy Range, eventually working my way to Mirror Lake.  The view of the peaks above was exciting and enticing.  With a great weather prediction, I set out for a long day.
To get here, from east or west: get on Co 14 and head the appropriate direction to Pingree Park Road.  Turn south on Pingree Park Road (also signed as 63E).  It's about 15 miles to the trailhead from there, on a dirt road where the speed limit is 25.  You'll pass a bunch of Forest Roads- the one you want is 145 (also signed as Tom Bennett Campground), which will be on your right shortly before you reach CSU.  Turn right onto 145 and continue past the campground.  The trailhead is on your left approximately .25/mile after the campground.  All that marks it is a sign.  A road continues past the trailhead, so don't block it.  If you have 4wd and high clearance, you can continue on this road for another half a mile to a parking area with a green gate.  There isn't a toilet at the th, so if you need to go, use the one at the campground.  Please note that if you live south of Fort Collins, Google will suggest you take Buckhorn Road (44H), which is a 4wd road.  Even if you have 4wd, this way may take longer than going around.
It took me about 2.5 hours and close to 90 miles to drive from Longmont.  I don't get car sick, but all those twisty roads in the dark had left me feeling nauseous, and my plan to jog some of the flatter areas of the trail early on went out the window.
Even after the green gate, the trail was obviously once a road, and is pretty easy hiking.  Eventually it narrows, and you reach a intersection.  I went left to take the Mummy Pass Trail.
Somewhere along the way, you enter Comanche Peak Wilderness.
The trail has some steeper sections lower, but feels pretty mellow most of the way up.  It's pretty neat to hike up and see the forest thinning and trees growing lower to the ground.  
The views are pretty great the whole way up, with Stormy Peaks and others visible to the south.  As you gain altitude, views of Fall Mountain, Comanche Peak, and the Mummies to the south become more prominent.  
A rocky point (which would come into play later in the day) and Comanche Peak.
I read a trip report which suggested the best way to approach Fall Mountain may be from the south, because from the east you do need to go over the rocky point to the east of the summit.  Thus, I originally planned to continue on the Mummy Pass Trail, and follow that suggested method.  But when I got to the east of Fall Mountain, the rocky section didn't look too bad at all, and certainly appeared more favorable than loosing a few hundred feet of elevation to have a less rocky route to the top.  
Past the rocky bits, Alpine Sunflowers galore!  From here it was a short jaunt to the summit.
Fall Mountain, 12,258 feet with Comanche Peak behind.  It took me two hours and forty four minutes to get to the summit, which meant I was moving pretty well.
I left the summit after a snack and signing the register.  From here I headed northwest toward Comanche Peak.  This summit is one of those that looks impressive from below, but isn't much more than a collection of indistinct rocky high points from above.  In fact, it was pretty difficult to tell which of those was the actual summit, though LoJ says it is the farthest southwest point.    
Comanche Peak, 12,709 feet.  
Looking northeast from here to the other contenders.  I visited all three high points just in case.  
The last one, closest to the valley below, provided a great view point down into a bowl I would visit much later in the day.  Emmaline Lake is the larger body of water on the left, and Cirque Lake is the farthest away from this view point.
I could see Ramsey Peak from here, and thought of the struggle I had on that one.  It doesn't look too bad from this side!
Great views of Fairchild Mountain, Ypsilon Mountain, and Desolation Peaks.
From Comanche Peak, I headed to the Comanche Peak Wilderness Highpoint, another unspectacular pile of rock.  At 12,716 feet, this would be the highest point of the day.  
At the summit.
Looking back to Comanche Peak, with the high point to the right.  Hard to tell!
One of two registers on top.
I left this summit and headed almost directly west to the low point between it and point 12,308.  There is a thin trail here, and the going was pretty easy.
Above Mirror Lake, Mount Ikoko on the right.  
Looking toward 12308.  Once I neared the summit, I climbed one of the rocky outcrops to see where the high point was, and then headed to that.
At the summit of 12,308.  
Mount Ikoko looks pretty spectacular and imposing from below, but wasn't much of anything from this vantage point.
Summit register from the Kirks.  These always put a smile on my face.  They've suggested the name Kokomo for this peak, and I am happy to stick with that.  The only bad thing was that this got a Beach Boys song in my head!
Looking east to a great view of where I'd already been.
The tundra was nice and flat here, and I was able to move to Ikoko in a jog.  
Close to Ikoko.
Across the way.
I got to the summit fairly quickly, though I actually think the summit was the stack of rocks near the lower left corner here, not the cairn.  There was a register here, lying on the ground.  I signed in and secured it within the cairn.   
A view down to Mirror Lake.  Note the wind blown pattern on top of the lake.  I was feeling it all day.  I took the grassy/scree slope on the right just past the snow to descend to the lake, which worked fairly well. 
Descending.  A day earlier I was doing some research on these peaks, and discovered that Joe Grim had suggested a name for the higher one.  Since he is a published author and I was pretty close, I decided to visit the lake.  It was worth the short detour.
At Looking Glass Lake, 11,060 feet.  It was a short talus hop to and from the lake.
My descent route, to the left of the snow.
A parting glimpse at Mirror Lake and Mount Ikoko.  I jogged down the trail, meeting six people along the way.  I headed left to go toward Mummy Pass, and enjoyed some nice trail... for now.
Up next, I wanted to visit Flint Pass.  While I could find a few photos of it from a distance online, I couldn't find any of it from it.  I'd say very few people pass through here, as there really isn't any reason to.  There isn't any trail to it, and there isn't anything on the other side but Hague Creek. 
I left the Mummy Pass trail at an appropriate point, and simply headed up and over to descend down the the pass.

Nearing the pass.
Truly spectacular views to the west.  There aren't any trails in this drainage, and nothing named to visit, but I bet it is great.
The view to the west from the pass.  I was seeing some clouds which had me a bit worried, but they were all dissipating and not building into anything. 
From here I descended north and east to try to find Mummy Pass.
The National Geographic Topo has a GPS coordinate for Mummy Pass printed on it.  Here, my backpack marks that coordinate as close as I could get.  However, a pass is a low point between two or more high points, and the true location of Mummy Pass is slightly south and east of here...
In this marshy and willowy area.  I made my way through this area to get to the NGS point.  It's not too bad, but certainly a place you may get wet feet.  Either way, if you have hiked this trail I think you can say you have visited Mummy Pass.
Back on the trail, I headed up.  From here it was an interesting exercise to find the trail.  At times it was very well put in, sunk nearly a foot below the level of the surrounding tundra.  Other times it was nothing more than a thin line of matted down grass.  More than once it went through willows, some up to chest high.  Be prepared to do a little route finding.
The area around here is truly spectacular and wild.  Unfortunately I had yet to see a single animal.  But the scenery couldn't be better.
The south side of Fall Mountain does look easier and less rocky, though with more gain. 
Trail?  You really had to pay attention!
Looking back toward Mummy Pass.
A very well weathered sign.  The text was just barely legible.
This is a good look at the rocky point to the east of Fall Mountain.  You can see the trail is much more distinct here. 
I noted that rocky outcrop near the beginning of this page.  This is where I started descending to visit Cirque and Emmaline Lakes.  Well, I guess descending, then ascending, then descending.  
Down into the valley over rock and tundra.  Mostly stable, a few third class sections.  
Great views up to Fall Mountain from this valley.
Up the other side was ok, with a few downed trees to deal with.
From the top I could see the lakes, and worked over some looser rock toward them.  This was the most time consuming travel of the day, and after being able to move quickly for most of it, it felt like I was crawling.  
But I eventually came down a short valley to find Cirque Lake.  It was a tremendously beautiful blue color, and not very deep even in the middle.  
From above.
I was happy to see this sign and know I was on the trail again.  I headed up to Emmaline Lake.
It was windy enough here to lift some spray off the lake, but it felt good.
I ate, changed socks, and prepared for the hike back to the car.  I'd hoped this day would be in the 12 hour range, but it was now 4:30 and making back to the car in an hour seemed unlikely.  
Close to the lakes, the trail is actually steep and switchbacky.  Though there are some pretty sights right next to it.
Like this body of water with small islands of grass.
Eventually I reached Cirque Meadows.
A great view of the peaks above from here.
It seemed like it was taking forever to descend, and I was trying to jog as much as I could.  But my hip flexors got pretty sore and eventually I just went with hiking as fast as possible.  Fortunately, my hiking as fast as possible on a downhill is 3+ mph, and I got back to the car at 6:34 pm.  Now I only had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of me!  But at least it would be in light.
On the way back, I took 14 all the way into Fort Collins, and out to 25.  This was a little bit longer distance wise, but took a little less time.  It was kind of fun, since I hadn't mapped this way and didn't quite know where I was for awhile. 
What a great day this was, and one of the last big multiple destination days I have left in the park.  Ringing the peaks above Mirror Lake was the pleasure I thought it would be a while looking over last year.  Ranked or not, the peaks all have great views in every direction, the lakes are all beautiful, and the passes sublime.
This also marks the first time I've broken a marathon distance in a day hike.  It's about time!  I've gotten close on many occasions.  
Link to hike map on Caltopo.
Comanche Peak and Area (distances as part of the hike):
Fall Mountain, 12,258 feet: 6.4 miles, 3298 foot gain.  Second class+.  Strenuous-.
Comanche Peak, 12,709 feet: 8.2 miles, 3749 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Comanche Peak Wilderness Highpoint, 12,716 feet: 8.8 miles, 3756 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Kokomo, 12,308 feet: 10.7 miles, 3348 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Mount Ikoko, 12,232 feet: 11.5 miles, 3272 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Looking Glass Lake, 11,060 feet: 12.5 miles, 2100 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Mirror Lake, 11,020 feet:  12.8 miles, 2060 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Flint Pass, 11,630 feet: 16.4 miles, 2670 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Mummy Pass, 11,260 feet: 17.1 miles, 2300 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Cirque Lake, 10,940 feet: 20.8 miles, 1980 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Emmaline Lake, 11,020 feet: 20.9 miles, 2060 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Cirque Meadows, 9,780 feet: 23.3 miles, 820 foot gain.  Moderate-.
As a whole, this hike covered 26.5 miles with 6870 feet of elevation gain.  Some second class terrain is crossed, as well as some bushwhacking to reach Cirque and Emmaline Lakes (if you go that way!).  Strenuous.