Sunday, July 10, 2016

CCY and alpine lakes in the Mummy Range.

Not that I mind, but with what I have left to do in RMNP, this year is going to bring some pretty big days to visit a lake or two.  Case in point- July third, when I set out to visit Hazeline Lake.  
Sitting at home looking at the topo, I determined I could either do a very long drive to Long Draw Reservoir and access the lake from there, or I could do a shorter drive and longer hike starting at Chapin Pass.  I chose the latter option of course!  And while I was at it, I decided to visit Mirror Lake, since I wasn't sure if it could easily be accessed from the peaks above.  And while I was at it, I've never done CCY from Chapin Pass.  And while I was at it, I could repeat Desolation Peaks and Flatiron Mountain as well.  And while I was at it, Mirror Lake and Chapin Pass don't look very close to each other on the topo.
I got up early and started in twilight at 4:39 am.  The drive up Old Fall River Road is definitely time consuming.  You don't go very far, but due to the road being dirt and switchbacky, the speed limit is 15 mph and you aren't able to exceed that much.
Treeline comes quickly since the trailhead starts so high.  The weather prediction for the day was nice but windy, and I was already feeling it.  As the sky lightened, I could see lots of clouds in the area I wanted to go.  Soon I was flirting with them, and not long after I was in them.  
I decided to break from the trail and head directly to what looked to be the summit of Mount Chapin.  I've read about others making this mistake, so let me advise you now to stay on the trail all the way up to the saddle between Chapin and Chiquita.  By the time I hit what I thought was the summit, things were completely socked in and visibility was limited to about fifty feet, with occasional glimpses farther on through breaks in the clouds.    
Somewhere up there.
It turns out I wasn't actually at the summit, which I only realized upon hitting the true summit of the mountain.  I don't know why someone built a cairn on what is not the summit.  If I had any visibility, I (hopefully) could have determined that I wasn't going the right way.
Oh well I guess, as you simply stay close to the ridge to continue on to Chiquita and you'll run into the true summit eventually.
Mount Chiquita, 13,069 feet.
It was quite windy and cold heading to Chiquita, and even with all my clothing on I was right on the edge of being too cold.  I couldn't stop, as I'd start shivering almost immediately.  My hands were definitely feeling it, as the thin gloves I brought along weren't enough.  I kept having to switch to keep one hand in a pocket.  Thus, my uphill speed suffered.  And I still couldn't see where I was going, though I was on the unofficial trail up.
Ypsilon Mountain, 13,514 feet.
I was able to sit in the windblocks built on the summit of Ypsilon to have a snack, but again started shivering and had to move on.  I could see occasional glimpses of the sun and blue skies through the clouds, and was hoping things would clear up soon.
I was relying on visual cues to find the way to Desolation Peaks.  With nothing to look at but clouds, I headed west from Ypsilon.  Finally I got low enough that I was able to see a little bit of what was around me.  I ended up going too far north at first, and then corrected too far south.  I was at the approximate elevation, but had to head back north to get to the saddle between Ypsilon and the Desolations.
A tantalizing glimpse of the Chapin Creek and Poudre River valley below.
The clouds finally broke for the day as I neared point 12718.  A great view down into the valley below!
Since I had lost so much time to the various weather factors this morning and the rock was wet, I decided to skip the third and fourth class Desolations. 
Looking back to 12718 as I started sidehilling around.
The terrain here was largely tundra with a few short stretches of talus, and I was able to move fairly quickly. 
I almost walked into a group of six Bighorn, and then lost some elevation to leave them in peace.  
I finally got to some flatter ground and relished in the sight of Alpine Sunflowers every where.  
And I was glad the clouds had broken, as I was now warming up a little bit and was able to really take in some views.  Here you can see the Chapin Creek valley to the left, and the Poudre River valley extending a green finger up from center.  Truly a magnificent place to be!
Nearing Flatiron Mountain.
At the summit of Flatiron Mountain, Poudre River Valley behind, Never Summer range to the right.  A magnificent view.
I spied a way near the summit of Flatiron to drop down into the valley below, but headed north to look at the route recommended in Fosters book.  It turned out to still be covered in some steeper snow.  A glissade would've been fun, but I didn't have a way to control my descent, so I went back up.
I hiked down over a steep, grassy hillside and entered a valley where I am sure few people have ever been.  
Partway down, looking to Hazeline Lake.  Note that you can see the bowl holding Mirror Lake in the distance.  It looked pretty far away.
I was just astounded by the natural beauty around me.  With every step, I found myself wondering if a human foot had ever fallen where mine just did.  This was truly a special place, and I felt privileged to be here and enjoy it.
I arrived at the lake in mental bliss, and sat down for a snack and some photos. 
The footprints of the inhabitants of the area in the soil at the bottom of the lake.  
One word kept coming to mind: wow.  Hazeline Lake, 11,100 feet.
Though "easier" to access from Long Draw/Corral Creek, I'd wager few have ever had the pleasure of walking down this drainage to the lake.   I'd gone about eight miles, and just thinking about how far I was from the car made me feel truly isolated.  I thought that there might not be another human being within five miles of where I was.  This feeling of isolation added to the experience for me.
But there was still some distance to go if I wanted to see Mirror Lake.  Onwards!
I found a pretty distinct animal trail leading away from the lake, and in the general northern direction I wanted to go, so I took it.  This was much better than the bushwhack I expected.  Eventually I decided I was moving too far northwestish, and left the trail to head directly north to Hague Creek.  Why the peak is called Hagues Peak, and the creek Hague Creek is beyond me.
I finally encountered the stout bushwhacking I thought I'd face higher up, and ended up in the lush and riparian valley surrounding the creek.  I wallowed through some marshy terrain to arrive at the creek. 
Another wow moment.
After two attempts at wading across, I spied a tree slightly down stream from me and used it to cross the creek.  The other side brought a steep bushwhack, with copious amounts of downed trees.  I looked at the topo and was thinking I should head a little west to pick up the trail, but decided to head more in the general direction I needed to go.  As it turns out, that was a good idea, as the trail gains elevation much closer to Corral Creek than depicted, and I would have had to climb as much to get to it anyway.
I hit the intersection with the Mirror Lake trail and headed up.  I finally saw the first person I'd seen all day, nearly eight hours after I left the trailhead.  She did not share the same enthusiasm as I did at seeing someone else! 
The valley below Mirror Lake.  The scenery was getting increasingly beautiful, and I could tell that this was going to be something special.  
It did not disappoint.  Mirror Lake, 11,020 feet.  I sat for a snack and dunked my feet in the lake.  There were a few other people around, but I was just over twelve miles from the car.  With the earlier difficulties in navigation and the time spent bushwhacking, it had taken me about eight and a half hours to get here.  But from here, it would be easier to get back, with most of the hike on well defined trail.
I sat for a few minutes at the lake, but had to get moving.  I passed a few people on the way down, and headed right at the intersection to head toward Corral Creek.  I got caught in a brief rainstorm, and talked to a pretty nice guy who was camping at Long Draw.  If you ever happen to read this, it was good to meet and talk to you.
Since I'd never hiked this section of trail before, I wasn't quite sure where to go as I neared the trailhead.  The topo looks like you head directly through the Hague Creek campsite, but there wasn't a sign indicating such.  Shortly after I crossed a bridge, and found the intersection.  I stopped to take off my rain jacket and move some snacks around.  And then I was off.
This trail is a really fun trail to hike, and you can get some pretty neat views of the peaks above- here Flatiron Mountain.  I was also really able to notice the amount of beetle kill pine in the area.  Pretty crazy.  Something is going to catch on fire eventually, and there is lots of fuel for it.
I settled into a rhythm of movement and was able to get to the intersection with Chapin Creek in an hour and twenty five minutes.  The Elk skull I found here last year was gone, which means someone probably took it.  Oh well.
I could see a thin trail on a rise in the distance and hoped there might actually be a trail through this area.  
Specimen Mountain at the end of the Poudre River Valley.
A trail so far!  I was pretty happy about that.  Trail or no trail, I resolved to keep as high a pace as I could.
Here's a sign that I'm sure not many people get to see.  This would be a pretty awesome place to camp.
Through some marsh I went, getting my feet wet and muddy again.  I did see a human footprint here and there, along with many animal foot prints.
I was trying to stay to the right side of the valley, when I noticed something in the distance looking at me.  Something big and brown.  And there was something brown and even bigger lying on the ground next to it.  Moose!
Not wanting to bother these huge and sometimes territorial animals, I turned around and waded across Chapin Creek to give them a wide berth.  They kept their eyes on me the whole time.  Then ahead of me on the left, another huge male!  I wanted to stay in a forested area just in case, but had to dash through some marsh between these two groups.  The one on the left stood up and I noticed another huge male within ten feet of him!
Fortunately, they did nothing more than watch me pass and then went back to grazing or lying down.
I'd cross the creek again and see two more on the way back to Chapin Pass.  Six Moose in a day is a record for me!  Hopefully a record I won't break for quite some time.  I kept looking all around me to make sure I wasn't nearing one. 
Near the end of the drainage.  It felt like it took forever to move through here with all the Moose and zigzagging to avoid them.  I stumbled on the trail while in the forest avoiding a Moose.  Soon enough I found myself at the intersection for Mount Chapin, and make the short downhill back to the car.
Just as on last years adventure into the Poudre River Valley, I was slightly dirty upon return to the car.  I saw a female elk on my way out. 
Over the day I had a bakers dozen of critter sightings, and visited four peaks and two lakes.  I traveled through some truly remote areas that see very few if any people, and also got to spend some time on some well traveled trails.  I experienced a full seasons worth of weather in one day.  Each step was a step closer to the ultimate goal.
Hiking down the entire Hazeline drainage was definitely a pleasure, and to me, what hiking is all about.  Getting off the beaten trail, exploring, finding that beauty of nature.  It's not just the sights, but hearing the water run, birds chip, the wind over the land and through the trees.  It's the smell of the forest as first sunlight hits, the smell of marshy decomposition, the smell of the loamy soil.  
Hazeline Lake is beautiful, and a must visit.  Access will be easier (shorter) from Corral Creek/Long Draw, but there will still be plenty of bushwhacking and a crossing of Hague Creek to contend with.  Mirror Lake would be much easier to visit from the same starting point.  What a pleasure it would be to spend a night close to it or at Chapin Creek!
Despite the weather and navigational difficulties, CCY wasn't too bad from this side.  In fact, I would highly recommend it as a good way to get above treeline and visit some peaks that normally have a spectacular view.  Flatiron Mountain is out there a bit, but there is nothing more than second class terrain to deal with, so I think it isn't too bad to get to.  Mirror Lake is definitely going to be easier to visit from the closer trailheads.  I think the guy I met said he'd do around thirteen miles round trip for the day (Fosters book says 11.6 miles rt from Corral Creek).  On the other hand, I had gone just over twelve by the time I hit the lake.  It's doable, but you definitely need some endurance and route finding skills to do it.
Link to hike map on Caltopo.
CCY and alpine lakes in the Mummy Range (distances as part of the hike):
Mount Chapin, 12454 feet: 1.9 miles, 1434 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
Mount Chiquita, 13069 feet: 3.1 miles, 2049 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Ypsilon Mountain, 13514 feet: 4.3 miles, 2494 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Flatiron Mountain, 12335 feet: 7 miles, 1315 foot gain*.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Hazeline Lake, 11100 feet: 8.1 miles, 80 foot gain*.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Mirror Lake, 11020 feet: 12.2 miles, 0 foot gain*.  Second class.  Strenuous.
As a whole, this hike covered approximately 23.1 miles with 7178 feet of elevation gain in every sort of terrain you can imagine, not exceeding second class movement.  Strenuous.
*= Of course, from where I started and the route I took, there will be a fair amount of up and down to visit these points.  
Since I have gotten a lot of search hits for CCY over the years, here are my splits:
Chapin Pass- Mount Chapin (true summit)- 4:39-5:39= 1:00 section/1:00 elapsed.
Mount Chapin- Mount Chiquita- 5:39-6:26= 0:47 section/1:47 elapsed.
Mount Chiquita- Ypsilon Mountain- 6:26-7:20= 0:54 section/2:41 elapsed.
CCY looks to be around 8 miles rt with a just under 3500 feet of elevation gain.  

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