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.
Anyway.
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-.

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