Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Rawahs Part 2 & 3.

Back to the Rawahs, as if my arm had to be twisted at all.  My plan was to try to visit the areas farthest and most inaccessible from my house first, while the weather was still good.  And now, in wintery weather, visit the closer and easier to get to summits.
Thus I set out with a partner to do a fun loop from the Link McIntrye trailhead, near Glendevey.  To get here, take CO-14 to 103.  Turn north on road 103, and continue on this dirt road until you get to road 190, where you'll take a left at a pretty obvious intersection.  The trailhead and parking are on your left just AFTER Brown's Park Campground.  
My partner for the day: none other than peak bagging legend Alyson Kirk.  I'd have to move to keep up!
We'd start on the McIntyre trail, which was fun and in pretty decent shape.  We were both speculating that probably not many people hike here, so we didn't know what it would be like, but it was generally well maintained, though slightly wet in places.
We got to a point south of our first objective of the day, peak 10100, and headed up.  The movement was pretty easy and pleasant, with the forest being pretty open.  (Note that I only took three photos on this day.)
From there we continued north and faced a little bit of bushwhacking before reaching our next destination, peak 10148.  From there, we dropped west to Shipman Park.  
While strolling through this grassy meadow, we discussed how it was unusual that we hadn't seen any animals.  It looked like Elk or Moose would love it here.  
We also said that this was the first day it truly felt like fall, and this was on August 23rd.  Summer always goes by so quickly.  
Trees on the other side.
From here, we ascended, encountering a little more bushwhacking.  But it never got too bad, and soon enough we broke out into some more open terrain near tree line.  We hit the trail and had to back track slightly to visit peak 10620 before heading south along the Medicine Bow Trail.  This trail pretty consistently flirts with tree line, and the views just get better and better.
But the easy movement would come to an end, as we'd drop east to visit our final and highest peak of the day, 10790.
It really wasn't too bad at first, with no bushwhacking, but steep terrain.  It got flatter, but the bushwhacking increased in difficulty, though again it was never too bad.
I stopped to grab some water from McIntyre Creek before we started the final climb.  It wasn't too long before we topped out and signed in at the last register.
The long downhill back to the car was just stupid fun, fast and flowy, though we never got up to a true run.  There was one section where we got off the main trail due to some social trails, but we were back on it shortly.  We'd originally talked about doing a few other things in the area, but with a long drive back and a longer than anticipated day, we decided against that.
This was a fun loop, and a good way to visit this group of four.  The scenery is beautiful and the trails in generally good shape.  And the bushwhacking wasn't too bad really.  While not a short day, this would certainly be recommended as a fun one.
Link to hike map/gpx on Caltopo (in orange).
The Rawahs Part 2:
10100: 5.6 miles, 1653 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.
10148: 8.4 miles, 1701 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
Shipman Park, 9559 feet: 9.9 miles, 1112 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
10620: 12.5 miles, 2173 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
10790: 20.9 miles, 2343 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
As a whole, this loop covered 28.32 miles with 5902 feet of elevation gain in up to second class terrain with a fair amount of off trail but not too bushwhacky time.  Strenuous.

A few weeks later, I set out for a pretty grand loop.  Due to the length of this day, I made the decision to drive up and sleep in the car at the West Branch Trailhead (follow previous directions, and you'll pass it on your left as you head north on road 103 just AFTER Tunnel Campground).  These planned early starts are always a crap shoot.  While the idea is that I can get up at the same time as I would at home and have that much more time out there, I also never sleep as well, so things are kind of a wash.
I tried to sleep in the reclined front seat, then in the back, then in the seat again... I eventually fell asleep somewhere, as I snapped awake when my alarm went off, but I did not feel well rested.  I also took a look at the weather, and if it wasn't September with an unknown time before the first snow, I probably wouldn't have gone.  No precipitation was predicted, but the winds were gusty (40+ miles per hour), and I could hear it as soon as I woke up.  Unfortunately, this wind led to a pretty major navigational error, which really put into question my ability to finish up the goal for the year.
I got ready in the early morning darkness and started up the trail.  I had a partial GPX file in the Gaia app in my phone, and occasionally stopped to check it since I'd never been here before and was not one hundred percent familiar with the trails.
The plan was to do a nice loop, starting with peak 11330, so I kept an eye out for the Camp Lake Trail.  I would continue going the way I was for a bit after that, and then break from the trail and head northwest up the hill to visit that summit first.
The bushwhacking was okay, nothing too heinous, though it was more difficult in the darkness, as I could only see as far as my headlamp shone thus it was hard to pick the best way forward.  Some of the terrain was steep, but most of it was pretty manageable.
I was around treeline when daylight broke, and thus far on the leeward side of the peak and out of the wind, but I could hear it ripping.  Soon enough, I popped out on the summit and into the full force of the wind.  Though the area was beautiful, it was pretty miserable.  Not quite enough to knock me off my feet, but certainly enough to alter my course here and there.
From 11330, I jogged a bit while en route to the next summit of the day, Sheep Mountain.  I was able to find and follow some animal trails that made the going easier.  I decided to sidehill north of point 11787, which worked alright terrain wise and kept me out of the wind for the time being.
Looking into the future from Sheep Mountain.
This was the first time I was fully exposed to the wind, and I already knew it was going to make the day challenging.  I crossed Grassy Pass, and visited Lake 4 to refill on water.
Lake 4.
I was quite mercifully out of the wind here, and most of the climb up to North Rawah Peak.
Looking south from the climb.  What a stunning ridge!
At the summit and back in the wind.
This would be pretty fun if not for the wind.
I decided to stay down a little bit from being right on top of the ridge, this seemed to help mitigate the wind a little.  I also felt this got rid of the possibility that a really strong gust might hit me out of no where, and cause me to stumble the wrong way, resulting in a serious fall.  At least this way if that happened, I'd only stumble and have a short fall up a slope vs off a cliff.
But still, it was windy and miserable.
I'd planned to possible drop down after Rawah Pyramid, and continue on to Lewis and Clark, but the lack of sleep the night before and the conditions today cast serious doubt on this actually happening.
At this point, I made a pretty dumb navigational error.  I'll chalk it up to the wind.  I had the idea in my head that one of the peaks I intended to do, Snowbank Peak, was south of North Rawah Peak.  In reality, this one is south of South Rawah Peak.  I thought about pulling out my paper map to check "just to make sure", but I thought I was remembering things correctly, and it was so windy I didn't think I could manage a paper map, and that it would likely end up somewhere east of me.
From the "summit" of what was definitely not Snowbank Peak.
I did not find a register or cairn, which wasn't really that big of a surprise.  There was indeed a snowbank to the east of this summit as well.  It had to be it, right?
Stupid me, I never realized it until I was back at home that night logging my peaks for the day, and looked at the topo.  Uhoh. 
A flat, leeward area just past the false snowbank.
The summit of South Rawah came pretty quickly and easily, which should've been another clue that this was not a ranked peak- it just didn't have enough elevation gain.
South Rawah Peak.
Back to the north.
Looking back to South Rawah Peak.
And east from the saddle.
I started up again, keeping myself down and east of the ridge as it again looked pretty rocky and with possibility of injury.  There were some times with less wind, but I never stopped to check the map because I thought I'd visited the summit!
Looking west to 11580 and the plains beyond.  A pretty neat perspective on that one as well as Clear Lake.
Looking ahead.
That prominent, hard, peak looking thing?  Snowbank Peak.
But I stayed down and east of it, thinking I was easing the way forward.
Apparently, I didn't take any photos from the summit of Rawah Pyramid, but this unranked peak provided one of the best views of the day.  The terrain eased up a bit from there, so I continued on the east side of the ridge and descended a bit north before heading east.
South from the ridge, what beauty!
The decent was a little loose and rocky, but became better as the steepness lessened.  It was GREAT to now have that massive land mass at my back and be out of the wind.  I was able to delayer finally.  It felt pretty good to enjoy the day.
More beauty, but I would not get there on this day.
I made my way around the rocky humps between myself and Dodad Peak.  It looked like a very easy walk up from there.
Dodad Peak.
On the summit back to Rawah Pyramid.
The sharp tooth looking peak is Snowbank, argh!  South Rawah on the right.
Looking back to summits visited earlier in the day.
To past and future- Clark, Lewis, and Island Lake Peak as seen from my 500th summit in Colorado.
As I climbed up to Dodad, I kept my eyes open for the best descent route.  I spied a gully that looked like it would work well and also not have me descend all the way back to the saddle. 
Twin Crater Lakes.
The trail starts on the other side of the smaller lake.  As I descended, I noticed some haze and a smoky smell from the multitude of forest fires burning over the summer.
Always a unique perspective to be at a lake that is only a few hundred feet lower than one of the earlier summitted peaks. 
Peak 11330 as seen from the trail.
Headed down...
The trail back down was pretty fun, largely joggable with one steeper switchbacky section.  It felt like it took forever, but I was back at the trailhead less than three hours after standing on the summit of Dodad Peak. 
Well, I had initially planned for more, but I couldn't be unhappy with this day.  Except for the wind.  The wind sucked.  But what a pleasure to spend 12 hours in this place, to celebrate my 38th birthday with my 500th summit in Colorado, and still be able to get home at a reasonable hour and spend some time with my wife and pups. 
Though I was tired, I enjoyed a nice dinner at home, and was feeling pretty good until I finally took the time to log my peaks for the day.  It was only then that I discovered the identification mistake I made.  It was pretty dumb, and could've been easily avoided if I'd just stopped to look at the map.  But oh well. 
There went the nice, easy loop I'd do next week to complete the peaks in the area, as I'd definitely have to go out of the way to visit Snowbank Peak.  That would take enough time that I might not have the time to get everything else; therefore the goal of finishing up all ranked peaks in Roosevelt National Forest might not happen.
But, I suppose time passes, and time would tell.
Link to hike map/gpx on Caltopo (in blue).
The Rawahs Part 3.
11330: 5.2 miles, 2767 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Sheep Mountain, 11820 feet: 7.55 miles, 3257 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
North Rawah Peak, 12473 feet: 10.4 miles, 3910 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
South Rawah Peak, 12644 feet: 12.5 miles, 4081 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Rawah Pyramid, 12460 feet: 14.5 miles, 3897 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Dodad Peak, 12060 feet: 15.7 miles, 3497 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
As a whole, this loop covered 23.8 miles with 7388 feet of elevation gain in up to second class terrain, and is a supremely awesome way to link up these peaks.  Just don't walk by Snowbank!  Strenuous+.

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