Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Rawahs Part 5.

Another fall week with good weather predicted, another early wake up and long drive to summit a few more peaks in the Rawahs.  Due to my earlier navigation error, I left myself with one higher summit in the group north of the Poudre, Cameron Peak.  Since that one wasn't enough for me to do that long of a drive, I also planned to visit Table Iron and Iron Mountain, on the south side of the Poudre and an extension to the part of the Never Summer Range that is in RMNP, as well as the three 10ers off of Long Draw Road.
Now it's a few months later, cold, and I'm sitting at home with a sore ankle.  6 summits in a day from four different parking areas seems like alot!
For days in which I do multiple things from different places, I'll usually plan to do either the longest drive, hardest thing, or thing I want to do the most first.  On this day, I decided that Cameron Peak was the priority, as that seemed like it might be the most difficult thing to get if it snowed soon.
I wanted to start and end from a different place just to check out the area a bit more, so I planned to start from the Blue Lake Trailhead, which is off of highway 14 not far past Road 103, taken in all previous reports on the area.
Since I imagine most of you will be starting from the east, head west on highway 14.  The Blue Lake Trailhead will be on your right, just after the sign for Long Draw Road.  It's almost exactly opposite the road in fact.  I started just before 6 am, another early wake up with a 2ish hour drive to get there.  There isn't a bathroom at this trailhead, fyi.
The trail starts out pretty mellow, with a short descent and not too steep climbing until you cross Fall Creek.  There are a few spurs, old jeep roads and the like, but none looked more obvious than the trail, so just keep on.  
Things get a bit steeper after crossing the creek, and you start to do some real gain up until Blue Lake.  I did most of that in darkness, and made it to the lake just after sunrise.  It was pretty spectacular.  
Looking down at Blue Lake and summits behind from near the saddle.
I continued around the lake, and started up once I was close to the saddle.  The week before, I'd sat at the saddle and calculated it would take me two hours up and back to the summit.  Now I was there, how long would it actually take?
The terrain was ok, right at treeline.  I was generally able to avoid it, but did have to bushwhack short sections to continue toward the summit.  Once I got past the trees, I just continued up until I popped out on the summit ridge, just to the north of the summit.  A quick jog, and I was there.
I've found a bunch of his registers this year, thank you Roger.
 Looking to the peaks to the south of the range.
And to the north; note the snow that wasn't present the week before.  Guess I got there just in time.
I jogged back down the hill to the saddle, slipping and falling backwards to put a hole in my new jacket.  Argh! 
Blue Lake from above.  It took me 1:11 to get saddle to the summit and back.  I should've just went for it the week before.
Looking back to the saddle.
The Rawahs and Roosevelt National Forest.
While I did run some of the trail down, I wasn't feeling too motivated and fast hiked most of it.  I got back to the car without seeing another person on the trail.  It took me just over 4.5 hours to do this section.  I got into the car and started out for leg two.
I continued west for a few more miles along highway 14, and parked at the Cameron Pass Trailhead/parking area.  I got empty wrappers traded out for new snacks, and filled up my water.  My plan to visit Table Iron and Iron was pretty simple, just cross the road, head uphill until treeline was broken, and then head toward the summits.  Turn around at Iron Mountain and go back.  Pretty easy.  Hopefully.
The uphill was pretty intense at first, lots of deadfall and so forth, but thankfully movement got a bit easier as I gained altitude, and I popped out of the trees and on to tundra about 40 minutes after I left the car.
The views started, and didn't stop.
Towards Nokhu Crags.
And looking back the way I'd come shortly after.  South and North Diamond Peaks are the prominent points on the ridge behind and are accessible from the same place I started.  
I reached Table Iron pretty reasonably.  The summit is rather flat and broad.
At Table Iron looking toward Iron.
I was able to make great time here as the going was generally pretty easy between the two. 
As I got closer to Iron things looked a little more imposing, and I wondered if there might be some scrambling on crumbly rock in my future.
One of several outlooks providing great views of the Never Summers. 
Looking back to Table Iron and the Rawahs.
There was a little bit of loose rock here and there, but nothing too bad, and no scrambling was needed to reach the summit.
Off the summit behind a wind block and the views were great!
I thought about the way to go here.  I could go back the way I came, but Michigan Ditch Road looked so close below me. 
Looking northeast to Trap Park.
I got to the saddle between Iron and Table Iron, and it was decision time.  A fateful place, I decided that heading down to the road looked reasonable, and I could jog back from there.
Within a few hundred feet, it became obvious this was perhaps not the best way to go, as the terrain was very steep, and loose in places.  Fortunately, that didn't last too long and I was soon into trees and more manageable terrain.  There was little if any bushwhacking; I was generally able to pick a pretty clear route down.  I did encounter and briefly follow at least one very old road, I presume a logging remnant.
I hit the Michigan Ditch soon enough, and was able to find a shallow and narrow place to jump across.  My plan to run the road back was hindered by a lack of motivation to actually run, so I did the best I could to keep the pace high.
Along the Michigan Ditch.
I got back to the parking at 2:29 PM, the day still young.  Or young enough for me.
I started back along 14 east, and then turned onto Long Draw Road, almost exactly opposite the earlier trailhead visited for Blue Lake.  I followed this and eyed up the parking possibilities in the area of Trap Lake for my drive back, then continued on Long Draw Road by turning right after Trap Lake.
My goal was peaks 10980 and 10736, on opposite sides of the road.  I'd looked at the satellite photos before hand on Google, and found a few likely places to park.  I ended up at a pullout at 40.538413, -105.794820, on the east side of the road.
From there, I headed east, initially gaining some scrambly elevation.  Movement was generally easy, and the forest pretty open once past the initial gain.  I passed though a few grassy meadows before reaching the summit.  
Not often signed into register.
From the summit, I headed south and then west, enjoying more of those meadows before following a drainage back down to the road.
From there, I looked west to 10736.  While there was less than 500 feet of gain to get to the summit, it was steep, with that gain coming in half a mile.  There were a few steep rock faces that came down to the road, so I had to find a weakness before starting up.
Fortunately, the forest was once again open with minimal deadfall, and the summit came fairly quickly.
From there, I headed back east to the road, trying to stay north of the route I took up and to finish closer to the car.  I encountered a few of those steeper rock faces, but was able to find a way around them easily enough, and popped out on the road just south of my car.
This trip took 2 hours, and it was now 5 PM.  Still early enough!
I drove back north on Long Draw Road, and turned left at the intersection mentioned before.  I decided to park in a pull out at 40.559076, -105.816106 on the south side of the road overlooking Trap Lake.  This was almost south of 10472, and it looked like the path of least resistance to the summit.
It wasn't at first, with lots of dead fall.  But soon enough, things cleared up.  I again followed the path of least resistance, trending north while going around anything that looked too difficult.
The summit of 10472.
I had a fun run back down to the car from here, making the round trip in 50 minutes.  There were a few people at another vehicle there, and we exchanged a friendly hello as I got my stuff off and got ready to go.  It was getting cooler with the time of day, but of course with the effort I was still in shorts and a tshirt, while they were in light puffy jackets and pants. 
This round trip took about 50 minutes, and I was back at the car just after 6.  It was around two hours home from here, and nice to make some of the drive in daylight. 
This day finally dispelled some of my anxiety about not completing a goal for the year.  With Cameron Peak, Iron Mountain, and Table Iron, I'd now completed all of the alpine peaks in Roosevelt National Forest.  If it snowed, the remainder MIGHT be a little more difficult, but at least almost everything left was closeish to a trailhead and reasonably accessible. 
All in, another great day in a beautiful area.
Link to hike maps/GPX on Caltopo (in light blue).
The Rawahs part 5.
Cameron Peak, 12127 feet: 14.15 miles, 3523 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Table Iron, 12060 feet: 2.1 miles, 1784 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Iron Mountain, 12265 feet: 3.1 miles, 1989 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
10980: 1.2 miles, 714 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.
10736: 2.8 miles (as part of hike), 470 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.
10472: .8 miles, 483 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate-.
In total, the four legs of this day covered 25.62 miles with 8027 feet of elevation gain.  Strenuous.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Rawahs Part 4.

As detailed in the previous post, I made a pretty dumb navigational/identification mistake and got pretty close to but did not summit Snowbank Peak in the Rawahs.  Hopefully I won't make a mistake like that again, or at least for awhile!
I set out the next week to correct that error-it would've been a pretty mellow day otherwise.  Well, relatively speaking.  But having to kick back north added about 7 miles and 1000 feet of elevation gain to the day.  
Then again, the area is awesome, and I was looking forward to the day ahead.  Like the previous week, the weather didn't look so great in the sense that a storm had come through the previous night, and it was predicted to be super windy again-if it weren't late September, I probably wouldn't have gone due to that.  But it was late September, and I REALLY wanted to get these ones done this year.  Not going now risked the chance of snowfall, which would make these peaks more difficult and maybe impossible to access.
I headed up, sleeping at home this time and getting up at dark o'clock to make the long drive- nearly two hours from my house, and I started from the trailhead at 5:30 am.  Follow the same directions provided last time, taking road 103 north from CO 14.  Park and start from the West Branch Trailhead, on your left shortly after Tunnel Campground.
Since it was dark and I was covering ground both down in a valley and which I'd covered before, I didn't take any photos for the first few hours.  I'd stay on the West Branch Trail until I reached the Rawah Trail, and then take that toward Twin Crater Lakes until I found an appropriate looking place to cut off towards Snowbank Peak.
I used a technique I'd used several times this year to lighten my load a bit, starting with minimal water and a filter, so I could carry less weight initially and fill up at a source before heading up to the peaks above.
I stopped at the creek exiting the lakes, and filled up.  I saw and waved to two people who were camping in the area, the only two I'd see for most of the day.  I started up, at first following a route I'd mapped as it looked like access might be a little tricky.  I didn't follow that completely in the end, and the way I went looked (via the satellite images at least) to cover more grassy/tundra terrain instead of the rocky and possibly loose stuff I'd planned to ascend.
I reached the summit shortly before 9, entering the clouds.
Rockhole Lake.
The summit of Snowbank Peak, finally.
Though I still felt like an idiot for walking by it the week before.
I continued south to Rawah Pyramid.
Looking into my still socked in future. 
And more...
Out to Dodad Peak from the descent of Rawah Pyramid.
I stayed on the south ridge from Rawah Pyramid for a bit longer this time, hoping this might lead me to a better way down, since I would be generally trending south from here.  The descent seemed a bit more stable, but no major difference.
Clouds kind of clearing...
I was able to get up to a jog here in places, passing Carey and Island Lakes before hitting the talusy terminus of the east side of Mount Ashley.  This looked like it would be one of the most difficult sections to get though, with rock of unknown size, quality, and stability.  But it really wasn't too bad, with a small loose section here and there.
The small lake after the rocky section provided a nice leeward respite, and I stopped to refill my water.  The area around the small body of water south of that was slightly marshy and muddy, and proved a challenge to cross while keeping my feet dry.  Some animal trails helped me through the brushy small growth here, and soon enough I was climbing yet again, on my way to Lewis Peak.
Finally in some sun looking back.
I sat here for what felt like a long time.  It was warm in the sun and I was mostly out of the wind.  I wanted to stay there forever!  But of course those peaks weren't going to climb themselves.
As I gained altitude, I tried to find a way to optimize the route to avoid any rock but also keep out of the wind.  That was interesting. 
Looking south from the summit. 
And back to the north.
I descended towards Clark Peak, taking the path of least resistance, which put me full in the wind most of the way, though I was eventually able to cross a small rock rib.  This made the movement more difficult, but at least I wasn't in the wind!
To Cameron Peak from near the summit of Clark Peak.
After visiting the summit, I headed east just a bit and found a nice sunny spot out of the wind.  I was cold, right on the edge and also wearing every piece of clothing I'd brought for the day.  I felt tired after the early wake up, and was not super enthused on the idea of continuing on.  In fact, that east ridge towards Cameron was looking quite appealing.  I could take that to descend to the pass, hit Cameron, and call it a day.  I even decided to do exactly that.
But I sat a bit more and looked at the map.  If I didn't do peak 12386 today, it didn't look like there was any easy way to get to it by itself.  It looked like the Mongomery Pass trail would be an option, though not a short effort for one thing.  Sawmill Creek was another possibility, and the most direct, but it looked like that ended in the trees well east of the summit.  More bushwhacking for one thing.
I came to the conclusion that the easiest approach was from right where I was at- maybe twoish rolling miles stood between me and 12386.  I could stay down east of the ridge as much as possible to avoid the wind, and my mood had improved dramatically as I warmed up in the sun and had a snack.
I'd already messaged my wife that I was turning around, now I messaged her back to say I was just kidding and was going for it.  As it's something I like to do for motivation, I set a goal of one hour to get to 12386.
Looking south.
I let the wind carry me at times, and fought it at times, but I also warmed up with the lower altitudes ahead.  Along the way I passed a large cairn on the summit of unranked Pipit Peak, stopping briefly.
At the base of 12386 from the north- aim between the two humps visible at the top, the true summit is beyond those.
The final climb went quickly, though the wind was inescapable.
Looking back to Lewis and Clark.
This small summit had been visited more than I expected for a random not easy to access 12er.  Besides the usual suspects, a number of people with Gnar Runners in Fort Collins had signed in, coming over from Montgomery Pass.
Along the way to this summit, I was constantly checking out the terrain to my east.  I'd originally planned to climb back north along the ridge from 12386 towards Clark Peak, and drop into the drainage where Fall River starts.  This would also put me north of the ridge extending east from Pipit Peak.
After checking things out, I decided that option didn't necessarily look any better than just heading east from the saddle north of 12386, contouring around the ridge to the north and going over when appropriate, and then generally trending northish until I hit the Blue Lake Trail.  Plus I was out of water again, and the small lake below me was looking mighty appetizing!
And it was!
From here, I headed NE until below the ridge.  Upon reaching it, I kept looking for a way up and over, but in studying the terrain and the map, I could see no benefit in gaining elevation, and continued at around 11100 feet until I topped out the ridge, and started down on the other side.
Things look bad here, lots of forest and no trails.  But movement was surprisingly not too bad at all, thanks to various animal trails and open avenues that allowed me to head north.
At one point it seemed like things were getting a little steep and rocky, so I descended about 200 feet before continuing on.  Eventually I came to a series of pleasant meadows, with some views of Cameron Peak to the east.
It wasn't long after this before I arrived at the trail.
I stopped for a short snack break and then started up towards Blue Lake.  It was nice to be back on a trail again, as it had been almost 8 hours.
As I headed up, I was doing the math in my head.  It would probably take me at least an hour to get to and back from Cameron Peak from the western saddle.  Then maybe 2ish hours to the trailhead, and 2.5 or so to get home from there.
I sat and looked at Blue Lake below, taking in the views until the group I'd passed lower on the climb nearly caught up to me.  It was 4pm and while I wanted to do Cameron, and it made alot of sense to do so now, it also made sense to just pack it in and make some of the drive home in daylight at least with sunset shortly after 7pm.
Looking west from the saddle.
Up to Cameron.
I guess it would've been easy to just go hit Cameron and make the entire drive back in darkness, but I already started forming a plan to visit it and some of the others next week.  As long as it didn't snow!
I started the jog back, met by immense beauty within a few steps.
Scenery: pretty okay.
While I'm sure the many switchbacks between the saddle and the intersection with the West Branch Trail must be some sort of are we there yet purgatory to climb, even at an easy jog the descent was quite fun and roller coaster like.
I continued on the trail, passing the intersection with the Rawah Trail where I'd broken off that morning.  I jogged most of it, but walked some of it.  The scenery up here is really too good to speed by, and it's nice to slow down and take some of it in.
I ended up in this grove of Aspen pretty close to the trailhead, and found things quite satisfactory.
I got back to the car a few minutes before 6 pm, and made the long drive home.
What an awesome day, and a fun and engaging loop.  I was kind of bummed to leave Cameron Peak as an orphan, but my plan for the next week was already in place by the time I got home.  As long as it didn't snow!  And it's difficult to be upset about having to go back to this area.  It is astoundingly beautiful, with postcard like views in nearly all directions.
And say visiting peaks isn't your thing?  With a multitude of trails and several trailheads in the area, it would be easy to plan a several day backpacking trip and visit any number of stunning lakes, or just do a fun loop on trails.
Link to hike map/GPX on Caltopo (in green).
The Rawahs Part 4.
Snowbank Peak, 12522 feet: 8.4 miles, 3959 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Rawah Pyramid, 12460 feet: 9 miles, 3897 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Lewis Peak, 12654 feet: 12.4 miles, 4091 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Clark Peak, 12951 feet: 13.3 miles, 4388 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Pipit Peak, 12433 feet: 14.3 miles, 3870 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
12386: 15.5 miles, 3823 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
As a whole, this day covered 29.08 miles with 8664 feet of elevation gain.  The terrain was maybe up to third class in short stretches, but those sections could be bypassed if desired.  Strenuous+.