Meandering the Divide: Bear Lake to Powell

Peaks of the Park: Flattop Mountain A (12,324′), Otis Peak (12,486′), Taylor Peak B (13,153′), Powell Peak (13,208′)
Date:  October 17, 2014
Trailhead:  Bear Lake – Rocky Mountain National Park
Distance: 17.8 miles
Elevation Gain:  ~ 6,000 feet
Participants:  Solo mission
Time: 8 hours

On Friday morning I woke up late, rolled into the “office”, moved the mouse, and with a little help from a picture on my desk, made a game day decision to go outside. For those of you that don’t know me, my profession is accounting (taxes to cut to the chase) and October 15th while it’s no April 15th, can still be a huge pain in the @ss! A much needed break from the monotony was in order and Indian Summer was knocking on the door.

My version of one of those corny motivational posters.

And so at 11 AM on a Friday I found myself at the far end of the Bear Lake parking lot, Red Bull in hand, ready to make my way up to the Continental Divide. I had done a little homework earlier in the month on a few routes to Powell and thought this to be a worthy objective. The route from Bear Lake via Flattop Mountain, while slightly longer than most, can be kept at Class 2. This path of least resistance also allows for short detours to the ranked summits of 12ers, Hallett and Otis, and 13er, Taylor. As an out and back there is some reascending to do, but skirting the aforementioned peaks to the west on the return will keep it to a minimum.

Gape gape.
Hallett Peak looming over Bear Lake. Not a bad spot for a turkey sandwich!
Just 4.4 miles and 2,874 vertical feet to the unranked “summit” of Flattop Mountain and the Continental Divide.

Approaching the Divide the wind had all but disappeared and I found myself still wearing a t-shirt. Was I lost?

Hallett Peak (12,720′) will play a Jekyl and Hyde with you from up here.

I’ve been to the summit of Hallett twice in my short existence here in Colorado. Both times I was practically blown off the mountain into Bear Lake and excessively pelted with snow to the face. It was a no brainer to creep right past this guy and not press my bluebird luck. Maybe I’d catch it on the way back (maybe not!).

Traversing the CD en route to Otis (bump in the foreground). (Behind Otis – L to R: Storm, Longs, Keyboard of the Winds, Pagoda, Chiefs Head, McHenrys, Powell and Taylor.
Summit of Otis Peak – Elevation 12,486′ – October 17, 2014. Otis is 1.4 miles from Flattop if you bypass Hallett.
Taylor Peak and Andrews Glacier from the summit of Otis.
A look down Andrews Glacier from Andrews Pass (11,980′). Taylor is a little over a mile from Andrews Pass and Powell is yet another 1.5 miles from Taylor. Still a long way to go.
Summit of Taylor Peak – Elevation 13,153′ – October 17, 2014.
Rounding Taylor Glacier (11,800′) you get a first class view deep into Glacier Gorge. Sky Pond, Glass Lake and The Loch.
A look back at Taylor on the approach to the summit of Powell.
A few gems of Rocky Mountain National Park up close and personal.
Arrowhead and its serrated ridge to McHenrys. Having never stood atop McHenrys, the Arrowhead Arete route is a top priority for the ’15 Summer.
Thatchtop and its southwest ridge to Powell looking glorious.
Summit of Powell Peak – Elevation 13,208′ – October 17, 2014. Looking northwest, Taylor can be seen to the left.
Taking a gander down into McHenrys Notch from the summit of Powell.
The Chief and Alice from Powell. The heart of Wild Basin sits just over this saddle and seeing these 2 from this vantage point was a 1st for me.
The elusive Ptarmigan.
After Andrews Pass on the return I hit the Tonahutu Trail to the west to do as little reascending as possible. It was smooth sailing…
… and then it wasn’t.
Sunset from the summit of Flattop Mountain.

Approaching the parking lot, the only light for miles was my headlamp. The Park was all mine. At the far end of the darkness I could barely make out the reflector on my Jeep. Last man into the lot, last man out. I pulled out the camp chair, grabbed a Hey Pumpkin from the chode cooler, and took it all in for a while. I say it all the time, but there’s something very special about this Park! Until next time Rocky… Stay classy, my friend.

The End

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