It’s been quite a whirlwind of weather, outings and new climbing partners since getting back into the full swing of things. East Partner in the the Gores, New Mexico’s high point, Silverheels, Hagar, “The Citadel”, and a Crystal outing never to be spoken of again, just to name a few, and all within the past month or so. With another cataclysmic weekend weather forecast, and a “ski” trip to the Elks and/or the Gores not exactly safe or logistically possible without a long wait at the car for that guy on his snowshoes, Zambo and I decided it was best to stay close to home and hit the Park. Thoughts of Taylor Peak from Bear Lake danced in our heads. Along the way we could take in the views from Flattop, Hallett and Otis. It had the makings to be a great morning if we could just get that small weather window that had been forecast for Saturday AM. After much thought, we left for the Park and decided we’d get up to the Divide and play the rest by ear based on conditions. At the very least it would be time well spent getting to know the Zambino and there is technically no such thing as a bad day in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, with more than 10+ miles lying above 11,000 feet. Contrary to popular belief, the entire road is actually always “open”. You just can’t bring your car with you from October through June. With the absence of a motorized vehicle and the addition of snowshoes, even an easy peak, one just a half mile off of the road like “Trail Ridge”, becomes quite a feat. Scot drew up the plan. It included 3 ranked peaks that would make any driveaneer drool in the summer. While Scot was certainly up to the task, I was unsure if I had it in me after sitting in a chair for 3 months, but knew I had to give it a go. Fast forward to Friday and we both found ourselves standing at the gate at Many Parks Curve ready to put in some miles.
Pagoda Mountain sits at the southern end of Glacier Gorge in between two of Rocky Mountain National Park’s beasts: Longs Peak (14,255 ft.) and Chiefs Head Peak (13,579 ft.). With an elevation of 13,497 ft., Pagoda Mountain is the 7th highest ranked peak in The Park. It’s been said that Pagoda’s summit register (which we unfortunately couldn’t locate) may receive on average about 75 signatures a year, while its neighbor may receive that many visitors in one summer day.
“There is nothing so American as our national parks. The scenery and the wildlife are native. The fundamental idea behind the parks is native. It is, in brief, that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us. The parks stand as the outward symbol of the great human principle.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Peaks: Mount Meeker (13,911′), Meeker Ridge (13,860′) – Rocky Mountain National Park
Date Climbed: May 18, 2013
Trailhead: Copeland Lake (Sandbeach Lake Trail)
Route: South Ridge (ascent) / Meeker Ridge (descent)
Distance: ~ 13 miles
Elevation Gain: ~ 5,600 ft.
Participants: Andrew Knox, Dillon Sarnelli
Time: ~ 13 hours
Peaks of the Park: Chiefs Head Peak (13,579′), Mount Alice (13,310′), Longs Peak (14,255′)
Dates: June 21-24, 2012
Distance: 30+ miles
Elevation Gain: ~12,000 ft.
In attendance: Dana Sanford, Kevin Sanford, Miguel Gonzalez, Nathan Watts, Ray Priebe, Dillon Sarnelli
About 6 months ago Dana called me up from the other side of the continent with this idea of a trip to Half Dome in the works. He wanted to know if I would be interested in coming along and I said, “For sure”. A month later, plans had changed and the crew was now considering the Wind River Range in Wyoming. Another great spot and I again said, “Count me in”. A few weeks later plans were changing again and I said, “Dana, I live in Colorado! Come here dude and I’ll be your tour guide”. And so the story goes. The following is how it unfolded.
Day 1: 4 PM arrive @ Wild Basin TH, Bluebird Lake
Day 2: Lion Lake #1 & #2, Snowbank Lake, Chiefs Head Peak, Mount Alice, Thunder Lake, Denver
Day 3: Red Rocks, REI, Wahoos, Longs Peak TH
Day 4: Longs Peak (Keyhole Route), Highland Tap & Burger, Denver Beer Company
Thursday, June 21, 2012 – Kevin, Miguel, Nate and Ray flew in from Massachusetts and Dana from DC. Dana arrived a few hours early, the rest of the gang around noon. We hit up REI for some last minute supplies and the bear canisters and we were off. The Destination: Wild Basin Trailhead (8,500′) – Rocky Mountain National Park.
After we dropped our packs at camp we headed for Bluebird Lake, arriving just before dark. The lake is 3.3 miles from the North St. Vrain campsite. We took a breather, enjoyed the lake, ate some trail mix (and some ibuprofen), and then headed back to camp using our headlamps and called it a night.
Friday, June 22, 2012 – Today’s mission: A loop consisting of Lion Lake #1, Lion Lake #2, Snowbank Lake, Chiefs Head Peak, Mount Alice, Thunder Lake, back to basecamp and then back to the Wild Basin TH.
We woke up a little after 7 and hit the trail around 8. Bivvies make for a pretty quick setup/take down. Destination #1 on the day: Lion Lake #1, 2.2 miles from camp.
Next stop: Lion Lake #2 and Snowbank Lake, perched a few hundred feet and short distance above Lion Lake #1.
Below is a shot of the saddle between Mount Alice and Chiefs Head Peak. The defined trail ends at Lion Lake #1. There are some cairns which will get you to Lion Lake #2, but from there you’re on your own. We headed right, towards the eastern edge of Snowbank Lake and around to the middle of the saddle.
We began working our way across the Divide after descending Chiefs Head. Mount Alice was next on the day at an elevation of 13,310′ (approx. 1.5 miles from summit of Chiefs Head).
After Thunder Lake we headed back to camp, grabbed our overnight gear and then trekked back to the Wild Basin TH to our cars (6.8 miles from Thunder Lake to the cars). We then drove back to Denver. It was a long and ambitious trek and we were beat.
Saturday, June 23, 2012 – We hit up a great breakfast joint on Tennyson in the Highlands, ate way too many pancakes, drove out to Red Rocks, grabbed some gear at REI, ate way too many tacos at Wahoos, and once again we were off to the Park. This time headed for the Longs Peak Trailhead.
We unpacked the bivvies and were fast asleep before dark.
Sunday, June 24, 2012 – Longs Peak – Keyhole route – 2 AM start. The mountain was all ours. I’ll let the pictures tell the story from here. It was one hell of a weekend to say the least. Great having you guys in Colorado and I’ll see you next year in the White Mountains. Come back soon!