| Indian Peakbagging - Hiamovi/Watanga group of 7
Mount Irving Hale (11,754)
Hiamovi Mountain (12,395)
Hiamovi Tower (12,220)
Watanga Mountain (12,375)
Mount Adams (12,121)
"Roaring Peak" (11,721)
Twin Peaks (11,957)
19.7 miles RT, 8,300' gain, 13 hours
From Roaring Fork Trailhead (8,340)
Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park
Partner: Brian Kalet
Over the years I've grown to appreciate the Indian Peaks Wilderness over the years, but only on the east side. This would be my first venture to the west (Grand county) side of the range. Though the highest summits are only 12ers here, there are some stunning peaks far from the crowds of Brainard Lake. With a stellar weather forecast we decided to go big today and climb everything in the Roaring Fork drainage. This route skirts the IPW/RMNP boundary, with all peaks but Adams on the IPW list, and the last four on the RMNP list. No need for a list really, any adventure out here would be a great day. But the list serves as a goal and a prompt to get into some amazing areas.
We started hiking at 6:45 a.m. from the Roaring Fork trailhead. It's a beautiful drive along Lake Granby to get there, and I was amazed at how huge this lake is. There is a $5/day fee to use the recreation area, a relative bargain compared to whatever they are getting at Brainard Lake these days. It was 38 degrees to start, the air warmed slightly by the reservoir. It had been as low as 29 degrees on my drive through the Fraser valley earlier. The trail begins steeply winding through many switchbacks with great views of the lake. The area has been hit hard by the mountain pine beetle, but there is already a good understory of bushes and young trees growing up to replace the dead giants.
Mount Irving Hale:
Once through the switchbacks the trail levels out and climbs moderately to a junction with the Watanga Lake trail. We would come down this way much later in the day. The Roaring Fork trail continues steeply to a 11,200 pass that is the saddle between Irving Hale and Hiamovi. The trail continues down the other side to Stone Lake and Hell Canyon, gateway to Cooper and Marten which will have to wait for another day. We hung our packs on a tree and proceeded up Irving Hale. This was a surprisingly nice 11er, starting with grassy slopes and finishing in a rocky summit. We found some 3rd class scrambling and topped out on our first peak of the day at 9:15 a.m. The views were great as they would be all day, not a cloud in the sky and hardly any wind either.
Irving Hale summit:
Hiamovi Mountain (L) and Tower (R), Ogalalla Peak beyond:
Back to the saddle and up the SW slopes of Hiamovi Mtn. It was easy travelling on grass initially followed by talus and we cranked out the 1000' gain pretty quickly, reaching the summit at 10:55 am. This would be our highest peak today. Once at the top we got a clear view to our next objective - Hiamovi Tower. From here it looked very impressive and we were eager to go check it out. The east ridge of Hiamovi Mtn has numerous obstacles so we soon dropped off to the right (south) side and contoured to the saddle on large talus.
Hiamovi Tower from Hiamovi Peak:
Crux scramble on Hiamovi Tower:
The Tower was the most challenging and funnest part of the day. We avoided the first couple of buttresses on the south side and then made our way up the steep rock. There were a few cairns to help out along the way. With careful routefinding this peak is Class 3, but there may have been a couple 4th class moves at the crux. Soon we were on the top and enjoying the view down into Hell Canyon and straight across to Marten Peak.
Hiamovi Mountain from the Tower:
In order to continue our loop NW into RMNP we had to reclimb 500' of gain back up Hiamovi Mtn. That was kind of a bummer, but the alternative south face route from Stone Lake also involves at least that much extra gain from what is lost getting to the lake. We returned to the Hiamovi Mtn summit about 12:30 p.m. for a 1.5 hour RT. It was good to get the crux climbing done while we were reasonably fresh. Now it was time to stretch the legs across miles of tundra to the next four peaks. Or so we thought.
It was pretty straightforward over to the Hiamovi-Watanga saddle, sidehilling around Pt. 12147. The SE slopes of Watanga are actually pretty steep. We picked our way up through talus and cliffbands and finished with a nice Class 3 scramble to the top. Here we saw the only people of the day (other than a bow hunter hiking to Watanga Lake later). Two guys had come up from a camp at Watanga Lake, only interested in one peak for the day. To each his own! They asked what we were up to and probably thought we were nuts when we mentioned our agenda for the day.
Watanga to Adams was another two miles of easy terrain, finishing on a talus slope. Great views down to seldom-visited Paradise Park just north of us. We could see the final two peaks ahead of us, "Roaring Peak" and Twin Peaks. After a nice long descent from Adams we picked up a climbers trail on the south side of Roaring Peak. After working our way around the peak we finished on the grassy west slope. Only 301' of gain for this one, barely a peak but just what the doctor ordered late in the day.
Twin Peaks was a nice finish to a long day. Just a little over 600' of gain on grassy slopes. It was 4:45 p.m. and we were out of peaks. Too bad there wasn't another nearby! Originally I contemplated bushwhacking straight down to the Roaring Fork trail. We thought better of that plan after seeing how rugged the subalpine terrain is around here. So we returned to the Roaring-Twin Peaks saddle and aimed down towards Watanga Lake. Our initial line was not good and we eventually cliffed out and had to reclimb about 200' to get back to easier ground. What's another 200 feet after 8,000 anyway? We found the trail below Watanga Lake (not marked on my GPS) and followed it to the Roaring Fork trail intersection. The hike out to the trailhead seemed long and my feet got pretty hot and tired, but we made it out around 7pm.
Lake Granby from Twin Peaks:
This was a good one, highly recommended for a good weather day. I look forward to my next trip here. To only see three people on a holiday weekend in one of the most heavily visited mountain areas in Colorado was quite amazing. The west side of the Indian Peaks is just fine in my book.