Trailhead: Wild Basin (8,560')
Camp: Upper Ouzel Creek (10,600')
Elevation Gain: 5,358'
Banshee Fighters: Darrin, Brian & me
When Brian sent out an invite to backpack and hike a peak in RMNP, I thought it would be a great way to investigate a new area along the continental divide. Plus the annoying work of acquiring the backcountry permit was all done. So with a great weather window for the weekend, we were a go!
The approach to camp was a long one, but it was punctuated by some lovely views of cascading water over rocks, tourists amusing comments ("I see you have an oxygen hose" Ummm yeah... that's water), and some amazing views of Wild Basin.
Admiring the views - Photo Credit: Brian
Tanima and Mt Alice
Ouzel Peak dominates the approach
Where's the camp? There's snow on the ground now...
Campsite, with Copeland in background
Day 2: The wind that never ceased
Having forgotten my ear plugs, the howling wind that sounded like a freight train approaching, created some strange dreams when I could fall asleep for those short moments. Bears, mumbling Park Rangers outside the tent, were some that I could remember. The morning wasn't too terribly cold, but the howling wind above was a reminder of how cold it would be once we were exposed to that.
On the way up to to the first lake, we were stepping on vast areas of ice crystals with dirt specs on the tops of the ice. Very strange, and kinda pretty. Verglace was on many of the rock surfaces from the previous days melt freeze cycles. The wind started in full force once we topped the rocks surrounding Bluebird Lake. From here we made our way over an ice encrusted dam to the other side of the lake. There is a nice crack in the rock wall that allows access, you just need to look for it.
Weird dirt ice crystals everywhere!
Warm sunrise on the slopes of Meeker
Bluebird lake - Sun is just starting to hit the tops of the peaks
The crack - Photo Credit: Brian
Once beyond Bluebird, there's a series of benches on the way up to Isolation Lake. We took a slightly different way up than down, but all involved some bush-whacking to get above Bluebird. From there the views were amazing, and Ouzel Peak was the eye candy of the day.
Either Lark Pond or Pipit Lake in front of Ouzel
The views were intoxicating, if you can't tell
We took a break and geared up for more wind next to Isolation Lake. We knew the assault on Isolation would be windy and cold, and we wouldn't want to stop later. The time on the peak would be as brief as possible.
Couldn't tear my eyes away from Ouzel Peak, maybe it's those ski lines I keep seeing
The brief views from the very Airy summit of Isolation... Looking over the west edge of the summit rocks was enough to make me shrink back. Howling winds and a 500' drop!
From Isolation to Longs
Looking south from Isolation
As those before us experienced... to Mahana or not to Mahana, that was the question. The answer: Mahana's summit was a brief 15 minute hike away, don't miss it! The views from the summit were much better, and the wind was less fierce.
On to Mahana!
Isolation from Mahana
Longs and Meeker
Tanima, Mt Alice, Chiefs Head, Pagoda, Longs and Meeker
Once done with the summits for the day, we made quick work of the descent to camp and to the trail head. We all had visions of post-hike food and beer/margaritas! Of course I got distracted by the garnets in the rocks along the Bluebird Lake, as well as the other sights, but only briefly.
Ouzel and Isolation Lake, again. Best view of the day, other than Longs
Icy shores of Bluebird Lake
The crack allowing access to the north side of the lake and beyond
There be garnets in these parts! I call them Jupiter rocks
Giant boulders on the trail
Parting shot of Calypso Cascades