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 Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Alice, Mt  -  13,310 feet
Chiefs Head Pk  -  13,579 feet
 Post Date:  06/25/2012 Modified: 11/21/2013
 Date Climbed:   06/24/2012
 Posted By:  dillonsarnelli

 A Long Weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park   

A Long Weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park - June 21-24, 2012

Day 1 - 4 PM arrive @ Wild Basin TH, Bluebird Lake
Day 2 - Lion Lake #1, Lion Lake #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 N Burger, Denver Beer Company

30+ miles, 12K+ elevation gain

In attendance: Dana Sanford, Dillon Sarnelli, Kevin Sanford, Miguel Gonzalez, Nathan Watts, Ray Priebe

About 6 months ago Dana called me up with this idea of a trip to Half Dome he had 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, you know I live in Colorado right? Why don't you all just come here and I'll be your tour guide". And so the story goes.... Below is how it unfolded.

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. Destination - Wild Basin TH - Rocky Mountain National Park.

We arrive at the park around 4 PM. Ray gives the thumbs up at the Wild Basin entrance.

Wild Basin TH parking lot - Elevation 8,500 ft. These big bulky bins we are carrying around are starting to make sense now.

And we're off... Destination: North St. Vrain Campsite - Elevation 9,560, 3.5 miles from Wild Basin TH.

Ouzel Falls

Nate takes in the falls from a different perspective.

Miguel says "Are you kidding me?"

plenty of spots along the way to get water


After we dropped our packs at camp we headed for Bulebird Lake, arriving just before dark. The lake is 3.3 miles (one-way) 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 basecamp using our headlamps and called it a night.

Bluebird Lake - Elevation 10,978

Friday, June 22, 2012 - Today's mission - A loop consisiting 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.

North St. Vrain Campsite - Elevation 9,560 - Basecamp

We woke up a little after 7 and hit the trail around 8. Bivvy's make for a pretty quick set up/take down. Destination #1 on the day - Lion Lake #1 - 2.2 miles from camp.

Taken just before arriving at Lion Lake #1 with Chiefs Head Peak in the distance.

there are still a few pockets of snow, but nothing that would require any sort of traction, post-holing was not an issue

Mount Alice as seen from just before Lion Lake #1.

a closer look... Mount Alice - Elevation 13,310

Lion Lake #1 - Elevation 11,075 with Chiefs Head Peak in the distance.

Ray goes for a swim. He still can't feel his toes.

Mount Alice from Lion Lake #1

Next stop: Lion Lake #2, perched a few hundred feet and about a half mile from and above Lion Lake #1.

the stream and falls between Lion Lake #1 and #2 are good spot to grab some more water.

Lion Lake #2 - Elevation 11,413 (.5 miles and 338 ft. gain from Lion Lake #1).

approaching Snowbank Lake

Snowbank Lake - Elevation 11,521 (.35 mile and 108 ft gain from Lion Lake #2).

The saddle between Mount Alice (L) and Chiefs Head Peak (R) can be seen in the distance. The defined trail ends at Lion Lake #1. There are some cairns which will get you to Lion Lake #2, but from here its a choose your own adventure. We headed right, towards the eastern edge of Snowbank Lake and around to the middle of the saddle. Next Destination: Chiefs Head Peak - Elevation 13,579.

Our line was a straight shot up the middle of the saddle, immediately to the right of the snow.

approaching the top of the saddle and the continental divide

Continental Divide - Elevation 12,250

We begin the ascent up Chiefs Head.

A good view of Mount Alice and the continental divide as we ascend Chiefs Head.

Looking down on Lion Lake #1, Lion Lake#2 and Snowbank Lake from Chiefs Head.

The fire in Estes Park as seen from Chiefs Head.

Longs Peak as seen from the summit of Chiefs Head Peak

127 Hours

Summit of Chiefs Head Peak - Elevation 13,579, 3rd highest Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park - June 22, 2012 (approx 1.8 miles and 2,058 elevation gain from Snowbank Lake)

descending back down Chiefs Head the way we came up

Working our way across the continental divide after descending Chiefs Head (in the background). Destination: Summit of Mount Alice - Elevation 13,310 (approx 1.5 miles from summit of Chiefs Head)

Mount Alice from the saddle

Approaching the hourglass on Mount Alice

Ascending Mount Alice

Summit of Mount Alice - Elevation 13,310 - June 22, 2012

A look back at Alice from the ridge on our descent

Descending the ridge that forms a T with the saddle (this would have been a viable option on the way up if we had ascended Alice first). Lion Lakes and Snowbank Lake off to the left with Thunder Lake (not visible) to the right just below treeline. Next Stop - Thunder Lake, approx 4 miles from the Summit of Mount Alice).

Thunder Lake - Elevation 10,574

Other than a group of 3 fishing at Thunder Lake, these were the first signs of life we had seen all day.

After Thunder Lake we headed back to base camp, grabbed our overnight gear and then headed 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 spot 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... headed to the Longs Peak Trailhead.


its freakin hot in Denver

We arrived at the Longs Peak TH a little before 6 PM and headed for the Gobblins Forest campsite, about a mile from the TH.

Gobblins Forest site.

We were asleep before it got dark.

Sunday June 24, 2012 - Longs Peak - Keyhole route... 2 AM start - I will let the pictures tell the story from here. It was one hell of a weekend to say the least. Great having you all in Colorado and I'll see you next year in the White Mountains. Thanks for coming and come back anytime!


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions
Ridge runner

RMNP     2012-06-25 20:07:14
Looks like you set up a great tour of RMNP for your friends. I'm finding out that the more I venture into Wild Basin, the more I love it. And you can never go wrong with a trip up Longs Peak. Great pictures! You even got an Anton sighting.


I think you need more pictures     2012-06-25 20:58:38
Just kidding. Thanks for the photo tour/showcase of some of RMNP's finest.
Props to your lowlander friends, too.
Great stuff!


No shit     2012-06-25 21:24:17
An Anton sighting, sick.

Nice job dude


Tireless     2012-06-25 22:08:31
Just great! What a journey - looks like a grand time y'all had! Way to go! 8) Love the photos!


Trough     2012-06-26 05:49:33
Ahh, I did see you. You were descending the trough when we were going up, we talked briefly.

We saw Anton too, an honor to share the mountain with such an athlete.


thanks!     2012-06-26 08:03:20
I have to admit i didn't know who anton was, but 2 of these guys follow his blog daily back east (its a little scary). The chain of events that led up to meeting him were ridiculous and their trip couldn't have ended on a better note. Ridgerunner - thank you for your Wild Basin TR's a few weeks back. They were great. Snowbank Lake was frozen last August when I was there. Its amazing how 2 summers could be so different. Colby, I thought you looked familiar but I couldn't put it together. Did you do Longs on back to back weekends? Oh and can you really ever have too many pictures in Rocky Mountain National Park? Hopefully see/meet some of you out in the wild this summer. Lets hope for some rain!


How long did it take     2012-06-26 08:36:23
for Anton to do Longs that day, 2:28 or so? Seriously though, nice work hosting those from back east, looks like a sweet trip. Pray we get some rain, we've got some business to take care of down south!


Great work Dillon and crew     2012-06-26 09:11:49
Looks like an amazing time with a solid group. Thanks for the wonderful photos. Those high lakes are awesome


Great photos!     2012-06-26 12:31:58
Hey Dillon - great photos and another good report! Looks like you were the best tour guide ever You guys got up there in HALF my time! I would have seen you guys pack in if you were 1.5 hours earlier :p. Glad it didn't rain on your trip and you didn't have all that wind from Saturday.


100     2012-06-26 13:04:51
Come on Dillon, I know you took couldn't post at least 100 photos?


677     2012-06-26 14:46:36
jeff, nothing says look at me like a photo! i just do it more subtly than others. rob - i think anton's time was like 2:30, thats not human. dan - thanks, those lakes up there are defintely some of the best in the park, a great time had by all. hannah - i didn't know you had a screename! i added you as a friend. thinking of dropping this accounting nonsense and being a professional tour guide when i grow up.


questions about Long's Peak trail     2012-06-26 18:36:05
I am visiting in the next few weeks and want to hike Long's Peak for the first time with 2 of my kids (21 & 25 y.o.). Is the trail easily marked? I saw you left at 2 am. Do you think starting at 4 am is too late? I am an avid hiker here in California and am eager to hike my first 14er. Do you recommend this hike?


Re:     2012-06-26 21:07:42
Lablover: the trail is well marked, there are targets painted on rocks often enough that you usually see 2-3 targets at a time.

I left at 2am once and 4am another time. Both times I saw far more people coming up than going down meaning the majority of people start later. Personally my reason for an early start is that I don't want to deal with a thunderstorm, which often comes around noon.

I do recommend the hike. It may not be ideal as your first 14er, but many people do, so be your own judge. I think a bigger concern than the technical difficulty would be inability to acclimate well to high altitude and/or physical exhaustion. If those aren't an issue, and you're not terribly scared of heights then go for it.

I was skeptical about it too, and you can find my thread asking similar questions here:

Others on this site gave me some really good advice on that thread so it may be helpful to you as well.


Thanks for response     2012-06-27 12:54:04
Thank you so much. I appreciate the link for similar questions. Yeah, we will be there 5 days before our scheduled hike day. Am hoping to try it. Thanks again.


Another question if you don't mind     2012-06-27 16:58:05
We are staying in Estes Park for one week. If we don't end up hiking Long's Peak, do you have another suggestion in the area?


Just to name a few     2012-06-27 17:05:21
I did Audubon with some friends last week the day before I did LP. Fun hike, class II.

I hear good things about Flattop mountain and Ypsilon peak, which are nearby and on my list of destinations. My boss (who has done all the hard 14ers) says Ypsilon peak is one of his favorite places to go in all of CO!


Thanks     2012-06-27 17:43:44
thanks so much for the info.


677     2012-06-28 10:40:30
You took 677 photos? Can I get 677 Dales? Good heavens.


Nice Trip Report     2012-07-22 19:28:28
With an Anton sighting and some great photos! I'm gonna dislike it though, just for the hell of it.


Thanks for the invite.     2013-05-08 13:35:27
Seriously. I would have brought my bear can. I even would have let you carry it.

P.S. Bring back the timestamp!

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