| Playing caboose in RMNP
Our peaks for the day (from Summitpost via Mike)
Mount Ida - 12,880
Chief Cheley - 12,804
Cracktop - 12,766
Mount Julian - 12,928
Terra Tomah Mountain - 12,718
Elevation ~7300 (per Nicks GPS)
Approximate route (by Mike)
Several weeks ago I sent out an invitation to several of the FCTR who I thought could get out for a weekday climb in RMNP. Nick and Mike were both on board with getting out and hitting some highpoints. After several emails back and forth, we finally settled on the 12ers along the Continental Divide, just southeast of Milner Pass. We met in Loveland at 4:50 am and made it to the Poudre Lake TH just after 6 am. Along the drive I started to wonder how fast these guys were planning to go. I thought, surely they don't plan to run the route, do they? I quickly found the answer to this question - yes. They took off up the trail running in their Pearl Izumi sponsored gear and lightweight running packs, while I huffed and puffed far behind with a hiking pack full of too much stuff and my trekking poles. So I got to play caboose for the day.
The trail up to Mount Ida was some of the most enjoyable single track I have been on, and anyone considering some alpine running should seriously consider this trail. Most maps show the trail ending just beyond the trail split to Fall River Pass/Visitors Center, but it is well-maintained for another couple miles. Only the last mile or so to the summit of Ida was off-trail.
The views to the west of the Never Summers were some of the best I've seen. The last couple times I've been up to the Mummies, the smokey skies obscured any hopes I had of viewing this seldom visited range.
The Never Summer Mountains
Once we reached the summit of Ida, our ridgeline run towards Terra Tomah was pretty straight forward.
Ridgeline towards Chief Cheley and co.
Highest Lake and the surrounding area would make for some great exploring and camping.
View of Ida from Chief Cheley
Gentle beginnings to Cracktop
The ridgeline along Cracktop is considered the crux of the route, as it provided for some enjoyable 3rd class scrambling along a narrow ridge.
Mike scrambling along Cracktop
Nick and Mike along Cracktop
Mike along Cracktop
Highest Lake embraced by Chief Cheley
Once we hit Julian, it was an easy boulder hopping/tundra stroll to the Terra Tomah highpoint.
Our final objective, Terra Tomah
I haven't heard too much about Forest Canyon, other than it is very dense with lots of deadfall. But there is something about it that intrigues me. Nick and Mike didn't want anything to do with it, and I couldn't exactly blame them. But maybe someday I will find someone who is dumb enough to go down there with me.
Mike and I were both interested in seeing some of the lakes below, while Nick was fairly set on heading back the way we came, more or less. With a little persuasion, Nick agreed, and we were off scouting for a way down Terra Tomah. This would turn out to be the crux of the day.
Starting the descent
The first few moves had me a little nervous, but once we got into a gulley that looked like it would go, my nerves settled down. I have always been a bit slower on the downclimbing, and the problem with that is then I become the most liable for causing rockfall on my partners, thereby slowing me down even more. But for the most part, I was able to keep up with them as they scouted for the easiest way down. It was a combination of loose rock gullies, 4th class rock slabs, and grassy ledges. As we got closer to the valley below, the grade slowly mellowed out and we were able to move more quickly.
Nick and Mike far below
"I'm not worried about the water, we're pretty high up." - Nick
Our descent route (blue), Nick diverted a couple times (red).
Once we were down to the lakes, our only concern was getting back the easiest way possible. All that was left was a steep hike out towards Pt. 11,819 and a tundra hike back to the trail. The Gorge Lakes area is definitely worth exploring over a long weekend.
Nick and myself
Love Lake (lower left), Arrowhead Lake (right), Terra Tomah (upper left), Julian (upper right)
Once we made it back to the trail, Nick and Mike took off running again, while I jogged slowly behind and soaked up the scenery. It was pretty fun being the caboose for the day. Thanks for the company guys.
Link to Mike's report: http://frontrangerambler.blogspot.com/2012/09/rmnp-circle-peaks-tour.html
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):