| West Side Indian Peaks
July 5-7, 2013
Crew: Jen & Mike
The Stats: Approx. 23.3 miles and 10,600' gain
Apparently this was my idea. I was positive that it had been something that Mike had come up with, but I guess I am to blame. Really, I haven't the foggiest where I had even heard of these peaks or why I thought of this loop, but as Kurt Vonnegut would say, "So it goes..."
Mike arrived bright and early so we could make it through the gates of Rocky before the ranger booth opened for the day. Jen and I had slacked on packed and we found ourselves tossing in a variety of unorganized gear into the back of the car. We made it into the park just as the ranger was sauntering over and the drive over Trail Ridge sailed by without an entourage of gawking motorists ahead of us. We sauntered into the Roaring Fork parking lot relatively early and quickly loaded our gear and began huffing it up the trail. fortunately for us, the skies had already developed a thick cloud cover, and the shade was a nice surprise. The ascent cruised by and we soon set up camp just below the saddle between Mount Irving Hale and Hiamovi Mountain. The clouds still sat low, but since they looked thin and stable, we grabbed our jackets and walked up Irving Hale. As we strolled onto the summit, we watched thunderheads loom to the east in contrast to the clear skies above us. An insipid rain began as we returned to camp and began to slowly crescendo into a roar. Sitting in the tent was a nice rest as we watched the rain thrash the thin material and listened to lightning battle with the summits and ridges around us. Several strikes came within seconds of us but before long is gave up and rolled out. Wanting to savor the fresh air outside the tent, I sat up and was lacing up my shoes when I heard an odd noise outside. I flipped the text open and asked Jen what on Earth it was when she replied, "Oh my God! It's a bear!" Sure enough, a large black bear was slowly cruising up about a hundred feet from the tent and appeared to be rummaging through the rocks. He caught a glimpse of us, looked a bit surprised, and slowly made his way up and over the hill. Happy with our wildlife viewing, we spent the rest of the night watching the world go by and went to bed early (after making sure to hang our bear bag as high as possible of course!).
Other than a midnight thunderstorm, the night flew by and we awoke to low clouds in the valleys below us. The trail down the valley toward Stone Lake proved to be more stream than trail, and it was only a matter of time before my feet were soaking wet. By the time we arrived at the lake, I felt like there were sponges under my feet and each step gave my toes a rinse. One portion of the trail was under a good 3 feet of flowing water, and I waded across it while Jen and Mike proved much more intelligent a tossed a log over, and balanced across. We were greeted by a tent and a friendly hiker that upon hearing our hiking plans warned us, "the whole trail to the upper lake is under a river." He bid us good luck as we passed by and we hoped for the best. As we moved on, we found the trail to be in much better shape than what we had crossed so far but unfortunately, we could not find anywhere to cross the raging stream. We had originally planned on hiking to the saddle between Cooper and Marten, but the swollen water kept pushing us higher into the valley until we arrived at the final lake. With no other alternative and much to Jen's dismay, we had to take our shoes off and wade though several sections of knee-deep water. We dried and re-shoed at the base of a steep gully that led directly to the saddle between Cooper and the Continental Divide and wasted zero time before grinding up the slope. The hills were steep and the rocks very slippery, but we soon stood atop Cooper and watched the low clouds tearing over the divide to the south of us. Before long we were past the Cooper - Marten saddle and working up the steep rocks toward the imposing summit block. Mike found the easy way up, and being convinced the route description meant something else, Jen and I worked up a more difficult way. After a brief rest and admiring the views, we dropped back down and did the exposed traverse over to the ridge toward "Martenette". The scrambling felt much more challenging than class 3 and even though Roach describes it as "devious", we wondered if we missed the easiest way. The walk down and up "Martenette" was easy and we enjoyed the seldom-signed summit register. We chose a traversing descent back toward the lake and happily found a painless way (other than another dip in the stream) back to the trail and made good time back up to camp. Although the weather still looked stable, we decided to wait another day before going for our last two peaks. The rest of the evening was relaxing and we again retired early.
Once again, more thunder, lightning and rain came in the night and we awoke to clear skies. We soon were hauling up the mostly gentle slopes of Hiamovi Mountain and soon sat atop it's lofty summit. Large amounts of moisture could be felt in the air but the skies looked clear. The view of "Hiamovi Tower" was intimidating to say the least, and imaging a class 3 passage was hard to do. Our views from the day before had me convinced that snow was going to cause us problems on the descent off of Hiamovi Mountain, and not being sure, Jen decided to wait for Mike and I to check it out. We quickly went off the ridge toward the Tower and were surprised to find a narrow path of rocks through the snow. Wobbling boulders and steep slopes put us right at the saddle between the two mountains. After reading Roach's route description several times we headed up the ridge and immediately found ourselves stumped. We poked around all sides of the ridge and admitted defeat and down-climbed back to the base. Agreeing that the route description was completely bogus, we worked around the side and began climbing a loose gully, passing several class 4 steps along the way. After some steep terrain, we arrived above a step and spotted the first cairn of the day. Making sure we hadn't missed something from the description, I peered back down the ridge to only discover air below. We followed some cairns around a narrow corner and once again ascended a steep gully upward. One last portion of steep scrambling (class 4) put us right onto the summit. It had taken about 45 minutes from the summit of Hiamovi Mountain and we waived back to Jen across the void. The views were quite nice and we walked over to peer down to the valley below. The summit register was a small broken glass jar with a ziplock bag containing a few squares of toilet paper and a single name (no pen!). After having a few laughs about the TP register, we started the descent. The down-climb confirmed that the route was class 4, but did go rather quickly. The ascent back up Hiamovi Mountain had my legs barking back up at me but we soon greeted Jen back on the ridge. Camp came quickly, and we took our time eating and packing up before the hike out. The weather was still beautiful and we shouldered our packs and made for the car. With Jen in the lead, we flew down the trail and arrived at the car before we knew it. As we slid in, I said something I had said several times already on the trip but seemed so true...
"Every time I come to the Indian Peaks, it only gets me excited to come back again!"
"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.
- Kurt Vonnegut
The rest of the photos can be found HERE.