From Green Mtn trailhead (8800'), west side RMNP. Clockwise loop starting with Bushwhack Hill and ending with Green Mtn. All pics from my phone, sorry if quality isn't the greatest. Plus it was hazy.
For many years I've eyed these peaks and schemed of a way to climb them all together. With about 12 hours of hiking and at least half the hike above treeline, a good forecast was needed. That window finally arrived and off I went, not quite sure what to expect.
I started hiking about 6:30 am, up the Green Mtn trail which dead ends at Big Meadows. Here I killed 15 minutes eating some of the biggest, sweet wild strawberries I've ever seen. It's been a great summer for them in Grand county this year. I then followed the Tonahutu trail north to the Nakai/Bushwhack Hill saddle. Despite it's name, the bushwhacking was easy here as it would all day in the forested areas. Not much view at the top, but there was a register full of comments about world peace.
Nakai was up next. Again, easy bushwhacking on the SW slopes, and an easy tundra stroll once above the trees. I was glad to be above the trees where the views opened up and I could pick up the pace. I reached the Nakai summit about 9am, where I could see much of the rest of my route. Snowdrift looked a bit distant. The air was smoky from wildfires northwest of Colorado, but the view was good enough for me.
Down the north ridge of Nakai, which starts easy then has some rocky sections. It's unlikely many folks come this way, but the 700' drop and reclimb up the other side was a key part of my route over to the continental divide. Once I climbed back up the other side I made quick progress over to Sprague on grassy slopes mixed with talus.
Nakai North Ridge:
Nakai North Ridge
Looking back at Nakai from Sprague:
Nakai from Sprague
Well, I knew adding Stones would be challenging but I was not about to orphan it. Two hours and 1200' of gain is much less than coming back to get it by itself. The route over to Stones was mostly talus and much slower going than I had enjoyed thus far. On the way back I had to reclimb about 500 vertical feet to nearly the summit of Sprague, but I was very glad I was able to get to Stones today. It was certainly an outlier and the only peak residing entirely within Larimer county. At 12922 it was almost a 13er and one of my higher remaining unclimbed peaks in the Park. I really felt "out there" at this point, as far as I would get from my vehicle.
Stones Peak from Sprague:
Snowdrift from Bighorn Flats:
Snowdrift East Side
Snowdrift was up next, about 3 miles of easy tundra walking to the base of it. At Sprague Pass I met the only person I'd see all day. His name was Steve also, and he had helped Lisa Foster with the maps in her RMNP book. Really nice guy, and I'm glad I stopped to say hello. Onward through Bighorn Flats, where numerous streams descend through the tundra. I filled up on water here, unfiltered but hopefully safe. I only took three liters today and was concerned about water so it was good to find it. I also took a splash bath, very rejuvenating for the miles yet to go. Once onto Snowdrift there was plenty of talus but generally easy walking. Again, I was thrilled to get this peak on my loop knowing it is hard to reach. By 4pm I had reached Snowdrift, and didn't even cross any snow to get there.
Snowdrift west side on the way to Patterson:
Snowdrift West Side
There is more, always more! Patterson was next and it took some time to get over there as I re-entered the forest for the first time since the ascent on Nakai. In the low point of the Snowdrift/Patterson saddle I came across a moose antler. This was cool and a first for me, it was huge and weighed probably 20 pounds. The flat treeless summit of Patterson was awesome and the late afternoon light was magical dancing across the higher peaks of the Park. Patterson and Snowdrift were the only two peaks without a register today.
Signs that wild things bigger than me roam the Park:
Patterson summit looking east at the heart of the Park:
Ok, just one more to go. I started down the NW ridge of Patterson to small saddle, then down 1500' of steep slopes back to Big Meadows. This was the spot I feared the most, but surprisingly the bushwhacking was quite easy. At Big Meadows I crossed the 20 mile mark, but I was not about to leave Green unclimbed. So up the NE ridge I went. I made good time up the nicely carpeted forest floor. While there was beetle kill around, I could hardly believe how easy the hiking was on Green. Which was just fine by me at this point in the day. Within an hour of the summit of Green I was back at the car, a bit fatigued.
I'll long remember this grand tour of the west side of RMNP. What a great day!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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