| Saturday in the Park
Three remote peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park!
Distance: 18-21miles RT. Can't figure out just how far I hiked for this combination.
Gain: Around 6 or more thousand.
I started hiking from the Wild Basin trail head at about 3am and made it to Ouzel Lake around 4:40. From the lake, I began hiking south west toward the gentle east facing slope of Mt Copeland and broke tree line at sunrise.
The views of Longs peak from this vantage are incredible!
Gaining the summit of Copeland proved far more challenging than I had anticipated; it seems like there are a million false summits.
I had been watching the low hanging clouds bow over the continental divide all morning and began wondering if I would be able to finish my hike. As I summited, I was greeted with a cruel 20-30mph wind. There was a fresh layer of frost on the ground and it was COLD! The clouds continued to boil up over the divide, but the view was spectacular! A perfect 10 for photographs.
Looking at Elk tooth on the left and Ogalalla on the right.
Toward the Continental Divide.
I ate some peaches and signed both registers (Jennifer Roach (!) left a jam bottle with some paper up there) and decided to start walking the ridge to the divide wondering if I would need to bail on account of the weather. Half way across I stopped for noodles and coffee and enjoyed the view.
Looking back on Copeland.
I pushed on and found the route from Coney Pass to the Divided. Lisa Foster rates this a class 4 route in her RMNP guide, however, it didn't seem much harder than the upper difficulties of the upper sections of the Keyhole route on Longs. There seemed to be other viable routes that would flirt with class 4.
The first part of the route.
Round this bend and gain the divide though an easy class three gully.
Once on top of the Divide, the weather didn't seem too bad, and if anything, had cleared up a little. On to Ogalalla.
Looking south toward the Indian Peaks!
The fun of this route is the lack of a predetermined route outlined by cairns. I thought that Lisa Foster's description of the route was a little ambiguous and enumerated the trip from Tooth to Ogallala, not the direction I was doing the trip in. Overall, as Lisa does hint at, staying near the top of the ridge from Ogalalla to the saddle seemed to be the easiest route, and then by passing any hairy down climbs by moving to the south side of the ridge.
I found one section that I felt was a definitive class 4 section, but it was very short while descending the Ogalalla side. I often found myself going after sections of rock beyond the obvious route to bump the difficulty up a notch, however, nothing really got above a good class 4. Easier and harder climbing was very easy to find on this traverse.
Once I got to the low point on the ridge, I surveyed the route up to Elk Tooth and decided the easiest way up was to stay on the south side of the ridge at the base of the cliffs.
There were many gullies to choose from to gain the summit of Elk Tooth, and many seemed not to exceed 3/4 class, I choose the second gully from the west face and found myself in delightful 3/4 class climbing.
Atop the gully, the route to the summit is obvious: up.
Looking at the traverse from Elk Tooth.
Getting down from Elk Tooth was long and painful. I continued along the ridge line until I found a viable gully that ran to the bottom of the basin. It was loose and steep and not fun until I got a 500ft glissade in. This is where the trip gets funny. Irish luck is not winning the lottery or free beer; it's having a spare pair of shoes.
Not knowing what to expect on this trip, I brought both my mountaineering boots (Crampons and Ice Axe, which never got used) and my light hiking boots for scrambling. To cross the stream flowing into upper Hutchinson lake I realize I would have to take my shoes off and wade the two feet of fast moving water. As I was putting my right shoe on once on the other side of the creek, it slipped out of my hands! I quickly went after it, but soon found myself in waist deep water where the creek empties into the lake still wearing my backpack, windbreaker and rain pants. I watched my shoe bob out to the middle of the lake and realized the water was too cold for me to go for a swim. I am now soaked waist down, my feet are cut up, my two month old shoe is gone and I am 9 miles from the trail head. Now what? Digging though my bag for food, I realized my incredibly lucky situation, and got the boots out. On my hike back to Pear Lake, I meet a very friendly photographer (the first person I have seen ALL day) whom commented on my seemingly bizarre dip in the stream. I explained the situation, and got a couple of chuckles from the photographer and went my merry way!
I got back to my car around 5:30pm, 14 1/2 hrs later. The hike back was spectacular, blue bird day and no wind. I was in complete isolation for 11 hours straight and experienced 3 of RMNP's most secluded summits. The traverse from Ogalalla to Elk Tooth IS a true classic.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):