| Mummy Masochism
Mummy Masochism – 8/23/09
Peaks (in order climbed):
Mount Chapin 12,454' (1030th)
Mount Chiquita 13,069' (Soft Rank)
Ypsilon Mountain 13,514' (246th)
Fairchild Mountain 13,502' (254th)
Hagues Peak 13,560' (213th) – Larimer County Highpoint
Mummy Mountain 13,425' (304th)
Mount Tileston 11,254' (1661st)
Bighorn Mountain 11,463' (1567th)
Keegan Murphy (infirmary)
Looking towards Bighorn (center) just after sunrise on Chiquita's summit:
An Idea is Born:
Steve and I had been talking about heading to Rocky Mountain National Park to meet up for a multiple thirteener day. Our original thoughts were more towards the 2 or 3 peak variety, but with the monsoon season's recent hiatus, we started talking bigger. Mummy Mania became the topic of discussion. The traverse requires a car shuttle, so us coming from different parts of the state anyway lent itself well to setting up the vehicles. Somehow during our discussions Steve suggested trying to add on a couple of 11ers to the end of the traverse, and Mummy Masochism was born…
Steve put some feelers out to see if anyone else was interested, Keegan was game for it, and our team of three was set. We met for dinner in Estes Park Saturday evening, and made our way through the park gates around 8.30pm, dropped Keegan's car off at the Lawn Lake Trailhead, and headed up Old Fall River Road to the Chapin Pass Trailhead at 11,020'.
Part I: Trailhead to The Saddle
We awoke at 4am and began getting ourselves together and fueling up on breakfast for the long day that lie ahead. At 4.30 we hit the Chapin Pass trail, which has to be one of the shortest and easiest trails I have ever hiked. Barely 5 minutes and we were at the pass where there was a signed junction for a trail to the right that leads to the peaks. This trail was a welcome surprise; it is a nicely maintained National Park trail as opposed to a bushwhacking climbers trail, which is what we were expecting. The going was smooth and we soon broke treeline when a major glitch in the plans came in the form of a keeled over Keegan. Uh-oh, he's sick.
He decided to press on, but about 5 minutes later he decided that this was not the condition he wanted to be in for a traverse of such lengthy proportions and that he was going to have to turn back. A car shuttle route is not an easy one when one of your partners gets sick, especially one of the drivers. We talked it over, and to assuage his guilt for making everyone turn back, I handed him my keys so that he could drive my car back down to Lawn Lake and get to his. This would give him the flexibility if he felt better to head up an easier peak, or to just head home and rest up while still giving Steve and I a chance to do the traverse with a car waiting for us at the bottom. Its turns out he chose "Option B" and spent the traverse in the infirmary so to speak, his home in Boulder.
Steve and I carried on and topped out on 12,454' Mount Chapin where we could see the early morning sun starting to paint the horizon over the lights of Boulder and Longmont. I was just before 6am, probably my earliest summit ever. We had a quick snack, but as it was still fairly dark out and we had a long way to go, we didn't dawdle. We dropped to the 12,020' saddle and the theme of the day became quite clear to us: The "up" sections were going to be long and brutal.
Mount Chiquita was up next, and while it is a "soft" summit with only 283' of prominence, it is 1049' above the saddle on the Mount Chapin side. There was a decent climbers trail through here though and we soon were cresting on the summit area in ever increasing daylight. We found the highest point (13,069') at around 6.35am and again had a quick snack before descending to the next saddle at 12,786'.
Longs from Chiquita:
The next ascent wasn't as long, "only" 728' vertical feet to gain the 13,514' summit of Ypsilon Mountain. By now the sun was up and the views of the surrounding peaks was at once astonishingly beautiful, and mind numbingly disheartening – is that really Bighorn all the way down there? What did we get ourselves into!
Never Summers from Ypsilon:
Ypsilon's summit was an enjoyable one, and the peak is probably the most striking in appearance of all of the peaks in this range. Blitzen Ridge stretched out below us looking as scary in person as it does in the photos! Somewhere below us were the Y-Couloirs, melted out, and looking much less appetizing dry than they would in spring. The Desolation Peaks to our west begged for a side trip, but we had to tell them no. Not on this day, the involved class 4 scrambling between them would just take up too much precious time.
We started our descent towards the 12,580' saddle with Fairchild. This ridge traverse was the most difficult of the bunch, its more narrow and exposed, and has a few blocky towers along the way.
Starting off towards Fairchild with the ridge visible across the middle:
We stayed on the right, which was great because it both kept us out of the cool breezes, and put us into the warm sun. This also allowed us to keep the climbing mostly at no more than class 2+, although in a few places we had a brief class 3 down climb.
Typical conditions along ridge:
We crossed the saddle and began up the steep ridge of Fairchild Mountain – 922' of gain this time.
Ascent to Fairchild (from Ypsilon summit)
The slopes were steep and covered in large talus blocks. Again there were some blocky towers on the ridge crest, so again we stayed to the right. The large talus blocks involved some class 2+ scrambling, and this was the most physically demanding ascent so far. As we neared the summit, however, the terrain leveled off and we enjoyed a gentle stroll for the last 250'. The summit area is a large gentle mound covered with big granite boulders.
Ypsilon from Fairchild:
Fairchild Mountain was my 200th unique ranked 13er in Colorado, but the celebration was brief. We still had a long way to go! On the maps it is just called "The Saddle", the 12,398' low point between Fairchild and Hagues. This was our next destination, and after dodging or scrambling over the large boulders, the slopes to the saddle mellowed out to more grassy terrain.
Looking down on "The Saddle" and Hagues beyond:
Part II: The Saddle, Hagues and Mummy
The Saddle is a large flat area, basically a bit like a football field in the sky. It provides a welcome breather as you walk across its flat tundra meadow preparing for the biggest single vertical push of the traverse – the climb of Hagues Peak.
Lawn Lake from "The Saddle"
Fairchild from "The Saddle"
This ascent is 1162', and after already climbing about 4200' of elevation gain, you feel it. We basically just put our heads down and plugged away. The nice thing about is that the lower parts are gentler, so you can sort of "ease into it" over moderate grassy terrain before hitting the steeper talus slopes. You can also see the distinctive summit area most of the way up, and it looks closer than it is. For some sick reason this was encouraging, as it always seemed like we were "almost there". Just below the summit the ridge jumps in a steep step of about 150' or so.
The final push to Hagues gets a little more interesting:
The left is the hardest and takes you to a false summit, so we traversed below the first section and found a nice class 3 section of broken blocks below the true summit.
Steve scrambling towards the summit:
Just below the summit, instead of traversing over to easier terrain, we decided to use a small chimney with about 15' of class 4 to reach the highest point. To our surprise there was a solar panel and a box over to our right, perhaps a weather station of some sort?
Signs of civilization buried deep in Rocky Mountain NP:
Hagues has the distinction of being both the highest peak in Larimer County, and the farthest north 13er in the State of Colorado. This gives it some incredibly long views to the north, east and west.
I think I can see Wyoming from here:
We took a little bit longer break this time to recover from the big gain and then began to work our way across the ridge towards Mummy Mountain.
Lawn Lake and Mummy from Hagues:
The ridge here has several large blocks and a couple of false summits that we generally tried to avoid, but basically we just took the path of least resistance. Along the way we were treated to some nice views of tiny Rowe Glacier and the tarn below.
Rowe Peak and Rowe Mountain are over there too, but neither are "ranked" and we didn't deem them worth the extra effort on this day – we would save the extra effort for later.
Finally a "short" uphill section as Mummy Mountain is a mere 485' gain from the saddle on rocky tundra, and it went pretty quick.
Ascent to Mummy:
It was cool how the tundra plants were already changing to their fall reds, even if it did feel a little too early to be fall. The color certainly was nice to look at though!
Tundra plants on Mummy:
Amazingly we reached the summit at noon - 7 1/2 hours from the trailhead. Yeah, we were hauling. At this point we were close to 10 miles and 5900' vertical into it. We had been moving quick, but also had not been taking breaks anywhere except for the summits. Being on a route like this where you are above treeline for so long and with limited bail out options, efficiency is critical. We were having good luck with the weather too, and it had remained clear except for a few clouds north of us that were just now starting to generate. We took advantage of our efficiency and had an extensive snack break on the summit and pondered our future. Man, Tileston and Bighorn STILL look far away!
Bighorn and Longs - does Bighorn ever look close on this route?
At least we've been making progress, Chiquita and Ypsilon look pretty far too:
Part III: Mummy Mania turns into Mummy Masochism
The descent from Mummy Mountain starts out by following the rocky ridge, then turns and descends a steep mix of grass and talus on a large open southeast facing slope that aims for the trees above Potts Puddle.
Descent slopes (from Tileston):
The slope is sort of an inverse of the ascent of Hagues Peak, meaning the steepest part is at the top and it gradually levels off and turns more to grass the lower you get. Eventually we made it back to treeline, a place we hadn't been since probably 5 in the morning. We bushwhacked our way down a steep slope to the right of a creek and popped out on the Black Canyon Trail at around 11,000'
Here we took the packs off to have a rest and contemplate our future. Normal (translation: Sane) people go right and drop down along the trail for about a 1/4 mile to meet up with the Lawn Lake Trail and follow that out to the trailhead. We decided we had it in us to at least climb one more peak – Mount Tileston. From here we still needed to drop a little bit to get to the saddle, but being in treed slopes we were a little too far to the left and ended up below the saddle just above the shores of Potts Puddle. Its pretty big for a puddle, and Steve informed me that a guidebook he has says it was named such because it had good fishing and the guy who named it figured if he called it a "puddle" it would keep the masses away and he'd have it to himself. Sort of like an 11er is to a 14er, a puddle is to a lake – and we continued on bushwhacking through deadfall on our way up this lonely peak.
The trees opened up a little as we neared the summit, and the summit itself is twin rock outcroppings no more than a couple of feet different in elevation.
Hagues and Mummy from Tileston, you can see the gentle ascent slopes in the foreground:
We decided to tag both of the summits (what was the extra 20 feet of vertical at this point?) just to be sure we had the right one. There was only about 400' of elevation gain from Potts Puddle, and the grade was fairly gentle. Aside from the bushwhacking, and fatigue, this was probably the easiest summit of the day. It was a good thing we went for it too, because I doubt either of us would have made a special trip to climb it any other time.
From here Bighorn still looked pretty far away, and there was a false summit of Tileston in the way to boot. At first we thought we could skirt it, but the slopes on the side take you away from the saddle, its best to suck it up and climb the 50 feet. From the false summit we still had to drop another 300' to the 10,660' saddle. Bighorn requires another 804' of gain, and more bushwhacking. This is definitely where "mania" turns to "masochism".
I swear, Bighorn NEVER looks close on this traverse!
The final slopes were spent dodging krumholz that seemed to grow in linear rows, so you kind of traverse to find an opening, and then followed the open slopes to the next opening. It added a little bit of mileage we didn't expect. It was also starting to turn weather wise and the last 100 feet we ditched the packs and found a spare burst of energy to make the final push a fast one, reaching the top at 3pm. From the summit we could see nearly our entire traverse, minus Chapin which was hidden.
Summit of Bighorn (finally...), looking back at Chiquita, Ypsilon and Fairchild:
We could also see some storms starting to batter Longs and hightailed it out of there. We bushwhacked our way down and finally hit the Lawn Lake trail with over 3 miles to still go to reach the trailhead. It started raining and around 3.30pm and we started to hear a lot of thunder. Glad we were back in the safety of the trees! It lasted maybe an hour, and the rain never got too heavy although we did don the rain jackets. It felt good to be hiking along the trail again regardless, as it made it feel like we were nearing the end!
The washed out slopes along the trail are from a severe flood back in the 80's:
Finally nearing 5pm we could see the parking lot from the switchbacks above and made our way down the last quarter of a mile and reached my car – just where Keegan left it. I have done some long days in my mountain climbing career, and I guess I knew what I was getting myself into, but somehow no matter what those last few miles always seem like a few too many. It is always a welcome relief to be back at the trailhead!
We drove back to Boulder to pick up Steve's car (it was at Keegan's house). Keegan wasn't home, which was hopefully a good sign that he was starting to feel better, sorry you had to miss out, hopefully we will get a chance to climb again some other time. After a $5 footlong Meatball Marinara, it was back over the passes to Avon where I collapsed on the couch around 9pm, spent and ready for bed.
This was definitely a hard day, one of the hardest - if not the hardest, I have had to date. I think it topped all my other climbs in terms of mileage and elevation, and I know it topped them in terms of number of summits (7 ranked and 1 unranked). We made great time, however, and Steve was a great partner to have for such an ambitious project. I'm glad we did it when we did; it's definitely something you have to work up too over the course of a summer! I think it's a traverse best saved for after you have had a summer to warm up on some other hikes first, I wouldn't want to go into this one "cold", it was hard enough to do with training!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):