TR - Medicine Bow Peak, WY (12,013)

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TR - Medicine Bow Peak, WY (12,013)

Postby TalusMonkey » Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:24 am

Peak: Medicine Bow Peak, WY (12,013’)
Date: Sunday, October 15, 2006
Team: Solo
Route: Lewis Lake TH (Sugarloaf Recreation Area)

Medicine Bow Peak is located in southeast Wyoming and is the high point of the Medicine Bow mountain range as well as Medicine Bow National Forest. Medicine Bow Peak is located approximately 40 miles west of Laramie, WY.

From the Front Range, approach Medicine Bow Peak by traveling to Laramie, WY via I-25 N to Cheyenne then I-80 west to Laramie. Or, I-25 N to Fort Collins and then US 287 to Laramie. From Laramie, head west on Wyoming Hwy 130 toward the town of Centennial, WY (30 miles). From Centennial, continue west on Wyoming Hwy 130 up into the Snowy Range. The Sugarloaf Recreation Area is well signed and is located on the right side of the highway 11.5 miles from Centennial.

Turning right at the Sugarloaf Recreation Area, continue on the well graded dirt road past the Libby Lake Picnic Area/Trailhead and continue straight to the Lewis Lake parking area. The Lewis Lake parking area is located only one mile from the highway. The gravel and dirt road is well maintained by the Forest Service. It is suitable for a low clearance exotic car. Trailhead coordinates: N41deg 21m23.7s, W106deg 17m41.2s.

A view of Medicine Bow Peak beyond Lewis Lake in the pre-dawn light:


From the Lewis Lake picnic area and trailhead, take the well signed trail on the south end of the lake. Follow the south shore of the lake and cross the outlet stream from the lake. Approximately 0.8 km from the TH you will pass the Klondike Lakes west of Lewis Lake. Most of the trail was snow free to this point, but as the trail began to rise there were some icy areas.

Near 11,100 feet you will reach a three-way trail junction at: N41deg 21m29.7s, W106deg 18m32.0s. Take the well signed Medicine Bow Peak trail which heads due west. Follow easy switchbacks to the summit.

Looking down on the Klondike Lakes from the upper trail:


As I climbed higher there were more and more sections of drifted snow on the trail. Although the snow was solid enough to walk on the surface, there were signs of postholing by previous hikers – probably hiking later in the day after solar warming. The summit itself is comprised of large boulders with large gaps between them. The snow near the summit is quite deep in places (up to two and three fee), but was frozen during my hike. Those choosing to hike Medicine Bow Peak when the snow is soft are advised to be careful.

A view of the false summit (the actual summit is just over the top) from about 11,900 feet:


I arrived on the summit to complete calm – silence and not a breath of wind. The view was fantastic. The summit is at: N41deg 21m37.0s, W106deg 19m03.5s.

A view looking south from the summit, toward Colorado:


After taking some photos I quickly descended back to the trailhead and parking area in only 35 minutes.

A view of Lewis Lake and Medicine Bow Peak in the morning sun:


This hike is very short (4 miles RT) with only 1,260 feet of vertical gain. I made the summit in 45 minutes. From the summit you can see a dozen alpine lakes just below. This is a great “getaway” hike for a change of scenery from Colorado. In addition, this hike makes a great hike for those with spouses, significant others or families less suited (or motivated) to 14er hiking.

Note: The Sugarloaf Recreation Area is located only 0.5 miles east of the Snowy Range Pass. Winter road closure of Wyoming Hwy 130 is 3.4 miles EAST of the Sugarloaf Recreation Area. Wyoming Hwy 130 over the Snowys generally does not open until Memorial Day each year. The Wyoming Dept of Transportation usually closes the highway after significant snow in October. Those wishing to make this spectacular short hike should verify road conditions prior to driving up. Visit the following website for current road closure status and travel advisories:
"When hiking in bear country one doesn't need to be the fastest runner in the party - just not the slowest."

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Postby MtHurd » Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:34 am

Excellent report. I made a slight detour on the way to the Tetons last year and drove right by the peak. Nice area.

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Postby Yog » Mon Oct 16, 2006 9:59 am

Cool TR, I was wondering how you did on this peak...thanks for posting and pics! Didn't get to say hi on the cell phone Friday, so hello back! I forgot that I had met you on Antero earlier this year.... :)
. . .Now, after the hours of torment . . . I have nothing more to do than breathe . . .I am nothing more than a single, narrow, gasping lung, floating over the mists and the summits.
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Postby Matt » Mon Oct 16, 2006 11:42 am

Nice TR, TM. I highly recommend that peak for a change of scenery--it looks much different than the 14ers up there.
I agree with the advice to be careful on the snow up there. I did Medicine Bow in early July a couple years ago, and my pal went through a seemingly solid crust a few times, once where he was well past waist-deep with nothing to push off of to get out.
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Postby ClimbingJWM » Mon Oct 16, 2006 1:42 pm

TalusMonkey- That's an impressive trip report! I've spent a lot of time in that range but haven't yet had the chance to climb Medicine Bow peak itself. Your trip report will be very useful for me!

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Postby Billygoat » Mon Oct 16, 2006 11:00 pm

Nice job! I drove through that area last year with a friend of mine and thought how beautiful the scenery was up there. Was curious about hiking up there myself sometime and hunt for any remains of United Airlines flight 409 that slammed into the peak in October of 1955 with the loss of all onboard! Worst commercial aviation accident of the time.
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Postby RenoBob » Tue Oct 17, 2006 8:00 am

Billygoat wrote:Nice job! I drove through that area last year with a friend of mine and thought how beautiful the scenery was up there. Was curious about hiking up there myself sometime and hunt for any remains of United Airlines flight 409 that slammed into the peak in October of 1955 with the loss of all onboard! Worst commercial aviation accident of the time.

BG: Here's a link to a great site that describes the location of UAL409 plus many other 40's and 50's plane crashes in the Colorado Rockies. ... edDC6.html
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