Peak(s):  Bighorn Mountain - 11,463 feet
Mount Tileston - 11,254 feet
Joe Mills Mountain - 11,078 feet
Mount Wuh - 10,761 feet
Date Posted:  03/27/2013
Modified:  03/02/2014
Date Climbed:   03/03/2013
Author:  kimo
Additional Members:   vonmackle
 The Little Mountains That Could: Winter Adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park  

The Little Mountains That Could: Winter Adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park

"There's more about life that you'll learn as you go,
Because figuring things out on your own helps you grow.
Just trust in yourself, and you'll climb every hill.
Say, 'I think I can!' and you know what?
You will."

Bighorn Mountain
Summit elevation: 11,463 feet, ranked #66 in RMNP

Mount Tileston
Summit elevation: 11,254 feet, ranked #70 in RMNP

Joe Mills Mountain
Summit elevation: 11,078 feet, ranked #72 in RMNP

Mount Wuh
Summit elevation: 10,761 feet, ranked #78 in RMNP

Part One: Bighorn Mountain and Mount Tileston

Climb date: February 23, 2013
Partners: Anna and Cameron
Trailhead and elevation: Lawn Lake, 8,540 feet
Round trip distance: Just over 14 miles
Vertical gain: Around 3,600 feet
Difficulty: Route-finding and bushwacking
For Bighorn Mountain information click here.
For Mount Tileston information click here.

We agree to meet Cameron for sunrise at the Many Parks Curve closure gate. Cameron arrives more than an hour before us to make photographs like this beauty.
(photo below by Cameron)

Like lazy bums, we pull up at 630 am. We arrive just in time for the sunrise showing of Longs Peak.

We turn our gaze to the north and the rugged southern ramparts of Bighorn Mountain.

We stash our gear and drive back down the road to the Lawn Lake trailhead. We start hiking at 730am.

Horseshoe Park appears to be terribly dry. We decide to leave our snowshoes in our cars.

The snow-packed trail follows the Roaring River toward Lawn Lake. In the distance, Mummy Mountain rises high.

Lenticular clouds over Mummy Mountain.

We continue on the trail for a mile past the Cutbank backcountry campsite. When it feels right, we leave the trail and cut into the trees that protect Bighorn's northwest slopes.

The snow gets deep fast.

We find remnants of an old trench to follow. An old trench is usually better than no trench, so we take it. The trench lead us to treeline rather quickly.

Fairchild Mountain is the phantom peak on left, Hagues Peak is cloaked by cloud in center, and Mummy Mountain is the impressive monster on the right.

It's not long before we reach the summit ridge of Bighorn Mountain.

(photo below by Cameron)

(photo below by Cameron)

We enjoy a snack in the stiff wind. Satisfied, we shoulder our packs and drop nearly 800 vertical feet to the saddle with Mt. Tileston.

Mummy Mountain dominates the view ahead of us. Our objective is the distant rocky crag directly below Mummy's summit.

We scramble through a rugged windblown landscape.

To the west is Blitzen Ridge on the dramatic east face of Ypsilon Mountain.

And behind us is Bighorn Mountain.

Longs Peak makes a grand appearance.

The snow pack thins on the south slope of Mount Tileston. Upward progress becomes downright pleasant.


...and repose.
(photo below by Cameron)

Action shots.

We think this could be the summit. It's not.

The Mummy Range captures my attention.
(photo below by Cameron)

We enjoy center stage in a stadium of giants. Anna heads for the true summit.

The summit is an easy scramble.

The view from the top is tremendous. To the southwest, Estes Park sits between the Needles on the left and McGregor Mountain on the right.

We enjoy the view for just a few moments. The wind is not welcoming and so we descend the north ridge toward the Lawn Lake trail.

We reach the trail. It's buried beneath a few feet of soft unsupportive snow.

The snow pack thins as we descend. We take one last look at Bighorn Mountain.

The great scar, thirty years later.

No words needed.

"On your new trip, you'll make plenty of stops,
In deep river valleys and on high mountaintops.
Some will suprise you and some will be planned,
And you'll roll through each one saying, 'I think I can!' "

Part Two: Joe Mills Mountain and Mount Wuh

Climb date: March 3, 2013
Partner: Anna
Trailhead and elevation: Bear Lake, 9,475 feet
Round trip distance: Just over 9 miles
Vertical gain: Around 3,000 feet
Difficulty: Route-finding and bushwacking
For Joe Mills Mountain information click here.
For Mount Wuh information click here.

Our adventure starts with this classic view of Hallett Peak from across Bear Lake.

We follow the snow-packed trail toward Odessa Lake. The trees part way for Longs Peak.

No snowshoes or traction devices required.

We reach the large clearing at the base of Flattop Mountain's northeast slopes. Mount Wuh comes into full view.

We aim for the saddle and leave the well-beaten track. The unbroken snow gets deep fast.

Longs Peak makes a grand appearance. After a full winter enjoyed in the park, we've realized that no matter where one is, Longs Peak always seems to be right there.

As we near the saddle, we decide to first go for Joe Mills Mountain.

The trees thin as we ascend Joe Mill's east slope. Mount Wuh waits stoically behind us.

Going up.

We reach the east ridge and the view explodes: Little Matterhorn, Gabletop, and Stones.

Gabletop and Stones.

Almost there...

...just a few more moves...

...and we hit the summit.

The Ptarmigan Glacier bordered by Flattop on the left, and Notchtop on the right.

Beautiful Notchtop.

As usual in the park in winter, the wind is ripping. We spend just a few moments on top and then turn back. The Mummy Range fills the northern horizon.

We head for Mt Wuh.

Beauty and the beast.

We surrender to the trees.

Fortune and luck: we find segments of an old trench.

The trench crests the saddle and drops toward Fern Lake. We leave the trench and start up Mt. Wuh's west ridge. It gets deep in spots.

On our left is a breathtaking view into Forest Canyon as it spills into Moraine Park. The Fern Lake fire burn area is clearly visible across the canyon.

We approach the summit ridge.

The short scramble for the summit.

We reach the summit as weather moves in. Mount Wuh's charms are subtle when compared to the "in your face" attitude of Joe Mills.

Shaken not stirred.

We head back down the way we came.

Romantic tragedy.

We rejoin the well-beaten path where we left it.

Snow begins to fall as we hike out.

We head to Ed's Cantina for our after-hike reward. The conversation turns from past to present to future. Two weekends remain in winter. How do we make the most of it?

"I knew you could! And you knew it, too -
That you'd come out on top after all you've been through.
And from here you'll go farther and see brand-new sights,
You'll face brand-new hills that rise to new heights."

All quotes are from the children's book "I Knew You Could!" by Craig Dorfman

 Comments or Questions

Incredible Photos Kimo and Cameron!
03/27/2013 11:57
Great trip report and well done you Three. Beautiful and Amazing.


Lower elevation gems!
03/27/2013 12:04
When heading up Joe Mills and Wuh on 3/12, we saw faint shadows of your trench. The first time, we weren't sure what the weirdly straight dip in the snow represented, but then we figured it out the second time.

Great report and pics, as usual!


03/27/2013 12:18
Looks like a great day--some of those photos are jaw-dropping. I gawked at the ones from Joe Mills for 15 minutes!


That first shot...
03/27/2013 13:38
... of Longs Peak at Sunrise is incredible. Actually, all the photos are incredible, but that one is a show stopper.


Great RMNP perspective
03/27/2013 14:12
This is a phenomenal Rocky Mtn NP TR Kimo, especially the shots of Notchtop and the Mummies, and a classic sunrise shot on Longs. Little Matterhorn looks like a pretty worthy endeavor. Joe Mills might rival Lone Eagle for best 11er summit in the Front Range.

Brian Thomas

say wuh?
03/27/2013 14:15
RMNP is awesome.


New views...
03/27/2013 14:48
...of some of my favorites places! I could spend all morning gazing at your images! But alas! I need to start getting back to work. Thanks for the wonderful break!

PS. Kimo, on some of your older TR's (specifically Hallett Peak) the images don't come up anymore. I miss them!


Mt Wuh
03/27/2013 18:24
I once had an epic on Mt Wuh as a kid. I don't want to talk about it...

Nice report, the sunrise photos of the Longs Massif are fantastic.


03/28/2013 00:36
Your two TRs have made me fully realize my failings this past winter, and will get me out a heck of a lot more next winter. Thank you.


03/28/2013 11:04
Love those shots from Joe Mills.


Incredible TR Kimo!
04/01/2013 14:52
I finally got the chance to read this one.

”Mount Wuh's charms are subtle when compared to the ”in your face” attitude of Joe Mills.” I thought the same thing when I was up there in January but couldn't express my feelings quite so eloquently.

Awesome report and stunning pictures as usual. And I love the floundering sequence on Tileston.


Stunning TR duo!
04/01/2013 23:15
Thanks for posting - outstanding pair of TR's.
Great pics, both of you!
Each season has it's own beauty.
You've just given winter an edge in the competition


Nice job
04/05/2013 03:53
Kimo, Really nice perspective of the park. Some of your photos almost seem 3D - what gear do you use?

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