Peak(s):  Stormy Peaks - 12,148 feet
Date Posted:  03/27/2013
Modified:  02/25/2014
Date Climbed:   03/17/2013
Author:  kimo
Additional Members:   Floyd
 Ghosts in the Mist  

Ghosts in the Mist: In Search of Stormy Peaks

Images by Kimo & Narrative by Anna

Stormy Peaks - 12,148'
Rocky Mountain National Park & Comanche Peak Wilderness

Step, breathe. Step, breathe. Repeat sequence 22 times... 23 - 24 - 25. I look up and through the biting wind and swirl of snowflakes, I spot Kimo in red.
He gives me a silent thumbs up. I glance briefly at the ridge beyond my current position and where I imagine the distant, but hidden summit might be.
The cold air has yet to sink into my bones and in the wind-driven snow, I find pure delight. I return the unspoken gesture with a mittened thumbs up.
We move through the snowstorm like ghosts in the mist, closing the gap between material and myth. Winter's last breath surrounds me. I am home.

Our First Attempt

Saturday, March 9, 2013

It's snowing hard when we arrive at the Dunraven Trailhead outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. It's about 9 am, and we've got 7 miles of trail ahead of us.

Some people enjoy their weekends with a game, shopping, running errands, and partying. We carry full burdens on our backs, sleep outdoors
in the bitter cold surrounded by wild animals doing who knows what, and we push ourselves to stand on mountains that could care less.
And yet in some crazy way we enjoy this.

The next 7 miles will lead us through 2 Wilderness areas: the Comanche Peak Wilderness Area and the RMNP Wilderness Area.
The weekend forecast for big snow has us hoping that we won't have to dig our cars out upon our return.

Joining us for this crazy weekend is fellow mountain loon Scot "Snow Plow" Osborne, who is desperate to get his monthly mountain medicine.
Scot's an all-around good guy and a great partner. We all share a few laughs before shouldering our packs and heading into the woods.

Hiking in falling snow has its merits.

We get away without flotation in the fresh powder for miles before the postholing becomes deep enough to warrant snowshoes.
Unfortunately, snowshoes in this kind of snow aren't all that effective.

We find ourselves at "Happily Lost". We're not lost, but we're definitely happy - a nearby privy and unfrozen water source at the creek is luxury winter camping.

Time to set up camp and enjoy a warm meal.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

After a day and night of snowfall, we're pleased to see blue skies in the morning.

Up the snow-covered trail we go.

The trenching alternates between easy and awful. We mostly follow the trail with a slight detour to avoid a sketchy section.

We rejoin the trail and eventually find ourselves at the Lost Lakes/Stormy Peaks split. The Stormy Peaks campsite is 1 mile away,
but the next half-mile is grueling. Even with snowshoes, we're past our knees in fresh powder.

We alternate the chore of trail-breaking until, what seems like an eternity later, we reach another sign that taunts us with the knowledge
that we've only gone half a mile.

We're not ready to throw in the towel yet. Between the three of us, there's a whole lot of stubborn.

But a short bit of trail-breaking later, we're up to our waist...with snowshoes. One by one, we admit defeat. There's still a ways to go before treeline,
not to mention the work it would take to gain the still hidden summit. We turn our backs on Stormy Peaks with regret,
but knowing we made the right decision.

On our way down, we realize that we haven't just built a trench, we've built a canyon. And the gears are already turning. No one wants to waste
the effort we've put into building this trench.

As for this weekend, we'll just have to settle for the prize of fresh air, a beautiful place, and great company. We pack up and walk out under
sunny skies. Yesterday was Winter, but today it seems that we've found Spring.

Our Second Attempt

Saturday, March 16, 2013

One week is not enough time to fade the memory of the 7-mile pack-in to Happily Lost. Scot can't make it this weekend so we set out on our own.
We shoulder our loaded packs, and with a grunt we begin the long walk into the wilderness.

Memory has yet to fade, but nature is quick to change. Much of the snow from the previous week's storm has vanished at the lower elevations.

We march past familiar landmarks; miles fade with uncounted footsteps. The heat of spring warms us as we wait for a Winter storm that may not arrive.

Eventually, a wooden signs greets us with the news that we are "Happily Lost" again.

We begin the routine of settling into our evening's shelter. There is a tent to set up, fresh water to pump, and a warm meal to eat.

The night is quiet - a testimony to the truth of Winter.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"It's 5:15," relays a curiously alert voice from the other side of the tent. I am not quite ready to admit defeat to wakefulness and do all I can
to remain in the warmth of my cocoon. But time fades fast and we have a long day ahead - fueled, packed, and snowshoes adorning our booted feet, we walk.

Our hard-fought trench is in good shape despite a week's neglect and we make good time upward to the end of our tracks. Now to begin the work of today.

Above our trench, the snow remains deep and is a bit easier to manage through than the previous weekend.
We inspect a treeless bowl - one whoomph is enough to send us back to safer terrain.

The trees shelter us from the brunt of Winter, but we can hear its voice in the howling wind and feel its touch in snowfall.
Stormy Peaks is living up to its name.

We are stunned at our first glimpse of the mountain; it appears much further away and higher than we expected.
The map in our hands does little to fully tell the story of Stormy Peaks.

Trees merge with snow-covered willows and then both yield to the stark grace of tundra.

We discuss our options and reluctantly consider abandoning our quarry for an attempt at a lower peak nearby. Above the trees, we are fully enveloped
in Winter's embrace. Should we choose to continue to the summit of Stormy Peaks, we will be at the mercy of Winter for some time yet.
Almost as if sensing our withdrawal, Winter's storm abates for a brief moment, enticing us further. Stormy Peaks is no longer just a name on the map
to us anymore, but a tangible entity. We press on. Reaching treeline is not as difficult a chore as we anticipate, avoiding the willows as best as possible.
We take a moment to cache our snowshoes at treeline and beeline for the windy slopes ahead.

Step, breathe. Step, breathe. Repeat sequence 22 times... 23 - 24 - 25. I look up and through the biting wind and swirl of snowflakes, I spot Kimo in red.
He gives me a silent thumbs up. I glance briefly at the ridge beyond my current position and where I imagine the distant, but hidden summit might be.
The cold air has yet to sink into my bones and in the wind-driven snow, I find pure delight. I return the unspoken gesture with a mittened thumbs up.
We move through the snowstorm like ghosts in the mist, closing the gap between material and myth. Winter's last breath surrounds me. I am home.

Up we go. The ridge greets us and we are surprised by the number of rocky outcroppings upon it. "Is that it?" becomes the question of the day.

Finally, "the summit" becomes the summit. We are grateful to be in this place despite the difficult conditions. Winter has gifted us with another memorable experience.

There's no time to linger as Winter swirls around us, fashioning an ever-shifting white coat.

We return the way we came and almost reluctantly, find ourselves back in the shelter of the trees, out of Winter's touch.

Back at camp, we pack our belongings with haste as Winter's storm (and our hunger for Ed's Cantina) intensifies.

The familiar trail flies by. It feels as if we have come full circle - both the start and end of our journey on this trail touched by the cold hand of
Winter snowfall. Back at the car, we enjoy the satisfaction of another safe outing under Winter's watchful eye.

Farewell Winter. We'll see you again next year.

Tale of the tape:
Distance on March 9/10 = 17.5 miles
Gain on March 9/10 = approx 2,800 feet
Distance on March 16/17 = 21 miles
Gain on March 16/17 = approx 4,400 feet

Google Earth image of our GPS track:

 Comments or Questions

Another Beauty!
03/27/2013 12:02
Great trip report and fantastic photos!


A spectacular effort
03/27/2013 12:13
And your pictures and narrative convey your feelings well. I'd been wondering about these as winter destinations, so thanks for this.


Good lord, people!
03/27/2013 12:52
Simply stunning! I'm in awe of you guys. The combination of spectacular photos and great description and narrative make for a truly vicarious experience.


03/27/2013 12:56
Hooray for Snow!!!

Many beautiful shots, Kimo. Love it

Brian Thomas

03/27/2013 14:26
Calendar winter snowflake icons are so overrated. This trip report rocks.


Stormy Peaks, indeed!
03/27/2013 14:28
Perseverance wins! Super trek people! And as always, a joy to read and view your images! Thanks for the trip!


03/27/2013 15:03
I really enjoyed the photos.


03/27/2013 16:32
Love your pictures and the way you presented your tale! Keep up the great work!


Where's the puking smiley?
03/27/2013 16:36
You guys are writing joint reports now?? That's like internet PDA. Blehhh.

(nice report; aptly named peaks)


03/27/2013 19:22
Damn, two of the best trip reports I've read back to back. They make me want to go out and have an adventure myself. Amazing photos. You do a great job of making your trips look so enjoyable


03/27/2013 19:39
...on keeping your fingers working well enough to take such a trove of very nice photos (not to mention the perseverance...). Ironic that you would be stopped by the deep snow one week, but win out over a snow storm the next!


Great Pics
03/28/2013 01:51
Love the color in your pics! Great report!


Thanks for sharing!
03/28/2013 02:29
Your pictures are awesome! Thanks for sharing your adventure!


03/28/2013 11:17


03/28/2013 12:55
Cool picks... Really cool.


Excellent report you guys
03/28/2013 19:54
I'm sorry I couldn't join you for both weekends of fun. So, there was actually a photo of Kimo breaking trail? That must have been staged...

Thanks for writing this up and thanks again for wandering out into the blizzard with me!

Looking forward to going back sometime and hoepfully we can get out again soon.


You should change your title
03/28/2013 20:24
I read your report quickly at work the other day and after studying it more thoroughly at home, I thought you should change the title to:

Gorillas in the Mist!

The way you animals plowed through that deep snow is amazing! Again, thanks for the post! I loved it!


03/28/2013 22:39
I just zoned out for 20 minutes going through your trip report. Your pictures stir my imagination and desire to get into the mountains even more now.

Thank you for the trip report!


Food Yes Food!
03/29/2013 01:35
If anyone has ever earned a good meal in the mountains you two certainly did. Hope you had enough energy to chew your food!


03/29/2013 01:45
Ive been waiting for this TR since seeing you guys log Stormy Peaks on LOJ! Well done all, those snowless lower elevation shots on the 2nd attempt gave me a smile


Thanks for the comments...
04/04/2013 14:52
Appreciate them all. But I gotta give credit to that beautiful park, the fine weather that contributed greatly to the experience, and my awesome partners. Sometimes everything just comes together, as it did for these trips. Good times for sure.

Doug - over time, I'll be relinking the photos in my past reports. Thanks for letting me know that you enjoy them, and that the links are broken.



04/08/2013 02:38
Great teamwork & tenaciousness on finally getting that summit over two weekends. The photos & prose marry together beautifully....”closing the gap between material and myth.”
It's really nice to have a high end DSLR to get that shallow depth of field, but it's even nicer to see photos from someone who knows how to use it! I love the camp sitet art work.

Now, Kimo you need to share...Anna needs to take more than just one picture of you...especially more than drinking beer!

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.