Peak(s):  Chiefs Head Pk  -  13,579 feet
Alice, Mt  -  13,310 feet
Tanima Peak - 12420
Isolation Pk  -  13,118 feet
Date Posted:  07/17/2016
Date Climbed:   07/16/2016
Author:  Runner342
 A long day in the park  

Chiefs Head Peak (13,579)
Mt. Alice (13,310)
Tanima Peak (12,411)
Isolation Peak (13,118)

24.78 miles
9,603' gain

Sometimes the best plans come out of nowhere. I had Saturday off this weekend and after hiking McHenrys Peak on Friday, I still had no plans. So that evening I figured I'd try to knock out a couple more RMNP 13'ers as I'm trying to complete them this summer. Chiefs Head to Alice would be a respectable day, but if I made good time with good weather, how far could I go? Tanima? Isolation? Ogalalla? I found a couple escape routes down to treeline from various spots on the divide and decided I'd go for whatever was feeling good once I got there.
The plan was to travel light and run what I could of the route, make as good time as possible. Instead of taking the 30L pack I usually do on day hikes I took a small Camelbak pack with the following:

Rain jacket (tied around the outside)
3L water
Extra crunchy peanut butter (yup, just peanut butter)
Medical kit

I'd never really gone this light on a trip this long into the mountains before but I figured I'd do alright if I kept moving at a good pace. I do think I'd bring iodine tablets if I could do it over - I never really got dehydrated and my water lasted all but the last 3 miles, but I was definitely limiting myself to keep from running out. The peanut butter alone turned out to be a good snack on the summits, no utensils required.

I got to the Wild Basin TH around 5:30 and was off by 5:34. I tried my best to jog up to Lion Lake #1. My legs weren't really fresh which didn't help and the trail steepened quite a bit in the 5th mile but I still made it to the lake in 1:35 which I was happy with. I took my first real break here with some awesome views looking up Chief's Head and Alice.
Chief's Head from Lion Lake #1. I took the grassy slope up just left of the trees on the right.

On to the next two lakes. Trio Falls is above Lion Lake #1, making that area a little cliffy. I went up a less steep grassy spot on the far right and then traversed some rock slabs and passages through the trees to Lion Lake #2 and Snowbank Lake, which are very close together. At this point I needed to choose my line up Chief's Head. I couldn't exactly tell where the summit was, but had a rough idea. To the west I could see the easy slopes up to the ridge between Chief's Head and Alice. However, it looked like I'd end up backtracking a lot if I took that route. Instead, I eyed a gully making a quite visible scar diagonally up the mountain. It looked loose, but I was confident I could make it safely, even if it meant scrambling up the right side of it where more solid rock resided. As I made my way up I discovered that the rock was indeed very loose, but I could safely stay to the right on more solid scrambling rock, no more than class 2-3. After topping out I just had a few hundred feet left of class 2 hopping on my left to the summit.
Cool waterfall on the way up to Lion Lake #2.

Alice from Lion Lake #2.

Looking over to Tanima.

My route up - the obvious line from lower left to upper right.

Looking down after climbing the gully.

Almost to the top!

A great view of the Spearhead and Frozen Lake from up top.

Next up was Alice. I only spent about 7 minutes up on Chief's Head. I started making my way down the talus from the summit, trying to jog it but quickly learning that I'm not comfortable going downhill quite that fast. Once it flattened out I could jog a little more on the saddle. At one point I looked to my right to see another person on their way up Chief's Head. We were already past each other and I hadn't seen them earlier as I was concentrated on my feet so didn't get the chance to say hello. Soon I was to the funnel into the hourglass couloir. I stayed low on the left side which made for a little interesting traverse over to the slopes but made it nonetheless. At this point, the base of the hourglass, I was really feeling spent. The hourglass wasn't a huge climb, but it was still no easy task and only looked worse from the bottom. I laid down on a rock and considered taking a quick power nap. I've never really trusted myself sleeping anywhere on a mountain though so I just kept it to a break and finally started picking my way up. Once I got going it actually wasn't as hard as I thought. Pick a boulder, get to it, take a short stop, repeat. Looking back I saw my first big horned sheep of the year. It's a shame my phone camera doesn't do too well with zoom. Oh well. I was up to the top before I knew it, checking out the left "summit" before realizing the real highpoint was on my right. I found a register here, but one end was broken and there was only a very recent list of names. I took a nice 20 minute break up top this time to recharge.
The Hourglass on Alice.

Looking back at the lakes.

Now that my first two objectives were out of the way it was decision time. I could go back down the hourglass and down to the Lion Lakes, but I was feeling rejuvenated and ready for more. I also knew that a descent off Tanima was possible and I'd make good time as it would be a much easier summit. So I started my way down Alice. Easy talus can still be frustratingly slow, but I made decent time. I passed a couple hikers that came up Boulder-Grand Pass to climb Alice. Once I got down to the flatter tundra I made great time getting up to Tanima, a nice gentle grassy slope with a choke point and short rock hop just before the summit. Found the summit register standing straight up but didn't get to sign this one as there was no pen.
The summit of Tanima awaits.

Thankfully this hasn't been stolen yet.

The trip to Tanima really didn't drain me at all, so I looked over to Isolation. Man, did it look nasty. The question here would be the weather. I had seen some clouds up on Alice, but none looked threatening. Now they were mostly hidden to me so I was a little unsure. I decided to give it a try as there would be a good way down Isolation even if I didn't make the summit, so long as I could get to the eastern slopes. I made my way down and around the Cleaver, then to the nasty spires on Isolation. I didn't want to tackle any class 5, so I took an idea from pbakwin's Wild Basin Traverse trip report and looked to the right to the grassy ledges and ramps. I didn't get any pictures here as my phone was in my pack (I definitely wanted both hands free for this part), but try to stay low and on the widest grassy ramps. I down climbed a ways before finding a ramp that went back up, and then eventually found the steep gully described by pbakwin leading back up to the ridge (it looks like you're going backwards/a little to your left, but you will gain the ridge again so don't worry). It is pretty much all class 3, I made a couple steep class 4 moves in one spot but they probably could've been avoided by looking around a bit. I stayed on one side or the other as the middle is quite loose. Once up top there are a couple more spires on the ridge but all can be skirted on the eastern slopes. The summit of Isolation is quite the tease, with false summits a LONG way back. Just when you think you're there, guess what, you're still a LONG way away. The weather was looking a bit iffy at this point with some rain in the distance. I was close so I made my way quickly up to what looked like the summit to me. At one point I went up to the ridge and was almost knocked over by what felt like 60mph gusts. It was time to get a move on. When I reached what I thought was the summit I saw yet another highpoint a ways down the ridge. At this point though I didn't care which it really was, I was getting the heck down from there (looking back at my GPS tracks and map, I DID reach the true summit ).
Isolation looking crazy.

Closer view of the Cleaver and Isolation. Bypass the Cleaver up to the dark cliffs, then look for grass ramps down and to your right.

Moomaw Glacier.

Eagle's Beak and Moomaw.

I boulder hopped my way down the talus to Isolation Lake and the clouds seemed to be holding off which was great news. Mahana was part of the plan if I'd gotten this far, but I didn't want to be up on a ridge and it was more of a climb than I anticipated anyway so I skipped it in favor of getting low faster. Soon I was to Lark Pond, and after some short bushwhacking, Bluebird Lake! Real trail was finally under my feet!
Off the talus! (mostly)

I could usually care less about wildflowers, but these were beautiful.

Route finding down to Lark Pond.

Awesome view of Copeland.

Looking down Ouzel Creek (back when I was actually on trail)

I took a nice long break to eat a ton of peanut butter here (I hadn't eaten since Alice), and was happily surprised to see the clouds were holding off. According to my map, it was around 7 miles back to Wild Basin TH. I should be able to jog it in about 1-1.5 hours, right?


For some stupid reason the trail back to Ouzel Lake was stupidly hard to follow, or maybe it was just me being stupid, or just ridiculously tired. Either way, I got really off it once I hit a stream crossing and ended up bushwhacking my way back following Ouzel Creek. Not exactly the fastest way, but I knew it would get me there eventually. I ran into Ouzel Lake and hiked through some wet marshy stuff north until I saw it, the trail! It was beautiful! Oh well, it wouldn't have been a real hike without a good bushwhack... I took a short break fueling up again and then started jogging back down, covering the last 5 or so miles at around 10 minute mile pace. I was worried that my legs would be so tired that I'd be tripping over rocks at this point, but to my surprise they were doing just fine on the nice gentle downhill trail (I walked the short uphill segments, I wasn't gonna put myself through running those ). Before I knew it, I was back to the trailhead. It hadn't rained a drop!

In retrospect, a few things I'd do differently next time:

Some method of having more water, probably iodine tablets.
I think I should've gone down before peaking Isolation. I got summit fever, and I got lucky. Although I never heard thunder or saw lightning, I still saw rain coming in and kept going. Self control can be hard .

Some big stats!


Wild Basin TH: 5:34 (0:00)
Lion Lake #1: 7:08 (1:34)
Chief's Head Peak: 9:25 (2:17)
Mt. Alice: 11:09 (1:44)
Tanima Peak: 12:23 (1:14)
Isolation Peak: 2:30 (2:07)
Bluebird Lake: 4:23 (1:53)
Wild Basin TH: 6:54 (2:31)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

Strong work!
07/18/2016 08:54
That's a big day combining some great summits. Did you happen to tag The Cleaver? You sound like a bit of a register enthusiast and it's got a good one.

07/18/2016 11:01
No I didn't I just went around it. If I'm ever up there again a little earlier in the day I'll have to though!


Much love!
07/18/2016 19:44
For Wild Basin. It's a special place! Good work on a long day.

07/19/2016 10:48
I agree, the long approaches are definitely worth it.

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