Peak(s):  Alice, Mt  -  13,310 feet
Date Posted:  08/02/2020
Date Climbed:   08/01/2020
Author:  trkl9
 Ascending the Hourglass Ridge  

Mount Alice

Hourglass ridge --> Alice --> Boulder-Grand Pass

Another absolute gem checked off the list this weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park. Still working on the 13ers in the park as well as the 14er routes. This was another LONG route through pretty remote terrain. Just a few weeks ago, the ridge was still full of snow but now it is easily accessible. I have been doing most of these solo but agreed to summit a few weeks ago with another user on this site. This one did not disappoint.

Miles: 17.1

Vertical Feet: ~5,000 feet

Time: 9 hrs 22 min round trip

Trailhead: Wild Basin

We decided that we wanted to do the loop that traversed north past Lion lakes, up to the hourglass ridge and then down the other side on the south slopes to Boulder-Grand pass. Guidebooks and previous trip reports really helped with finding this fun route.

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Heres the loop that we did tracked with GAIA

Started from the trailhead at 4 AM and trekked down a well maintained trail up to Lion Lake #1. Saw another group at the trailhead but did not see anyone else until descending almost to Thunder lake. Used the backcountry camping cut off trail to shave off total distance but I don't think it saves too much. First couple of hours were in the dark.

Reached Lion Lake at 6:28 AM and already 6.1 miles in. Up to this point, the trail is easy and makes for great hiking.

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Lion Lake #1 with Mount Alice getting the first glimpse sun.

Skirted around the north side of Lion Lake and up to Trio falls. There was an occasional visible trail and some rocky slabs that were marked intermittently by cairns. Instead of going directly to Lion Lake #2 and Snowbank Lake, we continued west up mixed rock and vegetation to the ramp that ascends up to the Alice-Chiefs head saddle. From Lion Lake it is about 1.7 miles and 1,400 feet to the saddle.

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Trio falls with lush summer flora
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Short slab of snow and ice working our way up to the saddle
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Farther up looking back down to Lion Lake #1 after the snow in the previous picture.

We continued to head directly west until the saddle came into view as well as the ridge up to Alice.

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Head west straight up the ramp to the saddle. Easy tundra walk but steeper than it looks.
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Even farther up from the previous picture. Followed this ridge all the way.

The hike up to the saddle offers incredible views of the surrounding peaks and allows you to look closer at the hourglass ridge as you approach. This ridge looks pretty gnarly from a distance.

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Hourglass ridge from a distance
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Looking back down and east toward the route, Snowbank and Lion Lake #2. Almost to the saddle.
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View of the Hourglass ridge from the saddle

From here the real fun begins. It is 7.76 miles from the trailhead to the saddle and about 0.57 miles and 800 feet to the summit from this point. Most reports say that the ridge is not nearly as hard as it looks but from a distance it looks pretty intense. There are a couple of exposed class 3 sections, mainly during the first few sections with steep drop offs. After that I would rank it as more class 2+, especially with good route finding. There are steep slabs of rock that are visible in the picture above towards the top of the ridge. We avoided those by going climbers left over more suitable and easier rock. There are plenty of large boulders and most of it is pretty stable. Did not have have worry too much about loose rocks slipping out from under you.

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About 1/3 of the way there.
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Scramble to the summit. Good perspective of how large the boulders are.

Made it to the summit 8.36 miles and 5 hours from the trailhead, just after 9 AM. There are two prominent points at the top and we actually went to the summit on the east side of the peak first. There is a large cairn pile and a broken summit register on the prominence to the west which is the true summit. They are very close to each other. Couldn't have asked for a better morning. Warm, sunny, minimal wind and blue skies.

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Looking back down the ridge, over to McHenrys and the northwest slope to Chiefs Head in the distance.
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Chiefs Head, Pagoda, Longs, Meeker from the summit. Snowbank and Lion Lake #2 visible on the bottom as well as the ramp up to the saddle.
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Looking directly east in to the Wild Basin wilderness. Descent route will take us directly to Thunder lake visible on the bottom right
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Looking due south from the summit to more of the wonderful Wild Basin peaks along the Continental Divide.

After spending a while at the summit and re-fueling, we readied our gear and headed down the slopes south of Alice's summit toward Boulder-Grand pass. It is 1.23 miles from the summit to the pass mostly across easy tundra.

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South slopes descent. Deceptively far to the pass access.

Made it to Boulder-Grand pass at 9.59 miles from the trailhead. From all of the research on the route, this was going to be full of loose scree and they were 100% right. Pretty awful and steep but luckily it is pretty short lived. Probably around a 500 foot descent to Lake of Many Winds. Pretty much just surfed down on my feet. Not sure you'd want to ascend this way unless there is firm snow still packed in. You could make it up but it won't be fun.

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From the top of the pass looking down to Lake of Many Winds and Thunder Lake
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Looking back west to the pass
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Better view of the climb down from Boulder-Grand pass from the east side of Lake of Many Winds. Route is just to the right of the top/middle snowfield

From the Lake of Many Winds, a semi-defined trail comes back into view. We followed it down fairly steep terrain all the way to Thunder Lake.

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Just after leaving Lake of Many Winds. Steep terrain down to Thunder Lake. A faint trail exists all the way down.
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Looking back up the slope to Lake of Many Winds and Boulder-Grand pass. Lots of flowers through a beautiful meadow.
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A little farther down, looking back west.
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Almost down to Thunder Lake
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Western fringe of Thunder Lake.

Measured 10.84 miles to Thunder Lake from the trailhead to this point. Despite feeling almost done for the day, from the west side of Thunder Lake it is still about 6.3 miles back to the Wild Basin trailhead but all over well maintained and easy trails.

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One last view before Alice disappears (far right). Far left you can see the Boulder-Grand pass access.

It was a longgggg 6 miles back to the trailhead from Thunder Lake but finished with a great pace and feeling accomplished for knocking out this awesome backcountry peak. The hourglass ridge route is another top favorite of mine so far. Ogalalla peak is the only 13er in the Wild Basin area that remains to be climbed for me. I have a few more to do in the other areas of the park, though. Incredible route today that takes you by 5 alpine lakes, 1 waterfall, 1 incredible ridge climb and about 2 miles of traversing on the continental divide. If you have any interest at all, I highly recommend this route thorough this remote and beautiful wilderness.




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
ltlFish99
Excellent report
08/02/2020 14:01
Great report of a truly special place.
I had the pleasure of going on a hike to my. Alice with the CMC, lead by Jennifer Sears in 1987.
The trip followed the same route you took, and it was absolutely wonderful.
That whole area makes for great hiking.


mathguy

Thanks for the memories
08/03/2020 07:35
I did that same loop back in 2014 and my experience was essentially
the same as yours. A long but exceptionally beautiful hike where you're
pretty much guaranteed a fair amount of solitude (at least until you
reach Thunder Lake). Unlike me, however, who was too lazy to write
up a trip report, you did a great job with an informative narrative and
nice pics. Reading your report was a great way to start the day.


dillonsarnelli

looks like a fine day
08/05/2020 08:24
such a great spot. nice work up there!



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