On August 4th, 2012, Suzy, who had hiked up to Lion Lake No 1 in the Wild Basin the week prior, went out again with me on a scouting hike up to Snowbank Lake. I had been considering an ascent of either Mount Alice, Chiefs Head Peak, or Pagoda Mountain, but wanted to look the area over before setting my objectives for each peak.
The day started out overcast, so my shots on Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls were unimpressive and
gloomy. A mere 10 minutes further up the trail, however, the clouds started burning off, and we caught an exciting glimpse
of Mount Alice breaking through the mist. Only a couple minutes further down the trail, Longs Peak and Mount Meeker
were blowing away the last of the clouds and it was suddenly a beautiful day.
The thing I don't like about hiking in forests is the limited view through the trees, and nearly
two and a half hours further up the trail now, I was getting bored, when Suzy pointed out a great view of
Pagoda Mountain's west ridge. I had been wondering about the possibility of doing Chiefs Head and Pagoda together,
but after seeing all the cuts in this ridge, which joins the two peaks, I put that idea to rest.
After a shot of Suzy making her way up trail between Lion Lake No 1 and No 2, we found Trio Falls,
which was cool, but a little confusing - we only saw two falls. After some research back at home, I realized that
we actually had a picture showing the middle falls, but in the current drought, it was an unimpressive trickle that
we hadn't even noticed when we were there.
Scrambling up the trail above Trio Falls, I came face to face with a beautiful Columbine just begging
to have its picture taken, so here it is. By the way, I have purposely excluded any pictures of the mountains from this
scouting trip since the shots I took four days later were better; so, I will end the first half of this page with a
picture of Suzy working back down the trail to Lion Lake No 1, with only
remaining between us and the cooler
of food and drinks in the Jeep.
Four days after our scouting hike, I was back at the trailhead at 4:20am. My objective was fuzzy, but leaned towards an ascent of Mount Alice by the class 2+ Hourglass Ridge Route on the north side. However, when I got to Lion Lake No 1, and took the shot of Mount Alice reflecting in the lake (seen at the top of this page), I decided to do a traverse, ascending the class 2 South Slopes Route and descending the Hourglass Ridge Route. The flaw in this spur-of-the-moment plan was that I did not know the approach to the South Slopes. I was set on doing a traverse though, and started off to find a way up to the south slopes via the east slopes.
After reaching the southern-most gully above the nasty east slopes, I knew this probably wasn't one of my best ideas. The gully was loose scree ready to slide, and I was forced to climb the somewhat more stable left side of the gully on rock that varied between crappy 3rd and 4th class. In the upper section of the gully, I took the left exit (shown in the telephoto shot below) towards a notch at the southern end of the ridge. When I finally pulled up over the ridge and onto the south slopes, with the difficulty immediately dropping from highly-uncomfortable to a walk-in-the-park, the contrast took a minute to adjust to. I'm fairly sure this is not a documented route, so I'll call it the Dumas Route.
From the nasty east slopes, I stopped to get this shot of the East Face. The early morning sun, still only 8:08am at the time, really brought out the lines.
With an easy finish, I summited at about 11:00am. As I sat down to a relaxing lunch with a view, I flinched hearing a startling high pitch screech from behind me that echoed against the surrounding rock walls. Turning, I saw this marmot checking me out with a look that said, "You gonna eat the rest of that peanut butter sandwich?" I returned the look, "Uh-ha."
Before leaving the summit, I got a shot of Chiefs Head Peak for future reference. My next goal, in this area anyway, is to ascent Chiefs Head from the west and descent the "North" (really south) Ridge, continuing back over Mount Orton, scrambling down to Twin Lakes and finally back down to the trail to complete the loop.
An hour later, I was down to easy ground leading to Snowbank Lake. Turning around to get a shot of the Hourglass Ridge, I was relieved to have it behind me. Maybe it was because I had to descent it without the benefit of having gone up first, but this route has some exposure in a few places.
Hungry again, already, I stopped for a second lunch at about 12:30pm and took another shot showing some of the East Face along with the Hourglass Ridge. This is also where I took the telephoto shot of the gully left exit shown earlier in this account.
Nearing actual trail again - meaning one defined enough to follow without cairns - I took my last photo of these Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric) mushrooms, which grow all over the place in this area. My mind was now singularly focused on the cooler full of food and drinks back at the car, a mere four hours away. I ran out of water still two hours out though and was extremely glad to have stuffed the water filter in my pack.
Trip stats: the GPS says my round-trip distance was 19.06 miles, with an accumulated altitude gain of 4,471 feet, and done in a total of 12 hours and 41 minutes.
National Park Service - Rocky Mountain National Park - Climbing and Mountaineering