| Chicago Lakes Loop
Gray Wolf Mnt.(13,602)
Elevation Gain: ~5,400ft
After climbing Rosalie, Epaulie, and Epaulet on Sunday and seeing how dry the Mt. Evans wilderness was, this trip was a no brainer. There were a few good trip reports posted for some route beta, and we pretty much followed Chicago Transplants route exactly.
I posted in the climbing connection forum in order to find a partner, and was very lucky to have Pete(Tharpu Chuli) respond right away. My first message to him was full of the usual: Do you have the proper gear, experience, fitness, knowledge? questions. This was before I had a chance to see his profile or talk to him in person. Turns out he just climbed Orizaba and has also been on the Annapurna circuit and climbed 18,579 ft Tharpu Chuli in Nepal. Not only was he well prepared for this hike, his experience level blew mine out of the water! It was great hearing about all of his adventures all over the world, made me very jealous. I picked Pete up in Lafayette and we made great time to the Echo Lake TH, arriving at 5:30am.
We hit the trail at 5:45 under headlamps and headed around the western shore of the lake. There was a myriad of trails weaving this way and that through the trees and it was a tough to pick the one that kept going in the direction we were hoping. After many false starts and dead ends, we finally found a reliable trail that took us south towards the first big switchback of the Mt. Evans road. Up until this point we did not feel the need to put the snowshoes on.
After crossing the road for the first time all semblance of a trail fizzled out and the snowshoes became a necessity. We angled southeast and up, hoping to hit the road again just below Mt. Goliath. This was the toughest hour of the day in my opinion, steep uphill in thigh deep snow. Once the initial crust broke, it was just depth hoar all the way to the ground, quite the pain. It is in these times that I am glad to be 6'5" in order to high step out of the deep stuff a little easier than my shorter comrades. It is also in these times that I get frustrated at weighing 210 lbs, because Pete would be walking on top without breaking through and I would be breaking through with each step.
Popping out of the trees
First sunlight on peaks
We finally made it out of the trees, took of the snowshoes, and regained the road. I had no plans of summiting Mt. Goliath, but Pete wanted to and we were so close that it would be foolish not to. Ten minutes after hitting the road we were up top and finally in the sun for the first time all day.
It took us about an hour to descend from Goliath and make the summit of Rogers Peak. Very simple talus walk that had some false summits that were a little frustrating. The temperature was pretty cold but the lack of anything over a 10mph wind gust made it quite alright. Only spent a few minutes up top before we got cold ad headed over to Warren.
Things to come
Again, it was a simple walk over to the summits of Warren. I say summits because it is pretty tough to figure out exactly which pile of boulders is the highest point, so we hit the highest three we could find. From Warren we got our first awesome views of Mt. Evans, Mt. Bierstadt, and Mt. Spaulding. Pretty stunning to say the least, but unfortunately not much in the way of ski-able lines to be found, except on the east face of Spaulding.
Pete with Spaulding
The climb down to the summit lake area went well and we stopped for a much deserved break and to apply some sunscreen. From summit lake to the summit of Spaulding was very straightforward class two, with a few class three moves made just to gain the ridge earlier than the snowed in summer trail did. We made the summit at 11:30 and took a long break because there was no wind at all and the views were amazing all around.
Bierstadt coming into view
From L to R; Goliath, Rogers, Warren
Grays and Torreys
On to Gray Wolf, the last objective of the day. Another simple walk up that took just over an hour. We spent a good twenty minutes on the summit enjoying some good conversation and some amazing chocolate chip cookies courtesy of Pete's better half, Angela. We started down just after one. Highlight of the descent was the short glissade, and the lowlight of the descent would have to be the rest of it.
Gray Wolf summit
Gray Wolf Summit
We tried to avoid the willows by dropping down through the burn area to gain the Chicago Lakes Trail just south of the Idaho Springs reservoir. I am still not sure if this was a good idea, but it is what it is. I can't say I have ever had to balance on downed trees wearing snowshoes, and it is quite the awkward experience.
Burn area deadfall
Burn area on descent
After much too long of dealing with this we finally made it to the reservoir and the trail. We thought we were home free at this point. We were, until we had to regain almost five hundred feet on the Lakes trail in order to make it back to Echo Lake. This part was not expected and therefore was very demoralizing at the end of the day. Made it back to the car at 3:55 for a round trip time of just over 10 hours. Pete, thanks for coming along and being such a great partner, couldn't have asked for better!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):