October 12, 2012
~20.1 Miles, ~7,400 Gain
TH: Wild Basin TH (2WD ~1.5-2 hours from Denver)
This trip is the result of plan C. Plan A was to climb some 13ers near Buena Vista but with the forecast being so poor with a high chance of precipitation and snow accumulation, we decided to do a a single 13er. Plan B, just Copeland Mountain. Plus I really didn't want to have to drive in the snow, yet.
I met Al at the Wild Basin trailhead around 4:30 AM and we were hiking up the, almost paved, trail by 4:40 AM. Having read a few reports on Copeland, I knew we wanted to limit our cross country bushwhacking time. Word on the street was that there was plenty of downed timber. Hiking on the trail towards Ouzel Lake was a novelty and we made good time. We left the trail ~.3 miles short of Ouzel Lake just after the Ouzel Lake trail splits from the Bluebird Lake trail and started our bushwhack.
As advertised, there was a respectable amount of downed timber gymnastics. Climbing out of treeline, we observed magnificent alpenglow on Alice and Longs. Once out of the trees, we hiked up a long mile of class 2 talus to the summit of Copeland where we arrived at 9:10 AM. The weather was beautiful with very few clouds and a very light breeze. A lull before the storm.
Alpenglow on Longs.
Alpenglow on Alice.
Al working his way up the east ridge on Copeland
Climbing up Copeland's east ridge. (Photo by Al)
Al climbing higher.
Nearing the summit of Copeland.
Al reaching the summit of Copeland.
Because we made such good time up Copeland and the weather was holding out great, we couldn't just climb one peak. Now for Plan C; the addition of Ogalalla and Isolation. Ogalalla Peak looked deceivingly close. Too close to pass up.
We descended off of Copeland's west ridge which started out as a class 2 hike. I knew the traverse to Ogalalla or Isolation wasn't going to be a walk in the park. A large prominent gendarme along the ridge blocked easy travel to Ogalalla's north ridge. From the Copeland-gendarme saddle, we dropped ~100-200 feet to the south from the ridge and skirted around the south side of the gendarme. Travel wasn't difficult but was time consuming due to loose rock.
Descending the west ridge on Copeland.
Skirting around the gendarme on Copeland's west ridge.
Skirting around the gendarme on Copeland's west ridge.
Once around the gendarme, we traversed back to the ridge crest but found a couple of short 10 foot drops that we had to bypass on the north side of the ridge. Bypassing these teeth to the south would require an additional 200 foot elevation loss. Supposedly on easier ground, we encountered the crux of the traverse which was gaining the north ridge of Ogalalla. During normal conditions this would require a short class 3 climb but the normal rock slabs were caked in ice and we had to resort to an iced up mud gully.
Ogalalla Peak from our traverse from Copeland.
Bypassing one of the small “teeth” at the end of Copeland's west ridge.
The last tooth on Copeland's west ridge.
Climbing up the frozen class 3 mud gully was rather interesting. Since we didn't have helmets (didn't anticipate continuing after Copeland), we had to climb the gully one at a time to avoid rock fall. Upward movement required grasping mud/rock that wasn't solid, slick, and covered in a layer of light unstable powder snow. Al mentioned he had at least two “O, F” moments while climbing up. This stupid 100-200 foot gully took us 30 minutes to ascend.
Al just about to have an “O F” moment.
Ogalalla's north ridge.
Al was relieved when we finally gained Ogalalla's north ridge. We ditched our packs and continued up Ogalalla's north ridge to the summit where we arrived at 11:55 AM. Things were starting to cloud up and some snow pellets fell from above. Investing all of this mileage to get this deep into Wild Basin wasn't going to go to waste and we decided that continuing onto Isolation Peak was doable.
At first, Al thought Ouzel Peak was Isolation Peak and was disappointed with the truth but he was a trooper and we continued onward. During our descent from the Ouzel's north ridge to the Ouzel-Isolation saddle, we had to bypass some small cliffs to the west side of the ridge. From the saddle it was a class 2 hike up to the summit where we arrived at 2:00 PM. The weather had engulfed us and was snowing pretty good.
Al traversing to Isolation Peak from Ogalalla.
View of Isolation on the west side of Ouzel Peak.
Copeland from near the Isolation-Ouzel saddle.
Take a break near the Isolation-Ouzel saddle. (Photo by Al)
Small cliff on Ouzel's north ridge.
Al working his way up the south ridge of Isolation.
Our descent was slow due to the wet talus. Al didn't want to spend the time climbing a 12ver since we were over 7 miles away from the car so I bolted ahead to the Isolation-Mahana saddle. Once I reached the saddle, I climbed the steep class 2 talus west face of Mahana where I arrived at 3:00 PM. There was a short clearing in the weather.
Al descending Isolation.
I didn't spend much time on the summit of Mahana and I returned to the Isolation-Mahana saddle and then descended talus to Isolation Lake where I met with Al. Our decent to Bluebird Lake was wet as the snow turned into rain. Clouds engulfing the peaks around us was surreal.
Clearing in the clouds.
Finally, we reached the trail at Bluebird Lake and make our long hike out of Wild Basin. Bluebird Lake was one of the more scenic lakes I have visited. Although raining, we made good time down the trail and reached the car at 6:50 PM. So much work for just “one” peak.
Me descending towards Isolation Lake.
GPX from Al.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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