The start of the winter of 2012-2013 has had very little snow fall. I have been taking advantage of that to climb some of the more remote peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park. I tried climbing Chiefs Head before last spring but was turned around by heavy snow and wind on the North Ridge. Time to give it another go.
I started from the Copeland trail head before sunrise under the glow of my headlamp. The wind was howling in the trees so I knew what to expect. The sun rose shortly after the junction with the Horsetooth mountain trail
My plan was to hike up to where the trail crosses Hunters Creek.
Frozen Hunters Creek
From there I followed Hunters Creek upstream. This is a spectacular area, I came down this creek last summer after climbing Mt. Meeker. At first the snow was pretty thin but deepened with altitude.
Around Hunters Creek
Pagoda is certainly a cool looking mountain.
The wind was still howling. Here are some banshee’s playing across Mt. Orton.
I continued up along the upper reaches of Hunters Creek. Eventually I reached the small un-named tarn at its head. It was completely frozen.
Frozen tarn in upper Hunters Creek
From there I angled up the steep slope to the North Ridge. North Ridge of what? Orton? Seems to be strangely labeled on the map. Anyways, I followed the North Ridge up to the summit ridge of Chiefs Head. There were a number of false summits but finally the real summit revealed itself through the clouds and snow.
Even though it was not calendar winter, it was full on winter conditions.
It was a goggles required day
Pagoda, Longs and Meeker peeked through the clouds.
Pagoda, Longs, Meeker
I did not stay too long on the summit as it was quite cold and windy. However it cleared up (of course) as I descended.
Looking down at Mt. Orton
I followed my tracks the whole way back down. I took a break to eat some soup in upper Hunters Creek. Not a bad place for a picnic. All in all a great hike, good to get the summit after failing previously.