Peak(s):  Hallett Peak - 12713
Taylor Pk B  -  13,153 feet
Powell Pk  -  13,208 feet
Date Posted:  03/22/2018
Date Climbed:   03/13/2018
Author:  Tornadoman
 End of Winter Solitude and Beauty in RMNP  

Sometime last spring while looking at pictures of 13ers I stumbled upon the summit views from Powell Peak. A little more research revealed that another 13er, Taylor Peak, could easily be paired with it in a long but reasonable day. I kind of forgot about these peaks as other objectives, mainly of a scrambling nature, filled the warm months. As the days grew shorter and the snow begin to fall (maybe not as much snow as some folks would like), I started eyeing winter routes and my mind returned to Taylor and Powell. The Andrews Glacier route was too steep for my tastes (no crampons or experience on that type of terrain), but the route over Flattop certainly looked feasible. Caltopo confirmed that the terrain was low angled and I put the duo near the top of my winter wish list.

Fast forward to March and the longer days of spring approaching, and this duo remained sitting there, on the wish list. I have an occasional off day during the week and eyed a potential window- March 13th. As the day approached the forecast looked great with sun, mild temperatures, and little wind. If I was going to do the pair this winter the time was now. The night before the hike I struggled to fall asleep. One of the cats yowling for no apparent reason, the normal pre-hike excitement (does this ever go away?), plus thoughts about whether or not I could pull off this long a solo winter day trip filled my mind. Finally a brief sleep won out before the blaring of the alarm clock brought me to life. 3:33 a.m., why do we this? Fighting the urge to go back to bed, I gathered up the last of my gear last minute preparations and headed out for a solo day in RMNP.

Peaks Summitted: Hallett, Taylor, Powell
Distance: 17 +/- miles
Elevation Gain: About 5,500 feet

I arrived at the quiet Bear Lake Trailhead a bit before 6 a.m. and readied my gear. Initially finding the correct trail was challenging as ski and snowshoe tracks headed everywhere. Several checks of my mapping app and a couple minor course deviations and the tracks settled into a single well trenched path. I was fighting the sleepiness for the first few minutes when a bird (probably a grouse) erupted near the trail in front of me. I have had a few encounters with them before, but being in the dark made it even more alarming. Once my pulse settled back below 200, I took advantage of my newfound alertness and made good time to treeline, enabling me to catch Longs at sunrise.

Good morning Longs!

From treeline it is still a bit of a slog over to Flattop Mountain but other than a couple small areas where the wind had drifted over the trail, it was very well trenched. This 'mountain' with all of of about 8 feet of prominence is obviously frequently visited in the winter season, and the good views make it a worthy destination. Despite all the evidence of people, I was alone this morning and having this corner of the park to myself was refreshing.

Hallett and distant Longs

I had been planning on skipping Hallett and just focusing on the 13ers but the weather was as beautiful as advertised (albeit a bit chilly in the still low angled morning sun). Hallett is just a short jaunt from Flattop and I would recommend adding it on to anyone who has made it that far.

Hallett Summit

The trip from Hallett over to Taylor is loooooong and my energy started to wane. Fortunately, the snow was not too deep enabling me to keep a reasonable pace. Taylor blocked the big views up ahead, but looking back a few times I enjoyed the views of Hallett and Otis (I skipped that 12er).

Looking back at Hallett and Otis

Slogging toward Taylor

More slogging

Eventually the long slog to the top of Taylor was over and the views opened up again. Longs Peak is getting closer!

Taylor summit

Longs and friends from Taylor

A short descent to the southwest is necessary to avoid the gorge.

The gorge

Turning southeast then puts one back on a direct ascent of Powell Peak. I finally dropped my snowshoes that I had carried all day at this point. There was still snow ahead but I was confident that it wouldn't be particularly deep, and other than a few knee deep postholes that proved correct.

Toward Powell

Upon reaching what appeared to be the real summit from below, the true summit comes into view and is marked by a cairn about 100 yards ahead. Big exposure exists on the left side of the ridge, but staying on the right side of the ridge allowed easy and unexposed travel.

Almost there

The summit views are superb! My photos do not do them justice, but they are easily among some of the best I have seen with great views of Longs and several 13ers.

Longs/McHenrys/Chiefs Head



Summit cairn

Heading out

Taylor Summit

Looking back

From Powell's summit I skirted all of the summits and headed directly toward Flattop. I had briefly considered tacking on Otis during the descent but my tired legs and lungs screamed NO. The ascent back to Flattop requires a few hundred feet of gain, and I was stopping frequently to catch my breath. The lack of sleep and long time above 12,000 feet had caught up with me and I was starting to feel frustrated by my progress or lack thereof. I caught sight of a beautiful snowshoe hare shortly before topping out on Flattop. Although unable to get a picture, the animal's brief company boosted my spirits and I pushed on to the top of Flattop in a developing flurry.

A few flurries

After a few minutes resting on Flattops 'summit' I put on the snowshoes for the first time all day. They were completely unnecessary but I decided to get the added weight off my tired shoulders and back. I finally saw my first people of the day a bit below Flattop, and I encountered several other groups as while descending. The ptarmigans didn't seem to mind the people, in my experience wildlife in RMNP doesn't seem bothered by the presence of man. The trail became slushy in the last mile to the car, a reminder that spring will soon be here.

Ptarmigan on descent

The trailhead was fairly crowded with lots of cars and tourists, more than I was expecting on a Tuesday. Folks had been skiing and snowshoeing, while others seemed to have just stopped for pictures near the trailhead. Sometimes the sudden onslaught of people are overwhelming after being alone for such a large portion of the day, but on this day I was glad to see the folks out enjoying a bit of nature. Climb on!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

 Comments or Questions

Nice Report
03/22/2018 18:40
Nice photos, too. Looks like you had decent weather.


Gorgeous up there!
03/22/2018 20:04
Powell is on my list this year, I thought summer but maybe I don't need to wait that long. Nice report!


Cool and ambitious winter hike!
03/23/2018 13:56
Thanks for your nice report and great pics. I did Taylor and Powell
by the same route last August, but being lazy I didn't write a report
and I skipped Hallett and Otis, though I've visited those peaks on
prior occasions. It was nice to revisit the hike (albeit with snow)
through your photos and narrative. I especially like the shot of McHenry's
peak with Longs and Chiefs Head on either side (Photo #12). I can sympathize
with your feeling of tired legs and lungs on the return hike. The ridges
coming off Taylor and Hallett don't look like much, but there's just
enough elevation gain on the return to make it feel like a real slog
when you already have 12-13 miles under your belt. Well done!


Nice, Andrew!
03/23/2018 14:41
Love the pics. I just gotta get my shoulder healed so I can hit the Park again. Thanks for making me drool!


03/25/2018 08:28
@Eddie- The weather was fantastic. Peak wind gusts maybe around 25 mph, you don't get much better than that in calendar winter!

@Koeffling- Powell should go at any time if you don't mind the slog. Was just checking out your McHenrys report, I too am aiming to do all the ranked 13ers in the park. (Of course after I finish those last pesky 14ers )

@Mathguy- It is a long day without adding the bonus 12ers, nice job getting the pair. Did you see anyone else on Taylor/Powell in the summer? I am curious how many visitors those peaks get in summer. My guess is not many...

@Jay- Thanks for the kind words. I hope the recovery goes well, let's get out there for a peak when you heal!


Err...more than you might think
03/26/2018 15:45
"@Mathguy- It is a long day without adding the bonus 12ers, nice job getting the pair. Did you see anyone else on Taylor/Powell in the summer? I am curious how many visitors those peaks get in summer. My guess is not many..."

Surprisingly there was a "crowd" on Taylor peak the day I did the combo (8/4/2017)
of about 6-7 hikers who came up Andrews Glacier and another guy who trailed me
a bit hiking from Bear Lake. No one in that group continued on to Powell,
but I did run into one other hiker who was coming down Powell while I was going
up. But overall I still think Taylor gets pretty light traffic, and Powell gets
even less.


03/27/2018 07:11
When GreenhouseGuy and I did Taylor a year or so ago, we were the only ones on the mountain. And going up Andrews Glacier isn't all that bad - Get yourself some crampons and an axe and I'd love to head up that way with you - once I get this damn shoulder back in working order!

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