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The beautiful Colorado sky along the Chapin Pass trail.

Looking back at Mt. Chapin from the slopes of Mount Chiquita.

Desolation Peaks from the flanks of Ypsilon Mountain.

Desolation Peaks from the saddle between Ypsilon and Point 12,718. West Desolation is on the left, East Desolation, the true summit, is on the right.

Great view of the South Face of Desolation Peak.

The cirque which contains the headwaters to Hagues Creek.

Looking at Desolation Peak from the summit of Point 12,718.

The long ridge that leads to the Desolation Peaks.

East Desolation with Hagues Peak in the distance.

The summit of West Desolation with East Desolation standing in the background.

From the summit of West Desolation.

My route took me by this HUGE vertical slab. This was only about 3 feet thick.

Looking back at West Desolation and the ridge I had to cross to get to the summit.
The Summit!! You can see the Never Summer Range in the distance.
Looking back at East Desolation and Fairchild Mountain.

Desolation Peak

August 27, 2003

I must have turned my alarm off in my sleep. I woke up at 6:15 (over two hours too late) with bright sunlight creeping into my room. In a panic, I threw my gear together and headed for Old Fall River Road. It was a wonderful morning, I was just wishing I could be enjoying it from the trail instead of in my car.

Before I knew it, I was at the Chapin Pass Trailhead, on my way to the Desolation Peaks. These are technically twin peaks. West Desolation (12,918 feet) and East Desolation (12,949 feet), the true summit, are located on the Western fringe of the Mummy Range. You have to go over or around three other mountains to get there, Mt. Chapin, Mt. Chiquita, and Ypsilon Mountain. I decided to skirt around these mountains Western slopes because of my little "delay."

This is a very basic tundra walk (although I always try to rock hop to avoid damaging the fragile tundra), around the mountains. There is really nothing that stands out until one gets to the saddle between Ypsilon and Point 12,718 (directly South of Desolation). From here there are amazing views into the Cirque that holds the headwaters for Hagues Creek. This is a deep gorge that was obviously cut by glaciers long ago, leaving dramatic cliff faces on all sides of the cirque.

Once at this saddle, I made my way up Point 12,718. This is a "small" mountain between Ypsilon and Desolation. Many unnamed mountains are referred to as a "point" followed by their elevation. This, at least, gives them some form of identification. This was a nice little summit with an unbelievable drop straight down to the floor of the cirque. Walking to the edge of this made me a little queasy...one of the most vertical drops I have ever seen (it may have even gone back into the mountain a bit).

I continued up the ridge to the base of West Desolation. Here is where the fun really began, and my trek changed from a tundra walk to a scramble over talus and loose boulders on broken and exposed cliff edges. This is one of the "messiest" mountains I have ever climbed. There are rocks thrown about with absolutely no rhyme or reason what-so-ever...a very broken mountain. This required ever bit of route finding skills I could muster up. There were cairns, but I only found five, again with no reasoning to their placement. They seemed to be in very random positions.

Once I made it to the summit of West Desolation, the ridge over to the East summit looked very intimidating, and it took quite a bit of will power to start making my way over. One step at a time, I picked my way through the large boulders and loose, tiresome talus. Many of the rocks were unstable, so I has to test every step before I put my full weight down. While very tiring, it was also exhilarating. Some of the rocks I had to "test" were overhanging 20 to 50 foot drops, sometimes more. This keeps the heart pumping and keeps your eyes wide!

I finally made it to the saddle between the West and East summits. From here, the rock became much more solid, but much steeper. This is the part of the climb that is considered class 4. It is an easy class 4, but still requires searching for hand and foot holds on tall, vertical slabs of rock. I made my way up to the summit block, found a nice crack, made my way up, and was standing on top! This is a wonderful summit with unique views of other Mummy Peaks.

This summit is rarely visited. In fact, the summit register was rumored to date all the way back to 1988. I was disappointed to find the register jar shattered and the register missing.

I snapped a few quick photos, took note of the thickening clouds, and made a hasty return across the ridge. By the time I got back to the base of West Desolation, I made a good decision to run straight down the hill to treeline, there was a big storm forming to the West and moving in quick. I made it to treeline in about 10 minutes, which proved to be just in time. The thunder began, so I ditched my gear and found a nice little "cave" under a large stand of Pine trees.

I squatted down into a ball with nothing but my shoes touching the ground. Lightning was striking all around and I was beginning to get a little scared. And then it hit about 50 yards away! THIS got my attention real quick. After the shock of seeing the bolt actually hit a nearby tree, I looked back to see the tree on fire. A little column of flames from the base of the tree all the way to the top, right where the path of the bolt struck. Yes, I was terrified. This was probably the most scared I have ever been. This was one hell of a storm.

After saying the Lords Prayer a few times, I noticed that the downpour turned to into pea sized hail, and it got windy, very windy, not to mention the lightning continuing to strike the ridgelines above me. Soaking wet, terrified, and freezing, I just tried to laugh at myself. Anything to get my mind off of the storm. By this time, my legs were throbbing with pain, having been crouched in a little ball for 45 minutes. Luckily, the storm began to show signs of clearing, and the lightning and thunder began to subside. I stayed put for another 20 minutes to make sure the storm had no chance of surprising me. Once I felt it was safe, the race to the trailhead was on, about another 4.5 miles away. I stayed below treeline hoping I would end up at Chapin Pass.

I ran for a couple of miles off of pure adrenaline. Once that faded, I jogged a bit longer until I realized the sky was making way for a beautiful afternoon. I slowed the pace down a bit, and enjoyed the day.

I was soon at Chapin Pass. Having been in this area many, many times, It was easy to find my way in the dense forest with no trail. I joined up with the trail right at the Pass, hopped in the truck, made my way over Trail Ridge, looking forward to a very warm shower.

 

 

Round Trip: 11 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,309 feet

More Desolation Peaks Info.

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