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
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
Desolation Peaks Info.