Lost Lake and Icefield Pass

"Bushwhacking"

“Bushwhacking”

I have a big map of Rocky Mountain National Park hanging on the wall in my basement.  Every time I head up there (which I do a fair bit), I pencil in my route on the big map.  After ten years, there is a spider web of exploration on there, but it’s been a long time since I got to sketch in more than a couple new miles on there.

It’s also been quite a while since I ran with Brian and Andy.  We’ve had many mountaineering and rock climbing adventures but I’m not sure I’ve ever done a long run with Andy.  So off we went to kill two stones with one bird, as it were, and continue my campaign of squeezing as much as reasonably possible out of the rest of this summer.

Starting from the Dunraven trailhead, we headed west through a portion of the Comanche Wilderness and thence into the north east corner of RMNP.   This is an area popular with backpackers.  There are a dozen nice backcountry sites along the trail to Lost Lake but the lake itself is more than nine miles in.  Much like Wild Basin, it’s a long way to get to the good stuff, but once you get there, it’s really nice!

Lost Lake is 9.5 miles in along gently climbing trail through nice woods.  The trail is pretty rocky and is well-used by horses which makes the non-rocky parts nice and soft, but provides additional obstacles to avoid if you get my drift.  Still, we reached the lake in 2.5 hours of moderate effort and encountered only a few groups of backpackers along the way.  The trail ends at the lake, but it was trivial to bushwhack through a brief willow thicket up to the bench at 11,000′ where the shallow, windy Lake Hustead lurks.

Here is where the long approach becomes really worthwhile; to the south west was the bulk of the central Mummy Range, in particular the many northern buttresses of the Hagues/Mummy massif–Rowe Peak, Gibraltar, Middle- and South No-Name Peaks.  To the north was the long wall of Sugarloaf Mountain and separating the two was Icefield Pass.  The pass would be pretty easy with appropriate gear, but running shoes isn’t it so we trudged up a steep grass-and-scree gully to the right.

Sugarloaf Mountain, as this huge tundra ridge is called, isn’t very pointy or dramatic, but the views are fantastic and it’s quite expansive.  We bagged one rocky high-point on the west end (Skull Point) before trudging over tundra and flowers to the main, rounded summit.  Then we headed east for another few miles, slipped between two more rocky knobs, and found ourselves at Stormy Peaks Pass and the trail of the same name with some ominous, eponymous clouds rolling in.

Time to boogie!  We pounded down moderately technical trail amongst the flowers, then into woods and past a couple great viewpoints before diving down a long series of switchbacks to the main Lost Lake trail.  For Andy and I this was the longest we’d run in a long time.  Tired, but with seven miles to go and a thunderstorm approaching from behind, what option did we have?  We pounded on down the trail at a decent pace.  The rain caught us and it even hailed briefly, but we never bothered to break out weather layers.

Screen shot 2013-08-07 at 10.51.36 AM

GPS track of the day’s adventures. Click for details.

After 23.7 miles and 4500′ of elevation gain, we made it back to the trailhead.  It was a great trip with good friends in a completely new part of the Park.  I’m no keen to see what other linkups could be accomplished with these trails.  A big, stupid Mummy Traverse could be accomplished by linking Stormy Peaks Pass (or Icefield Pass) with the higher Mummies to the south (Hagues, Fairchild, etc.) all the way to Milner Pass.  There are reportedly great things to be had north and west of the area we were in as well.

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