Peak Review: Conquering the Mummy Range

Peak Review: Conquering the Mummy Range

After a 19 year absence I finally completed reaching all the summits along the primary ridge of mountains in the Mummy Range of Rocky Mountain National Park. Having done Mummy Mountain (elevation 13,425-feet) and Hagues Peak (elevation 13,560-feet) in 1998, I always planned on returning to finish the other four, but I guess I never could make the commitment. This was an important 2017 goal for me, and as the summer was waning I was becoming desperate. It also turned into a vision quest of sorts, as I was long overdue a serious challenge to test myself, and also face nature completely alone. While I do not recommend doing any back country hiking by yourself, I felt that at this point in my life I needed that seclusion in the wilderness, risks and all, in a very challenging setting. The experience was completely amazing and the best medicine I could give myself. It also kicked my ass and was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Mount Chapin (elevation 12,454-feet)

Mount Chiquita (elevation 13,069-feet)

Ypsilon Mountain (elevation 13,514-feet)

Fairchild Mountain (elevation 13,502-feet)

I had been checking the weather forecast all week and what was looking to be a perfect weekend started to deteriorate the closer it got. My options were pretty much running out and despite a 30% chance of afternoon storms I decided to go anyway. I figured if the weather was looking to turn for the worse I’d just have to stop where I was and turn back. Bagging some of the summits would be better than conquering all of them and then getting struck by lightning on top of the last one.

I entered the park on a Saturday night, mid-September. In order to get off all the summits by lunchtime and reduce weather dangers I would have to start at the first sign of light in the east. I was expecting to fork over the $20 entrance fee, but when I got to the fee station it was closed and a sign said to proceed. (I find it odd that they don’t have an automated pay station in 2017.) I proceeded to Old Fall River Road -a one-way dirt road that eventually connects up to Trail Ridge Road -the highest continually paved road in the United States. My starting point was the Chapin Creek Trailhead seven miles down the dirt road. It was pretty cool driving this narrow road in the dark. I kept hoping to see some kind of fantastic wildlife, such as a mountain lion, bobcat, or bear, but it was a whole lot of nothing, save for a brief flash above my windshield of maybe an owl. When I got to the trailhead there was only one vehicle there, with no one in it. I parked in a pullout and prepared for bed. The stars were incredible with no light pollution for miles. I slept in the passenger seat, fully reclined, wearing sweat pants and shirt, wool socks, stocking cap and a thick blanket. It took me a while to fall asleep, and once I did I still woke up frequently. You can only get marginally comfortable in a small truck. My body stayed warm all night but after 2am the air was very chilly and I wished I had brought my balaclava to cover my face. At 5:30am my watch alarm went off and I wasted no time getting ready. I scarfed down a cold breakfast burrito and a sugar free energy drink and hit the trail. It was 6am.

Heading into the dark

At the turn off to Chapin, Chiquita, and Ypsilon

The crisp air, beautiful sunrise, and isolation in the wilderness was invigorating.

Heading up the slope of Chapin with a view of 14,259-foot Longs Peak in the distance (which I summitted solo in 2000)

First view of the first three mountains

From Chapin's lower western summit at 12,392-feet

Almost there

I made it to the top of Chapin in about an hour. One down, three to go.

Next stop Mount Chiquita

A fairly easy hike up from the saddle

The Medicine Bow Mountains and the Rawah Wilderness to the northwest. My friend Anthony and I climbed three of the mountains in this range, including the range's high point of Clark Peak (elevation 12,951-feet) in the late '90s.

Chiquita. Another hour, another summit. Two down, two to go.

Looking at the morning fog down in the valley

On to Ypsilon

On top of Ypsilon. Aside from a few short breaks the first three mountains took about an hour each to summit. Due to the cold wind I had to put on my windbreaker and stocking cap.

One more to go. The long, considerably more difficult southwest ridge to Fairchild.

Looking back at the north side of Ypsilon

Staying on top of this ridge greatly increases the effort and time due to some technical climbing required in spots. Because of time restraints and not wanting to risk accident without a partner nearby I opted to skirt the side of the ridge just below, effectively keeping the difficulty a Class 2 boulder scramble.

Desolation Peaks to the west

It still took double the time compared to the other summits and considerably more exhausting work, but I finally made it to the top shortly before noon. It was very windy and what looked like snow clouds were forming to the west.

Excuse the poor view of Hagues and Mummy, but I was too tired to walk to the edge for a better framed shot and the weather seemed to be deteriorating quickly.

o No hiking trip is truly successful without completing the round trip. Unfortunately I made the mistake of coming down the south (right) side of the summit and had to circle back around to get closer to the ridge. Probably cost me an extra half hour. I don’t know what I was thinking, but the additional boulders I had to navigate really drained my energy. It sleeted briefly on the way down. I also raked my shin pretty good sliding between two boulders. I scolded myself severely saying out loud that such accidents were unacceptable out there by myself. Thankfully that was the extent of any injuries for the day.

I was very happy to get a clear photo of this pika. Their frequent chirps are very easy to hear in alpine terrain, but the small guys are often difficult to spot and they don't always stay this still.

Ugh. Exhausted but still had to make it back up to the point marked with the arrow. Once I got there the difficult terrain was behind me, but I still had a long walk back to my truck. All and all it took about eleven miles round trip and a 4,556-foot elevation gain (plus a loss of 2,100 feet hiking between mountains) in just under nine hours. My entire body felt beat up by the time I was finished. Out of roughly 125 mountain adventures this trek was easily in the top three of difficulty.

On the drive home through the park I spotted what I seriously thought looked like flames from a wildfire. Once I got closer it was obviously just the changing aspen. It had been a great day.