Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16, 1989: Mummy Mountain, 13425' and Hagues Peak, 13560'
All the years I've been in Colorado I thought the Mummy Range, in the NE part of Rocky Mountain National Park, wasn't very interesting. I formed this opinion hiking on the boring west slopes of Chapin and Chiquita, and driving or flying past the peaks in the area. Last weekend I discovered that the Lawn Lake region on the east side of the range is quite beautiful and captivating.
HP ite Jeff Hargis and I started up the trail from the Endovalley Picnic Area, 8626', at 1020 Saturday morning. There were some scattered clouds, but all in all it was a pretty, warm summer day. I was tired from a long and busy week, but found the backpacking surprisingly easy and enjoyable. The 6.3-mile trail to Lawn Lake is well-engineered, very gentle and smooth. There are a number of too-level switchbacks, in fact. The trail gains some altitude and then follows the right bank of the Roaring River the rest of the way up. The channel is still deeply scarred from the 1982 flood when the Lawn Lake dam broke. It is lined with rocks, brown dirt, and tangled trees.
As you approach Lawn Lake, the rugged SW slopes of Mummy Mountain rise ahead of you. The lake is marked 10987' on the 1957 map. It's somewhat lower today, surrounded by a barren shoreline and some mud flats. It's still quite large, deep, and pretty, though. I was much more impressed with the lake and the surrounding valley than with Sandbeach Lake in Wild Basin, another reservoir now drained to its natural level. Fairchild Mountain sits NW of the lake and Hagues Peak, fourth highest in the Park, forms the north skyline.
There are five campsites east of the lake at about 11060'. We reached ours at 1350 (3:30 to gain 2435'), and set up my tent. The weather was cloudier, but it was a pretty cool day with no signs of lightning storms. So at 1550 we started due NE up the SW face of Mummy Mountain.
We scrambled and bouldered our way up the steep and rugged but generally firm and enjoyable mountainside. Most of the time climbing we spent in deep gullies, but we also crossed some ridges. We passed a major snowfield halfway up and just right of the summit (from below). Meanwhile, wreathing clouds formed around the nearby summits. Brisk winds carried warm air up the slope from the valley and it turned misty just below us. Sometimes we were surrounded by variable grey fog; other times we had a tremendous view down to Lawn Lake.
Near the top of the face you can traverse right (south) to the ridgetop with little pain, but we decided to bear left. This took us to the most difficult rock of the climb. It was challenging and required some caution. We made the top of the ridge at 1837, turned left, and strolled to the broad summit at 1843 (2:53, 2365').
During our forty minutes on top we mainly saw only living clouds around us. Occasional breaks were most spectacular, though. Irregular cloud layers hung in all directions. Sometimes the top of the nearest cloud rushed around us, just below us. Rays of light from the low sun cut through and struck peaks and ridges in the distance. Once more I found that the most interesting conditions are sometimes those that are less than optimal.
At 1925 we departed down the SE ridge, a gentle descent. I chose to hug the edge of the SW cliffs for the rugged scenery below. Before long we were low enough to be below or between the clouds most of the time. Hence we could marvel at the Roaring River valley, and the burning red-orange sunset colors beyond The Saddle (12398', between Mummy and Hagues). The glow spread through the pass to the clouds and rocks around us. For a while a sharp shadow of the ridge cast onto cumulus.
We traveled most of the way down the ridge before cutting west and down a grassy slope. It was getting pretty dark, but we found a safe ``ramp'' through cliffs and gullies to lower regions, and then entered the oval of medieval forest SE of Lawn Lake. As in the past, it was not hard to navigate in the gloom and bushwhack our way to the trail, then into camp at 2120, 45 minutes after sunset (1:55 from the summit, 5:30 round trip).
After a big dinner I pumped some fresh water down at the lake. It was warm, and a nearly full moon broke out of the thinning overcast to light the wall of Mummy Mountain with a ghostly, pearly glow. We didn't get to bed until 2330.
Sunday morning we slept in... and in. Finally at 0930, both rather tired, we started up the continuation of the Lawn Lake trail north toward The Saddle. At about 11600' there was a memorable view SW to Crystal Lakes, three levels of water with a cliffy backdrop. Here we departed the trail north and NE up a grassy, rocky hillside.
Around 12000' I noticed something big move nearby. Just as when I saw the mountain lion in May, it took a moment to realize how large and distant the animal was. A solitary male bighorn sheep walked toward us, sat down, and chewed his cud. He must have been pretty young, judging from the shortness of his curling horns. He didn't seem to mind us at all. We inched closer. When about 30 feet away, he gracefully stood up, turned around, and slowly grazed uphill away from us. We watched him park himself on a ridgelet, a most inspiring sight, as we continued the climb.
We followed a course fairly directly NE , north, and then NW to the east ridge of Hagues Peak at about 13300'. It was good bouldering. Over the top we were rewarded with a fine view of Rowe Glacier to the north, a vast snow bowl melting into a green lake. The sky remained clearer than yesterday.
We finished the climb west to the summit at 1225 (2600' in 2:55). It is another broad summit ridge with a cairn and CMC register. The Poudre drainage lies emerald green to the north. Mummy is a sharp point SE , appearing to be higher than Hagues, in fact. Lawn Lake and the surrounding valley fill the south. Fairchild and Ypsilon Mountains are impressive twins to the SW . The NW side of the peak is complex and cliffy.
After an hour, at 1343, we began the long journey home. The SW ridge was quite challenging - narrow, rocky, and messy. It got easier as we followed the north side cliffs all the way to The Saddle at 1430, a very broad flat sporting flowers, bogs, rocks, and that day, a warm 60 knot wind from the north.
Unfortunately we ran out of time and energy to continue on to Fairchild. We had hoped doing Mummy Mountain the previous evening would make that easier. As it turned out, we climbed Mummy and Hagues the hard way, separately, rather than just taking the ridge between them.
From The Saddle there is a decent trail all the way back to Lawn Lake. We returned to camp at 1547, 2:05 from the top and 6:17 round trip. After packing and fighting off mosquitos a while, we started the pack trip out at 1627. My feet were quite sore, so I had to take it slow, and didn't reach Jeff's car until three hours later. We sure crammed a lot of exercise into the weekend - about 7500' gained and over 21 miles traveled on foot. What a weekend adventure!
By Alan Silverstein