Battle Mountain -- 12,044ft
July 29th, 1995
Roughly 11 miles round trip
Class 1 (a bit of class 2 near the end)
This was *supposed* to be a trip report for Storm Peak (13,326ft). However, as happens so often in the outdoors, things didn't turn out as planned. Joining me was Geoff Lassner, who by some strange coincidence shares a birthday with me. In fact, we were born less than an hour apart.
Climbing up Mills Moraine felt like trekking through a desert. Hot, very bright (cloudless skies), no shade in the tundra, etc. By the time we got to the turnoff to Chasm Lake (something like 4 miles into the trip), I had decided to skip Storm Peak and climb neighboring (and unknown) Battle Mountain instead. Geoff opted to climb Storm on his own.
Battle Mountain lies northeast of Boulderfield, and though it is in plain site to anyone climbing the Longs Peak Trail, it is largely ignored. I agreed to follow Geoff up to Granite Pass (which lies in between Mount Lady Washington and Battle Mountain), where we would go our separate ways.
The funny thing about Granite Pass is that it is some 36 feet higher in elevation than Battle Mountain! This would be one of those rare cases where I would hike downhill to climb a mountain. Fine with me!
Near the Chasm Lake turnoff, we ran into a fellow named Paolo (pronounced as "Paul"). He was an older gentleman who was just getting back into hiking after taking a several year hiatus. He carried with him an ice axe, though he really had no plans to climb any snow or ice (he said the reason he had it was because his doctor recommended he bring a cane with when hiking -- ha, ha). We talked for a bit, and then Geoff and I went on. At Granite Pass, I gave Geoff my guidebook and some advice to avoid the snow. We arranged to meet at the turnoff to the Battle Mountain camping areas, near treeline. Off he went. I stuck around and waited for Paolo. After a bit, he arrived. This was as far as he planned on going this day, but he talked me into going a bit further up the trail (we also agreed to climb Battle Mountain together, on the way down). We shared an apple, watched a marmot sharpen its teeth on a rock, and then hit the trail.
We took our time, and we actually made it to Boulderfield. We found a nice flat rock, and took our gear off. We ate lunch, using nearby Boulder Brook as a refrigerator for our melted candybars. Using Paolo's binoculars, we could see Geoff on Storm Peak, crossing a snowfield (crawling across it). We watched him summit, and we also watched some climbers on Longs' north face. After a bit, we saw Geoff start downward. After a bit, he found us still chomping away. He seemed interested in climbing Battle Mountain (now something like 700ft below us). Off the three of us went.
We went to the north of Granite Pass, and crossed a few boulderfields. We tried to stay on the ridge as much as possible, but some places were just too rocky. Near the summit of Battle, we could see two elk congregating. They soon dropped below the summit, out of site. Soon the boulders subsided, and it was just a tundra walk to the summit.
We did notice a curiosity here. While hiking, the rocks were blueish, and covered with lichens. But, there was this "line" where all of a sudden, every rock became red with little lichen. Looking at the topography of the area, I assumed it was because this new area was more exposed to wind. It was pretty neat, though.
To reach the summit of Battle, you have to hop over some boulders for a few feet. It's nothing serious. The summit is pretty small, only allowing 10 or so people on at a time. We found the remains of a cairn, which Paolo rebuilt (more like a pillar, we would be able to see it for about a mile or so away. We also rebuilt some cairns along the trail while waiting for Geoff). We took lots of pictures, and also noticed a herd of elk to the northeast (this surprised me, as I'd never seen elk in this area before). Evidently, since people avoid Battle Mountain, the elk have taken up residence here, away from the hikers and climbers. We stayed on top a bit, then started heading down, towards Jim's Grove (the Longs Peak trail used to go through this area, but was closed because too many people were going off trail and trampling the tundra. We stayed on the trail the entire time). We passed a nifty rock formation, which we named Geoff's Gnoll, and took a few more pictures. In some of the sheltered areas, Columbine were growing. After another rest, we headed back to the trail, stepping carefully all the way. We soon reached the "official" trail, and off we went.
In all, Battle Mountain was pretty neat, once again offering proof that a mountain doesn't have to be supremely high in elevation to be fun. As for Storm Peak, maybe next year, with a camp at Boulderfield (that way I can climb the nearby peaks as well, such as Meeker and Pagoda, which I have yet to climb). But, that's next year...