Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sunday 8/10/08 through Wednesday 8/13/08 A few peaks near Cameron Pass

Allison had been trying to coax me into heading up to the Cameron Pass area for the past 10 years. I was sure it was a cool area, but it is a bit of a drive and I was always a bit disinterested since there are no “high” mountains up that way (after visiting, I could not believe what I was missing and can not wait to return). Fast forward to this summer and I happened upon a TR on another site for Mt. Richthofen. After seeing the pictures, I said to myself “What??? Where is this and why have I not been there!!!?” I put Mt. Richthofen on my ever growing list of things to do and hoped to get there late one spring when the snow was in good shape.

Meanwhile, Allison and her parents were planning a 4 day trip in their RV. It was assumed at the time that I would be working, but a fortuitous recent development (me getting laid off from work), opened up my recreational options greatly . The timing was perfect, as it was a week before Pikes and I would get to sleep and train at a higher elevation than Louisville. Sweet!We left Louisville Sunday around 11am and arrived at the Ranger Lakes campground about 5 miles West of Cameron Pass shortly after 2pm (had a long lunch stop in Ft. C). It rained pretty hard for the last 30+ miles of the drive and the surrounding peaks were mostly obscured by the clouds. What little we could see was very intriguing and only heightened my curiosity and eagerness to explore.

A quick rundown….

Allison and I (or at least Sierra and I) got to climb peaks every day, while her parents did some casual hiking from the same TH we started at. Camping in the RV was pretty cush and our days were very casual. We would get up between 7 and 8am after 9-10 hours of deep, quiet sleep. Then we would eat eggs, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, granola and sip coffee (if you drink coffee) and start hiking no earlier than 10am. We would then hike casually, take lots of pictures and lots of breaks to just enjoy the solitude and scenery. Return to the camper, eat dinner, then go out for a drive and/or walk in search of moose. Repeat.

Not even in 4 trips to Alaska spanning a total of 8 weeks have I ever seen as many moose, a total of 17 in 3 days, simply amazing.One of our moose viewing highlights was happening upon a cow and calf at the American Lakes TH just after sunset. Moose are easily spooked by humans walking, but are unphazed by automobiles. We just sat still in the car for 30-40 minutes while the cow and calf munched willows 10-15 feet away. We could hear them chewing and making interesting grunts and groans towards one another, it was awesome to sit and watch un-interrupted for such a long period of time, beautiful creatures.

Another thrill was taking a walk near the campground as it was getting dark and creeping up for a closer look at a distant moose. We were just above the riverbank and about 40 feet away, a very large moose pops her head up over the embankment while a calf runs in the opposite direction. We immediately stopped and slowly backed away as she was clearly agitated with us. What a way to get the heart rate up!

North and South Diamond Peaks (11,852 and 11,701)
~3 miles/~1,800 vertical
Me and Sierra

After getting things settled at the Ranger Lakes campground, the weather improved somewhat and I was getting antsy to get some exercise and get up an easy peak to take in the views and get by bearings on what was around. Allison and her mom chose to join me and take their own hike with the dogs and we would meet back at the car in an hour.

We parked at the top of Cameron Pass and went our separate ways. I found a nice trail that headed North from the outhouse, then steeply West up a drainage to tree line. The trail eventually faded and I made my way across the grassy slopes making pretty much a beeline for the summit of North Diamond Peak. I was moving fairly quick and as I was passing the last of the trees, I heard a strangely familiar jingle jangle. I put a hand on my pocket to make sure it was not the car keys, yet I still heard it. I turn around and much to my amazement, Sierra is hot on my heels. Apparently, she had snuck away from Allison in search of me and bridged quite a large gap.

I was a bit annoyed over this situation as I hate the idea of her bridging a 3/4 mile gap on her own for obvious reasons. She has done similar things in the past when groups are marginally separated or within sight, but this was her biggest. At least she does have a great snoot and is quite efficient at tracking me, but it did have Allison and her mom quite concerned for an hour.Once she caught up, she kept sitting down to wait for the rest of the group. I knew they would never break tree line, so I pretty much had to push/coax Sierra the remainder of the way to the summit as her shepherding instincts are a bit too strong. Once she had mentally accepted that she was committed to being with just me, we were able to make good time.

The sky was a bit overcast, but did not look threatening, a bit cool and breezy at worst. The views from here were great and I could not help but to dream up all kinds of great traverses and linkups as I scanned the horizon. One particularly fun looking one would be Diamond Peaks to Clark Peak B, as it looks very runnable. Hmmm….

We zipped over to S. Diamond Peak in a few minutes and took in the views to the South of Nokhu Crags and Mt. Richthofen, our destination for the following day. After spending a few minutes gawking, I looked at my watch and realized I had exactly 12 minutes to get back to the car. I retraced my steps along the ridge for a bit until I found a suitable descend route and cruised back to tree line, where I found another faint trail along a drainage back to the car. I went about as fast as I could without really risking a fall on the wet roots, making it back to the car exactly on time, where Allison and her mom were anxiously awaiting our arrival, quite relieved to say the least.

Mt. Richthofen (12,940)
5 miles/3,000 vertical
Allison, Sierra and I

Got a cracking 10 am start up the well travelled trail to Lake Agnes. The lake appeared shortly after .8 mile and it was every bit as impressive as I was expecting with it’s nifty little island and the surrounding peaks towering above. We made our way around the West side and started up the stepped apron of talus up to the Richthofen/Mahler Saddle. The rock was not as bad as advertised and as a bonus, we were able to link up four or five dwindling snowfields to aid our progress.

Once at the saddle, we assessed the weather which seemed to be holding well and examined the steep loose scree we were about to ascend. The hillside was loose, but still not as bad as I expected. There is a trail, but that is not always the most efficient route, as there is more solid rock and easier climbing to climbers right. The rock got increasingly solid as we approached the false summit and we were then greeted with a view of the seemingly difficult summit block a short distance away.

A short descent and easy traverse over to the base of the true summit led us to the crux, a ~50 foot gulley of loose rock. Roach describes it as class 2, but I would have to say it is more like 2+ or very easy (unexposed) class 3, as we used our hands going up and down. Either way though, it was a piece of cake and we made the summit at noon and took a 15 minute break. The views are spectacular and I busied myself taking pictures and making sure Sierra did not cross the imaginary line into RMNP, as dogs are not allowed .The trip down was a breeze and was uneventful aside from me bumping my kneecap on a rock, precipitating a bit of foul language as I envisioned my Pikes race going down the tubes , but after a bit of groveling and icing with snow, I realized that it was nothing more than a minor bruise. It sure did hurt though (Allison might claim that I over-reacted…. ).

We returned around the East side of Lake Agnes (a bit more direct) and passed the crowds (crowded for a Monday), maybe 15 people total and arrived back at the car at 2pm. The in-laws were not yet back, so we pulled out the crazy creek chairs and lounged in the shade for quite a while, completely satiated.


Clark Peak B (12,951)
~12 miles/~4,000 vertical
Allison, Sierra and I

I originally wanted to do the entire traverse from Diamond Peaks to Clark as some sort of car shuttle plan, but at the last moment, common sense told me that would not be conducive to a smart taper, so I decided something shorter/easier would be in order.We parked along Highway 14 at the Blue Lakes TH and began walking the 2/10 mile SW along 14 to the trailhead for the Sawmill Creek Trail at 10:40.

The first few miles of trail follow an old logging road that is slowly becoming overgrown. The road crosses to the N. side of Sawmill Creek heading NW and eventually comes to a dead end. From the end of the road/trail, we bushwhacked North to gain a treed ridge that we then followed West to a minor saddle. From here, we made a bee-line for the summit over grassy undulating terrain, passing some wetlands and a few small ponds. Some of the slopes were somewhat steep, but the footing was solid and we made good time.

It was a bit windy on the summit, but the views were spectacular and the weather was clear and stable. From the summit, we headed South to Pt. 12,433 and then followed the ridge East until we re-connected with our ascent route. We made it back to the car a bit before 4pm. This was a great hike and we did not see another person the entire time.


Gould Trail
~5 miles/400 vertical
36 minutes

Before we hopped in the car to head home, I decided to sneak in an early morning run before everyone got up. Snuck out of the camper and did a rolling/mostly flat loop from the campground on what is called the Gould trail. I mostly took it easy, but got in a few fast strides here and there when the mood struck. Was looking for moose and had my camera along, but only saw deer and elk, lots of them. They were so spooked by my running, I did not have half a chance to snap a picture.


  1. Sweet weekend and week. You need to do MORE video. You are ready man.

  2. Sweet. I need to check out that area. I've lived in Colorado for 22 years and I've never been on Cameron pass. FYI, The photobucket links aren't working.

  3. Thanks guys. Kraig, I fixed the picture links, not sure what happened there?