Mountaineering in the Rocky Mountain National Park
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The Denver & Salt Lake Railroad starts from Denver, crosses the Continental Divide at Corona, descends to Granby (8,000 feet elevation), and continues westerly. From Granby one may take a stage to Grand Lake (elevation 8,369 feet), which is a popular summer resort, with hotels, a number of attractive cottages, boating, yacht club, and other facilities that make it a good starting point for many splendid horseback or climbing trips. Grand Lake may be reached in a day (8 or 10 hours) from Denver by auto, over roads that are in constant use and are better than most mountain roads. The route from Denver is through Golden, over the Denver Mountain Parks boulevard system to Idaho Springs, thence over Berthoud Pass to Coulter, Granby, and Grand Lake. Berthoud Pass is a long, steep pull, but thousands of autos go over it every summer.

From Grand Lake a road leads up the North Fork of the Grand River to Squeaky Bob's (Bob Wheeler's camp) at the foot of Milner Pass, and not far from B. M. 9038 on the map. From here one may ride horseback or walk to Lulu Pass (11,300 feet), La Poudre Pass (10,192 feet), or Milner Pass (10,759 feet), all on the Continental Divide. Lulu Pass is a mile or two east of Mount Richthofen. The name Lulu Pass has sometimes been applied to La Poudre Pass, which is not surprising, as the town of Lulu, now completely abandoned, was located near the junction of the two trails.

The peaks in the north part of the Front Range that may be climbed from Squeaky Bob's or from any point near the head of the North Fork, are Specimen Mountain (12,482 feet), previously referred to; Shipler Mountain (11,400 feet); Mount Neota (11,700 feet), and most of the peaks of the Medicine Bow Range.

West of the North Fork the Continental Divide takes a turn to the south, and one must take a good look at the map and readjust his idea of the usual order of things in order to grasp the situation. Here we have the Pacific slope on the east side of the Divide, and the Atlantic slope on the west side. Here, too, we have a valley with the Continental Divide on both sides.

Photograph by Geo. C. Barnard.

Photograph by G. H. Harvey, jr.

Peaks of the Medicine Bow Range, the poetic Indian name of which is Never Summer Range.

The United States Geological Survey map refers to this range as the Medicine Bow Mountains, and this name is followed in this book, although the main part of the Medicine Bow Range lies still farther north. The usual name for these mountains is Rabbit Ear Range, and the poetic Indian name should not be forgotten; to the Indian it was the Never-Summer Range.

The highest peak of this range is Mount Richthofen (12,953 feet), and the others, from north to south, are Nokhu Crags (12,400 feet), Seven Utes Mountain (11,438 feet), Lead Mountain (12,532 feet), Mount Cirrus (12,804 feet), Howard Mountain (12,814 feet), Mount Cumulus (12,724 feet), Red Mountain, (11,505 feet), Mount Nimbus (12,730 feet), Baker Mountain (12,406 feet), Parika Peak (12,400 feet), Bowen Mountain (12,541 feet), Cascade Mountain (12,320 feet), and the more distant group on the Atlantic slope, Bearpaws Peaks (11,735 feet).

Farther south, beyond the turn of the Continental Divide, but on an extension or spur of the range, are Blue Ridge (11,680 feet), Porphyry Peaks (11,355), and Mount Bennay (11,781 feet).

Most of these peaks of the Medicine Bow Range can be reached from any convenient starting point in the upper end of the North Fork Valley. Squeaky Bob's is about the only place where accommodations are available.

The peaks at the southern end of the range, near where the Continental Divide turns west, may be reached from points in the North Fork Valley or from Grand Lake.


[Report furnished by Roger W. Toll, accompanied by Shep Husted (Aug. 30, 1914).]

We went on horse back from "Squeaky Bob's" summer camp at the foot of Milner Pass, up the valley of the North Fork of the Grand River, to the ditch camp at an elevation of about 10,200 feet. The Continental Divide takes a loop to the north in this region and parallels the North Fork on both the east and the west sides. We climbed from the ditch camp to the top of Mount Richthofen in two or two and one-half hours. A snowstorm cut the view short and we returned to Bob's for the night.


[Report furnished by Gustave A. Gambs (Aug. 5, 1917).]

I left Squeaky Bob's alone at 8.30 a. m., going north. Within half a mile a small trail to the right avoids a double crossing of the fork and after about 1-1/2 miles an abandoned camp is met at the entrance to the tall timber; from here a trail leads west, climbing to the irrigation ditch which takes its supply from the south flank of Howard Mountain and runs north at an altitude of 10,200 feet along the ridge for a distance of about 12 miles to the La Poudre Pass. At 10.15 a. m. I crossed this ditch near its beginning where it winds around the southeast spur of Howard Mountain and from here I followed the crest line in a northwesterly direction. At ll a. m. I came to a small gap at timberline and 11.15 a. m. to the end of the underbrush at an altitude of 11,200 feet. From here I saw at my feet the white tents of Bob's place, and beyond the mighty tower of Longs Peak. I left this spot at noon and followed the sharp crest line in a westerly direction. On my way I flanked five towers, some to the south, others to the north; three of these towers look like real giants. The rocks were brittle at times, and being alone I had to proceed rather carefully. Sheep trails abound in all directions. At my feet to the north I perceived the blue transparent lake of the cirque of Mount Cirrus and to the south a smaller lake under the eastern spur of Howard Mountain, that feeds the irrigation ditch. The snow fields in both basins and those hanging along the main ridge are very numerous.

Photograph by G. H. Harvey, jr.

Photograph by Wiswall Brothers.

At 3 p. m., after three hours of hard crest work, I reached finally Howard Mountain. The view is superb. No register, no cairn, no sign of tourists was found on top except that the rocks were grouped so as to form a round cavity, 1 foot deep and of 3 feet diameter. In its center I built a small cairn 2 feet high. I followed the divide line south into the first little gap, slid down the east slope over a steep snow field, then over gravel and over more snow fields, and within one hour I was at the lake, at an altitude of 11,200 feet. I followed its outflow until I came to the beginning of the irrigation ditch after an hour of traveling, and after another hour I entered Bob's kitchen.

Summary of time consumed.

Bob's (9,050 feet) to irrigation ditch (10,200 feet)1 45
Irrigation ditch to end of underbrush (11,200 feet)1 00
End of underbrush to summit of Howard Mountain (12,814 feet)3 00
Howard Mountain to unnamed lake south of Howard (11,200 feet)1 00
Unnamed lake to beginning irrigation ditch (10,200 feet)1 00
Beginning irrigation ditch to Bob's (9,050 feet)1 00
8 45
Rest0 45
     From 8.30 a. m. to 6 p. m.
9 30


Besides the Fall River trail, there are two other trails from Grand Lake to Estes Park, though they come together at Flattop Mountain and both use the Flattop trail on eastern side of the Divide.

One of these trails starts north from Grand Lake and follows up Tonahutu Creek, almost to the Divide, and then skirts along on the western slope side of the crest of the Divide, until Flattop Mountain is reached. Twenty years ago this was the shortest trail between Estes Park and Grand Lake and was the one most often used. Since the completion of the North Inlet trail most of the travel has gone over the newer and shorter trail. The Tonahutu Creek trail gives access to Mount Ida (12,700 feet), Nakai Peak (12,221 feet), Flattop Mountain (12,300 feet), Snowdrift Peak (12,280 feet), and Mount Patterson (11,400 feet).

Photograph by John King Sherman.

Photograph by G. H. Harvey, jr.

The North Inlet trail enables one to reach Flattop Mountain. Hallett Peak (12,725 feet), Otis Peak (12,478 feet), Taylor Peak (13,150 feet), McHenrys Peak (13,300 feet), Snowdrift Peak, and Mount Patterson. The Government shelter cabin, located just below timberline on this trail, gives a very useful starting point for several of these peaks.

During the year 1917 the national park authorities cleared a trail from the North Inlet trail, continuing on up the valley of the inlet and reaching Lake Nanita (10,700 feet). This trail opens up to the public a wild, beautiful, and rugged region, previously visited by but few persons. Andrews Peak (12,564 feet) towers above Lake Nanita, though its ascent from this north side may be difficult. This new trail also gives closer access to Chiefs Head (13,579 feet) and Mount Alice (13,310 feet).

If the East Inlet of Grand Lake is followed up to Lake Verna (10,100 feet) and the other lakes at the head of the valley, it leads within reaching distance of Mount Alice, Tanima Peak (12,417 feet), Mahana Peak (12,629 feet), the south slope of Andrews Peak, and Mount Craig (12,005 feet).

A fork south from the East Inlet leads toward Ouzel Peak (12,600 feet), Ogalalla (13,147 feet), Hiamovi Mountain (12,388 feet), Watanga Mountain (12,381 feet), Mount Adams (12,115 feet), and Mount Craig. Mount Bryant (11,000 feet) is easily reached direct from Grand Lake,


Monarch Lake (elevation 8,340 feet) is reached from Granby by road. A railroad was built from Granby to the lake for lumber purposes, but was discontinued. For a while auto stages were run on the track, but one can ascertain by inquiry the best method of reaching the lake. A fishing resort is located at the lake and one can obtain hotel accommodation there. The trail from Monarch Lake over Buchanan Pass (11,700 feet) and down to Stapp's Hotel on the Middle St. Vrain gives convenient access to Sawtooth Mountain (12,304 feet), to the steep western side of Paiute Peak (13,082 feet) and Thunderbolt Peak (11,943).

Cascade Creek, branching southeast from this trail, passes Thunderbolt Peak and leads to the western slope of Paiute Peak, Pawnee Peak (12,900 feet), Apache Peak (12,807 feet), which towers above Crater Lake (10,400 feet) and Mount Achonee (12,656 feet). Hell Canyon leads to Mount Irving Hale (11,747 feet), Hiamovi Mountain, and toward Ogalalla Peak.

A trail runs up Arapaho Creek to Arapaho Pass (11,906 feet) and gives access to Mount Neva (12,800 feet), Arapaho Peaks (13,506 feet), and Satanta Peak (11,885 feet). A stream to the east of Arapaho Creek leads into Hellhole, an abyss encircled by the steep and threatening walls of Apache Peak (12,807 feet), Navajo Peak (13,406 feet), Arikaree Peak (13,147 feet), and North Arapaho Peak; Mount Achonee is passed on the way up Arapaho Creek.


Many splendid trips can be taken, starting on one side of the national park, crossing the Continental Divide by one route and returning by another route. Such trips are usually taken on horseback but the ascent of several peaks may be included as a part of these trips, if desired. The entire trip may be taken on foot, if preferred.

The following reports are suggestive of such extended trips and will be of help in planning similar excursions:


[Report furnished by Dr. Max Giesecke, Aug. 16, 17, and 18, 1912.]

Number in party, 5 men.

Our party left Estes Park on horse back at 8 a. m., and arrived at the shelter cabin on Fall River at noon, where we rested, fed our horses, and had lunch. We continued our trip at about 1.30 p. m., following the trail, which was very good, by Poudre Lakes and over Milner Pass to the North Fork of the Grand River and then to Squeaky Bob's (Camp Wheeler), one-quarter of a mile upstream, where we arrived about 4 p. m. Here we were very comfortably housed for the night and served with a well-cooked supper and breakfast by the proprietor, who is an entertaining host and an excellent cook. In the morning we left for Grand Lake, about 16 miles downstream, following the road.,

The lake is one of the most beautiful spots in Colorado. It is of glacier formation, 7 miles around, and the bottom had not yet been sounded. It is entirely surrounded by trees and many summer homes have been built near by. We spent the rest of the day enjoying a motor boat and taking pictures. Grand Lake is a veritable mecca for kodaks. On the third day, August 18, at 8 a. m., we started on our return, taking the trail up the North Inlet, which we found very boggy at first. Later we came to a more defined trail, which was easily followed to timberline, where we nooned. From there the trail was very steep with many loose rocks, so we dismounted and led our horses to the top. From Flattop Mountain we could look into Bartholf Park, see Bierstadt Lake, the Moraine, Bear Lake, Longs Peak, and on the other side of Flattop we could see Lake Helene and Lake Odessa in its setting of pines.

In descending on the Estes Park side, the trail was pretty well covered with snow, which gave us more or less trouble until timberline was reached; from there on the trail was in good condition and easily followed.

We arrived in Estes Park about 7 p. m.


[Report furnished by Miss Alice White (Mrs. Walter H. Price) August, 1914, Colorado Club Outing,]

Words fall me in describing the exquisite beauty. of Grand Lake—two miles long by a mile wide—and in places so deep that I don't believe they have fathomed it. It is set like a gem in the hollow of the mountains. Beautiful evergreens shelter its shores, and almost conceal the log cottages, and the wonderful snow-capped mountains completely encircle it. The North and East Inlets empty into it with a rush and noise seldom attained by eastern rivers of like size, impelled by cataracts or beautiful little waterfalls which have, been formed by the waters cutting their way through the mountains. You can just imagine how lovely it was to motor around this beautiful little lake in the clear Colorado sunshine.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent at Grand Lake, boating, fishing, and taking short walking trips.

Friday morning dawned bright and clear, and the walk of 16 to 18 miles to our Shipler Park camp, which was nearly 1,000 feet higher than Grand Lake, was one of the finest trips of the whole outing. A road led from Grand Lake to Shipler Park, and we followed it all the way, through seas of flowers of every hue imaginable. The fringed blue gentians grew so thick that one swoop of the hand would have secured a large bunch, and they formed pools of blue, first on one side and then on the other side of the road. At noon we came to one of those swift-running glorious little mountain brooks, took off our shoes and stockings and bathed our feet in the icy waters. After lunch we were quite ready to continue our jaunt, and by 3.30 p. m. we arrived at Squeaky Bob's camp, which he calls the "Hotel de Hard Scrabble." It is a pleasant looking log-cabin resort surrounded by tents and much frequented by trout-fishing enthusiasts, as the trout fishing in Grand River is very good. Squeaky Bob is quite a character, and claims to have been everything from a cow puncher, horse thief, and guide to a hotel proprietor. He got his name for his voice, which is high pitched and has a falsetto note in it. Some of the folks stopped here and had supper for the fun of it, and the rest of us pushed on to camp. It was really the most beautiful camp of the trip. This park was adorned by the finest grove of Englemann spruce and fir balsam trees and bounded on the one side by the Grand River and the other by a swift-running mountain brook. The only person up there was an old miner, Mr. Shipler, who had several mining claims in that region, and from whom the park as well as a mountain looking down upon it got its name.

Sunday was another glorious day and we were up and away before 7 o'clock, the objective point being Lulu Mountain and Lulu Pass. Crossing Grand River, we ascended a winding trail, blue with ripe blueberries, until we had climbed about 1,000 feet, then we reached an irrigating ditch, which to me was extremely interesting, as through it the waters on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains were turned back to the eastern slope through one of the low passes in the Continental Divide. Tail forests of Englemann spruce grew on either side of the ditch, and, as usual, masses of brilliant flowers; and the water was as clear as crystal and cold as ice.

Just where the snows were, we found two lovely little mountain lakes, and from there on it was only a short distance to the summit of the Pass, where we looked away over the eastern slope and back again to the western slope, with everywhere that the eye could reach, gorgeous snow-crowned mountains. Lulu Mountain was 500 feet higher, so we did not linger long at the Pass, as we were anxious to reach the summit of the mountain. Until you attempt to climb loose rock and struggle with shortness of breath and thin air, you can scarcely appreciate what it meant to reach the top of Lulu Mountain, which looked so near, and yet proved to be a goodly distance. It was a pretty big task for us beginners, and it was only by selecting some point a short distance ahead and setting my teeth firm in the determination not to stop till I had reached that point, that I was able finally to reach the top. The view was glorious and we rested quite a while, with sweaters buttoned clear to the necks, for though it was noon and the sun blazing away, it was cold up there with the winds piercing through you. We did not stop for lunch, preferring to descend to the pretty little lake. From there it was a continual descent till we reached camp about 4 p. m. and retired to our tents to wash and dress, as word had been passed around we were to have a chicken dinner, and we determined to dress for the occasion.

I decided to forego the trip to Mount Richthofen on Monday, so stayed in camp.

Tuesday morning we got up in a heavy mist, packed our bags and left them trustingly standing outside our respective tents. It was quite a sight to see the men catch the horses and saddle them with the peculiar packsaddle that is used when baggage must be carried. The saddle has four wooden prongs, and the bags are tied to these, four bags, I think being carried by each horse. By 7 o'clock, as the mists were rolling away and the sun beginning to shine down in the valley, we started off straight up Shipler Mountain over the fallen timber without even a trail to guide us. The way was direct, as we only had to gain the summit and then walk along the backbone of the ridge till we came to an extinct crater on the slope of Specimen Mountain. From here we could look down upon the two beautiful Poudre Lakes and Milner Pass. Some mountain sheep went into hiding on the approach of the first members of our party, and all we saw were their tracks. We climbed into the alleged crater and explored the interesting rocky caves; while here we were caught in a fierce thunder, lightning, and hail storm. The wind blew so hard we had to crawl up into the rocks and wait till the storm blew over, then we proceeded down a lovely trail to the Poudre Lakes, where we lunched and waited, hoping that the pack train would come into sight, before climbing 1,000 feet higher, above timberline, where we were to camp for the night without tents.

When we reached camp, however, word arrived that the pack train would not get across the Divide that night. After a hasty consultation it was announced that all who thought they could make it would be led by Mr. Collier, who knew the trail, over the ridge and down to our fourth and last permanent camp, on Fall River, where the balance of our food supply had been sent in through Estes Park, so that while we would not have shelter we would at least have food. That appealed to me, and with some 50 others we formed in line, and each grasping the knapsack of the person in front, proceeded slowly in the fast gathering darkness over the rough trail, marked only in spots by small white stones, up to the summit of the ridge and down about 3 miles on the other side. How we ever did it, in the utter darkness, without even a friendly moon, I shall never be able to explain, for we walked slowly from about 7 in the evening until 10.30 p. m., and when I walked that trail in the daylight and saw the huge stones and roots of trees, to say nothing of the marshes and mountain brooks we had crossed, the wonder grew.

However, we did finally reach the shelter cabin, and when great fires had been built, soup was produced, heated, and consumed with great dispatch. Then, when as many women as possible had been stowed away in the shelter cabin to keep out of the rain which had begun to fall again, the balance of us disposed ourselves as well as we could around the two fires and endeavored to get a little sleep. If any of the party got more than half an hour's sleep, all told, that night, I would like to meet them.

At 4.30 in the morning, having reposed on the root of a tree, I was glad to get up and stir around, and even bathe in the ice-cold brook. Breakfast was most welcome. It was almost 3 in the afternoon when the first, pack train hove into sight and we learned the cause for their nonappearance the day before. The storm which struck us in the "crater" of Specimen Mountain had appeared at Shipler Park about 10 in the morning and was so intense there that the hailstones were large as marbles. The hail and lightning caused the pack horses to stampede and run away down to Squeaky Bob's camp, scattering the dunnage bags to right and left. This meant that the horses had all to be caught and the bags picked up and repacked, so that it was late in the afternoon when they started on their journey. The rain had made the trail, bad in the first place, almost unsafe for travel, so they were compelled to halt for the night and leave us to our fate. We rested all that day as well as we could, and at night, our tents not having arrived, spread our sleeping bags out on the hillsides, pulled boughs of fir balsam to put under them, and went to sleep under the most glorious canopy of stars.

That day there were two trips, one to explore three mountains of the Mummy Range, which rose one higher than the other, and the second trip to Iceberg Lake, which lies above timberline, frozen the year around, guarded by cliffs 700 feet high which rise sheer from the lake.

Saturday morning we left Horseshoe Inn at 6.30 a. m., stowed in great automobile stages, and started off for a 35-mile auto ride through Estes Park to the station at Longmont, where we took the Colorado & Southern train back to Denver.


[Report furnished by Erich S. Stern, accompanied by Clifford S. Higby and Arthur J. van Dyke (Aug. 25 to Sept. 1, 1917).]

August 23, left Elkhorn Lodge at 7.30 a. m., going by auto to the present terminus of the Fall River road (elevation, 10,500 feet), 16 miles from Estes Park. Proceeded on foot, following the trail to its highest point (elevation 11,797 feet). There we left the trail, going to the left up the peak (elevation 12,221 feet) at the beginning of Trail Ridge. Rejoined the trail, going down to Poudre Lakes, over Milner Pass (elevation 10,759 feet), and reached Squeaky Bob's (elevation 9,050 feet) at 6 p. m.

August 24, started at 9 a. m. and followed up the creek that comes down from the so-called crater of Specimen Mountain. Spent a long time watching 50 to 70 mountain sheep which are attracted by the alkali salts. Climbed the sharp ridge north of the "crater" and continued around to the opposite side of the "crater," then descended the steep slope, almost opposite Squeaky Bob's camp, reaching there at 6 p. m.

August 25, left camp at 9 a. m. and walked down the valley to Grand Lake, 13 miles, arriving there at 1.30 p. m. Dinner at Ische's Hotel. Rowed across the lake and walked up the East Inlet half a mile to Adams Falls.

August 26, left Grand Lake at 7.15 a. m. and went up the North Inlet on the Flattop trail. Left the trail between Otis and Taylor Peaks and slid down Andrews Glacier and went to the Loch. We left the Loch at 5.30 p. m. and went down the Glacier Gorge trail and up the Bear Lake trail to Mrs. A. E. Brown's lodge at Bear Lake, reaching there at 6.30 p. m. Length of walk, 17 miles.

August 27, stayed in camp all day, as the weather was unfavorable.

August 28, left camp at 8 a. m., going around the right of Bear Lake and up a sharp incline until we reached the Flattop trail. Followed the trail to the summit of Flattop Mountain. Climbed Hallettt Peak, reaching the top at 1 p. m. Left at 2 p. m. and proceeded northward,, along the eastern edge of Flattop Mountain, until we came opposite Tourmaline Gorge, into which we descended. Beautiful colored rock wails on our left. Went down to little Tourmaline Lake; along Fern Creek to Odessa Lake, then to Fern Lake, reaching Fern Lodge at 6 p. m.

August 29, across country to Longs Peak Inn, 15 miles of up and down trail. Left Fern Lake at 9 a. m., down to Forest Inn at Funstons Pool, 1,200 feet below Fern Lake; then along the trail above Cub Lake; about 800 feet up to Mill Creek ranger station, on the Flattop trail. Followed the trail a short distance, then turned to left and climbed about 500 feet to Bierstadt Lake. Approached the valley of Glacier Gorge; lunched; descended into the valley, crossed road in the valley between Sprague's and the Bear Lake trail; ascended Storm Pass (elevation 10,300 feet), 4 miles from the valley; descended to Longs Peak Inn (3 miles from Pass), reaching there at 5.30 p. m.

August 30, left Long's Peak Inn at 11.30 a. m. and walked to Timberline Cabin, reaching there at 1.30 p. m. After lunch walked to Columbine and Chasm Lakes, returning to Timberline Cabin at 5.45 p. m. for the night.

August 31, left Timberline Cabin at 6.15; Boulder Field at 8 a. m.; Keyhole at 8.45 a. m.; top of Trough at 10.15 a. m.; top of Longs Peak 11.40 a. m.; left summit at 12.15 p. m. and, instead of returning through the Keyhole, continued down the Trough, reaching the foot at 2 p. m.; came to Black Lake; Lake Mills; reached trail from Loch Vale and followed down it to the Bear Lake trail; reached Bear Lake Lodge at 7 p. m.

September 1, left camp at 9 a. m.; went around south shore of lake, passed the little Grant Lake; reached Dream Lake; Ursula Lake; continued up the chasm until well in sight of the glacier and then climbed to the base of the last flight of rock wall of Flattop Mountain. Climbed up a difficult chimney and reached the top at 3 p. m. Reached the Flattop trail at 3.30 p. m. and followed it back to Estes Park village, 12 miles, reaching there at 7.30 p. m.

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Last Updated: 5-Jan-2007