Sunday, July 24, 2011

Signal Mtn, Stormy Peak, Rowe Peak/Glacier, Hagues Peak

Somehow we covered 30 miles this morning. It was slow going, but then it always is when you cover ground off trail and up high in the rocky, tufty tundra that is typical of the Mummies and surrounding peaks. But any time spent in the thin air of Comanche Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park is always time well spent.

Joe - on his final weekend in Colorado before jumping ship for pastures and peaks new - spent Friday night at our house in anticipation of the 4:00 AM departure. We picked up Scott and jLu in Masonville and headed up Buckhorn Canyon and Pennock Pass towards Pingree Park and the Signal Mountain trailhead.

Off and running.

From a start point at 8,600 feet it's about six miles and 2,700 feet of climbing to the unfailingly inspiring summit of Signal Mountain (11,262') - one of my all-time favorite peaks.

Whether coming from the north up the Pennock Creek drainage or up Bulwark Ridge from the southeast, the journey to the summit is always a good, challenging climb. And while the mountain's two summits and saddle are just 200 or 300 feet above timberline, the views are simply unsurpassed. The panoramas include the iconic dual peaks of Meeker (13,911') and Longs (14,259'); neighboring South Signal Mountain (11,248'); and summits from the Stormy Peaks Range, Mummy Range, Never Summer Range and northern Comanche Peak Wilderness Area, in addition to the rocky ridges of the Poudre Canyon cleft. It really is a remarkable peak.

South Signal and the Mummies. All pics: Joe Grant. More of his fantastic photography here.

Tip: If you're going to hump a camera and bra strap up a bunch of peaks, charge the battery the night before. Signing in on Signal Summit.

A brief stop to soak in the views and we were off in search of the unmaintained trail that connects the Signal Mountain trail to the Stormy Peaks trail. The trail heads west from the saddle between the two Signal summits, and at the Signal end there is no real trail to speak of, but the route is clearly marked with regular cairns. It becomes a little more apparent as it rolls into and out of the trees towards Stormy. Once on the Stormy Pass trail at a touch over 10,000', it's a good climb up to the craggy pass and then a 400-500' hump up to the higher of the three Stormy summits (12,148').

Signal-Stormy Trail.
Overlooking the North Fork (Big Thompson) valley. Standing on the other side of the valley from last weekend.

Joe and I heading up to Stormy Pass. Pic: Jurker. Scott's blog and pics from the morning.
Back to the pass and then due west, skirting the rounded summit of Sugarloaf Mountain to the south on a line at about 12,000' towards Icefield Pass. Icefield Pass sits at the bottom of the valley between the northeastern ridgelines of Rowe Mountain and Rowe Peak, and is unique for Fort Collins- Loveland-area dwellers in that it feeds the headwaters of two of the major waterways of the area (the South Fork of the Cache la Poudre River and the North Fork of the Big Thompson).

After a quick bottle fill from the icefield melt, we set about grunting our way up the valley towards Hagues Peak (13,560'), skirting just below and to the west of Rowe Peak (13,404'). The steep valley began out grassy and marshy and then transitioned above the snow to an expansive boulder field, which once again made for very slow going.

Down off Stormy.

Around Sugarloaf.

The headwall of the North Fork of the Big Thompson. Rowe Peak ridgeline.

Running short on time, we turned ourselves around after a short stop at the beautiful lake that sits 400 feet below Hagues Peak, Rowe Peak and Rowe Glacier. A quite stunning spot.

Joe checking out the ice, while I check out the worst possible line back to Mummy Pass. Jurker.

And then we trekked home on perhaps the worst line we could possibly have chosen. Back up to Rowe Peak, down the northern slope of Rowe Mountain on a steep and very precarious boulder field drop, through a swampy thicket of lush and dense brush, across a snowfield, through another thicket (two very large bull moose off to the east), across the Mummy Pass Creek, over a rocky outcropping and down onto the Mummy Pass trail. Phew!

Joe and I descending. Pic: Jurker

Mummy Pass is by way of the grassy patch in the far right-center of the picture.

A short hump up to the pass and then it was 8 or 9 miles (with a frustrating last-minute detour) back to the car at the bottom of Twin Lake Road by way of the Mummy Pass/Emmaline trail.

Ready to be done & looking back at the morning's work. Pic: Jurker


  1. Awesome post. I am envious of your location, and the opportunity to get away from humanity on these long expeditions. I guess you did not see many people on the trip. Cheers alex

  2. What's that camera outfit you are sportin'?

  3. Way to go! Kris, Jonathan Vigh and I were the next group to sign in on Signal Mountain after you guys on Saturday morning. Looks like you had an awesome day!

  4. Alex - saw a couple of people at Mummy Pass and on the way back to the car, but other than that, we essentially had the mountains to ourselves. That's the main reason I tend to stay away from Colorado's overcrowded 14,000+ foot peaks.

    GZ - A GoPro video camera that PI has given me on loan for a while. Fun toy.

    Phil - Nice one. It was a beautiful morning for sure!

  5. Great route and pics. Glad to see you signing into the summit registers, fun to recognize names on the less visited peaks!

  6. Great stuff! And impressive navigation Sir Nick! Love Joe's photos. The time for alpine fun has arrived.

  7. Cool alpine lake. Lots of snow left!

    The bad line: wet feet, scraped legs and risk of ankle fracture. What's the problem? Next time, make sure you have a good sunburn on the legs before wading through the willows, that really feels great.

    PS - I sure look lots of words when I read your blog. They usually lead me to

  8. Thanks for the great recap! With Anton injured, and most of the other tops dogs rarely posting more than a few times each month, I appreciate the great material you consistently pump out. Love that twin lakes area.

  9. Love the photos; here in Monterey the vistas are nice but I sure miss the mountains occasionally.