Saturday, August 1, 2009

Flattop, Hallet & Beaten by the Weather

A cold and windy Hallett (Image: Joel C Higgs)

Had a sweet Rocky Mountain traverse planned for this morning that entailed a 3,000' climb up Flattop Mountain (12,200') followed by a scramble up to Hallett peak (12,700') and then a traverse across to Otis (12,500) and Taylor (13,150') before sourcing a descent to the lower trails that would take us back to the Bear Lake parking lot. The run, as planned, would have given us a few hours above 12,000' and some pretty spectacular views.

Carpooled up to the Park with Ryan B and met Nick P just outside at the main visitors center. Things started out well with a 6:30 arrival at the trailhead and gorgeous blue skies up high.

Getting ready for the off

The climb up to Flattop was uneventful with glimpses of Hallett showing continued clear and calm skies. At treeline, things were still calm, but by the time we got near the 12,200' summit of Flattop the wind had started to pick up and the clouds were rolling in. The temperature plummeted.

Nick cruising up past the hitching post, not far from Flattop summit

We all donned the one extra layer we each had and followed the half-mile climbers' trail across Flattop's high tundra to the super rocky climb up to Hallett peak.

It was pretty chilly and windy by the time we topped out on Flattop

We topped out on Hallett and dived behind the summit windbreak with the wind now roaring and the summit thick in fog. We hung out behind the windbreak for probably 20 minutes, waiting desperately for the sun to break through and the views to open up. They never really did. We got a couple of glimpses of Otis and Longs, but by the time we were all shivering uncontrollably we decided to abort the mission and head back down.


Of course, by the time we were halfway back down Flattop, the sun finally won its battle with the mountain fog to reveal the stunning high-mountain vistas we had planned to traverse. The decision had already been made, however, so we continued our descent to the parking lot, ditched our excess gear, and headed out for a 4.5 mile, 750' tempo run up to Lake Haiyaha (10,220') in Upper Chaos Canyon and back, dodging the heavy, heavy foot traffic along the way, for some pretty sweet views of Hallett and Otis and the route we had originally planned on running.

An hour later and Hallett was completely clear

Not a total bust, with 14 miles and 5,000' of climbing on the day, but hopefully next time the weather will cooperate and we'll get this classic done and checked off the list.

Wore the Crosslites on this one. I was clumsy all morning. I think more me than the shoes, which are just a solid lightweight ride. Not convinced on the grip yet though.

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