Frederick H. (Frederick Hastings) Chapin.

Mountaineering in Colorado : the peaks about Estes Park online

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Copyright, 1889,

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A. L. S. C.





THE day for making striking discoveries in
the Kocky Mountains is past. It is now
three centuries and more, since Alvaro Cabeqa
de Vaca with three followers traversed the con-
tinent from the Gulf of Mexico to the Spanish
settlements on the Pacific coast. His wanderings
led him through the region now known as New
Mexico ; thus he beheld and crossed the southern
Rockies. Nearly a hundred and fifty years later,
two French explorers, the brothers La Ve'rendrye,
crossed the prairies from the great lakes, and, reach-
ing a point near the sources of the Yellowstone
River, were the first white men to look upon the
northern peaks. Since the day of these early
adventurers the exploring parties of Lewis and
Clark, Pike, Long, and Fremont have opened the
way ; and more recently the better equipped ex-
peditions of Hayden, Powell, King, and others
have explored the sierras and canons, especially
those of Colorado.


There remain only byways and corners to be
more thoroughly searched ; and fortunate will be
the adventurer who finds anything of note that
has not already been seen and written about by
the indefatigable members of survey parties that
have preceded him.

But in climbing some of the peaks in the au-
tumn of 1886 I saw much that was novel, and
during succeeding seasons other remarkable sights
forced themselves, as it were, right before my
camera. Mr. Ferguson, a pioneer of '59, at whose
ranch I stayed while in Estes Park, told me, on
the day of my leaving, " I reckon no man ever
came into this Park before, and saw as much as
you have seen." Some of the success which was
attained in certain carefully planned expeditions
was due to luck ; more must be placed to the
credit of the clear skies and continual sunshine
of Colorado.

Though I have made many ascents in other
parts of the Rocky Mountains, the peaks most
thoroughly explored are those that surround Estes
Park ; for this reason it has been decided to limit
the present descriptions to these northern peaks.
The earlier ascents have proved very useful, how-
ever, in enabling me to identify different points
seen in extended mountain views.


It will be noticed that on several occasions we
added to the nomenclature of the range ; this,
however, was done only in cases where we felt
compelled to have a name for mountain or snow-
field. Wherever an expedition is recorded as new,
the claim is made on the authority of the frontiers-
men who have lived longest in the mountains.

With the exception of records of second ex-
peditions on the same mountain, the narrative
follows the order of the dates of the ascents.

Upon the illustrations depends much of the in-
terest of the book. With but few exceptions they
are made directly from negatives taken in my vari-
ous expeditions. They cost hard work and great
care ; to obtain them our packs were often heavy.
The reproductions were made by the Boston Pho-
togravure Company.

Parts of the chapters on Long's Peak, Mummy
Mountain, and Ypsilou Peak were originally
printed in " Appalachia," the journal of the Ap-
palachian Mountain Club; and certain episodes
related in Chapters II. and VII. appeared in
"Scribner's Magazine" for February, 1889. I
am under great obligations to Messrs. Charles
Scribner's Sons for their kind permission to print
certain pages, and also for the use of their en-
graving " Photographing the Big-horn," which


accompanied the original text. It has been re-
duced by a photographic process.

It is believed that the catalogue of the flora of
Estes Park, printed as an appendix, will be of in-
terest to many who visit the Eockies. The speci-
mens named were for the most part collected by
my wife during her two summers' residence in
the Park. Coulter's "Manual of the Botany of
the Eocky Mountain Region " is the authority fol-
lowed. The list has been revised and extended by
Mrs. George W. Thacher, an indefatigable botanist
and an ardent lover of Colorado's mountains.

It is very flattering to me that the Appalachian
Mountain Club, for whose members many of the
articles forming this volume were primarily written,
should have deemed them worthy of publication
under its auspices. Lest the general reader should
be disturbed by the personalities of the narrative,
the author would remind him that the style is one
customary in the large and increasing literature of
















I. Long's Peak from Table Mountain . . Frontispiece

Facing page

II. Deer Mountain from Ferguson's Ranch ... 13

III. Summit of Long's Peak over Crags of Mount

Hallett 23

IV. Precipice on Mount Hallett 68

V. View down Gorge between Table and Hallett

Mountains 87

VI. Hallett Glacier 97

VII. Crevasse on Hallett Glacier 109

VIII. Ypsilou Peak from Deer Mountain .... 119

IX. Unnamed Mountain west of Ypsilon Peak . . 132
X. Mount Fairchild and Hague's Peak over Mary's

Lake 136

XI. Mount Hallett to Stone's Peak, from Deer

Mountain . . 147


foitfj tjje


Ferguson's Ranch 17

Head of Big-horn 20

Near Timber-line on Sprague's Trail 22

Front- Range from Sheep Mountain 23

Long's Peak from Lamb's Ranch 29

Cliffs on Long's Peak 34

View from the " Trough," Long's Peak 37

View from Summit of Long's Peak, westward ... 39

The Cliffs of Long from the East Side 45

Lake on Long's Peak, Lily Mountain in the Distance 47

Winding Snow-field on Long's Peak 50

Section of Snow-field on Long's Peak 54

The Great Moraine on Long's Peak 58

Across the Gorge to Escarpment of the East Peak . . 59

Old Beaver Dam, Rock Creek 62

Old Beaver House 63

New Beaver Dam, Wind River 64

Inhabited Beaver House 65

"We Three" 67

Peak of Mount Hallett 71

The Quarry 79

View from Table Mountain, southward 83

On Furlough 94

Ancient Bed of the Hallett Glacier . 102



Ledges above the Hallett Glacier 104

" Old Ephraim " 106

Crossing the Hallett Glacier 110

Tower above the Hallett Glacier, with Profile Rock . 115

Indian Wickyup 120

Gazing at Ypsilon from Deer Mountain 122

Near Camp Ypsilon 125

Arete of Ypsilon Peak 133

Bivouacking ten thousand Feet above the Sea . . . 135

Granite Cliffs in Black Canon 137

Camp iu Black Canon 138

Summit of Hague's Peak from Mount Fairchild . . 140

South Centre of the Hallett Glacier 143

Playground of the Big-horn 149

Up the Big Thompson, Long's Peak in the Distance . 160

The Original Ranch-house at Ferguson's 161

A Ptarmigan ; Summer Plumage, under side .... 162




mighty ranges of the Eockies come
JL sweeping down from the north, through
Montana and northern Wyoming, as several
nearly parallel ranges, occupying a great breadth
of country, in some sections as much as four hun-
dred miles. South of Fremont's Peak the several
ranges give place to a high plateau, over which
the Union Pacific Railroad finds a way from Chey-
enne westward. From this plateau the mountains
rise again to great heights and enter central Colo-
rado as two distinct ranges, the Medicine Bow
Mountains on the east, and the Park Range far-
ther to the west. The Front Range, so called
from its geographical position, rises abruptly from
the plains in northern Colorado, and is marked by
such lofty summits as Hague's Peak (13,832 feet)


and Long's Peak (14,271 feet), in the north, and
Pike's Peak (14,147 feet), near the end of the
range, a hundred miles farther south. Then comes
a break in the chain, where the Arkansas Eiver
flows through deep canons on its journey to
the plains. South of this break the Wet Eiver
Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Eange mark
the eastern borders of the Eockies of Colorado.

Standing upon some high peak in the centre of
the great ranges that front on the plains, one sees,
a hundred miles away toward the New Mexico
line, that noble peak of the southern Eockies,
Sierra Blanca. In the opposite direction, one
hundred miles to the north, towers Long's Peak, its
mighty mass dwarfing all other mountains near
it. To reach Sierra Blanca, the traveller ascends
by the famous railway, with its mule-shoe curve,
over Veta Pass, through scenery of world-renowned
grandeur ; but if he will climb the slopes of
Blanca Peak to timber-line, he will behold scenery
that will for the moment almost obliterate from
his mind the fact that there is such a place as
Veta Pass.

To reach the vales near Long's Peak, the old
stage-coach must serve the tourists' purpose. The
narrow-gauge line of the Denver, Utah, and Pacific
Eailroad, now a link in the great Burlington sys-


tern, lands him at Lyons, the last station on the
plains, at the base of the range, and a stage-
ride of thirty miles brings him to the beautiful
valley of Estes Park. Here, too, as in San Luis
Park and in the neighborhood of Sierra Blanca,
remarkable as are the valleys and foot-hills, there
are scenes among the mountain tops which far
surpass in beauty and sublimity any of those
viewed along the railway or stage lines. To ap-
preciate the wonders of the sierras, one must
climb among them.

Estes Park, in which are many picturesque
scenes, is the natural centre for mountaineering in
northern Colorado. It is situated near the Wyo-
ming line, and about seventy miles northwest of
Denver. Its elevation is about seven thousand
feet above the sea. There are about ten thousand
acres of pasture-land bordering the banks of the
Big Thompson Creek and the smaller streams, and
these have all been taken up as homestead claims
by pioneers. Seven thousand acres have passed
into the hands of an English company, which, I
was informed, were originally intended for a great
game preserve, but the ranch interests are now
predominant, and large herds of cattle of graded
Hereford breeds roam through the pastures. Be-
sides the ranch of the English company, which


owns a small hotel here, there are five other
ranches in the Park ; and at one of these, Fergu-
son's, we made our headquarters for two seasons.

The early history of Estes Park has been told ;
but the place is so little visited, except by the
dwellers on the plains near the foot-hills, that a
few words describing its present condition and
its settlement may be of interest.

The precious metals not being found in this
region, no railway winds through the canon of
the St. Vrain, nor through the rough Muggin's
Gulch. The whistle of the locomotive is never
heard in the valley ; and except that, instead of
the primitive elk and deer, a few cattle roam
through the pastures, and that an occasional wire
fence closes the narrow entrance from one valley
to another, little is changed from the original
aspect of the country.

Mr. Lamb, who lives at the immediate base of
Long's Peak, settled there in 1876. Mr. Ferguson
came into the valley some fourteen years ago.
Originally from Missouri, he was a pioneer of
'59, crossed the plains with an ox-team, and set-
tled in the lowlands of Colorado ; but he was
unfortunate in having his crops destroyed by
grasshoppers. He came up into the mountains
prospecting, and from the Loveland divide had his


first look at Estes Park. He quickly made up
his mind to settle in it. He still tells, with a
glow of enthusiasm, of his first view of the valley.
Even after taking up his claim in this out-of-the-
way place, he was troubled again by the insect
that had caused his first great loss ; but observing
the approach of the pest up through the narrow
glade that leads from Estes Park to his higher
claim, he felled timber, made a barricade, set fire
to it, and saved his crops. His ranch is delight-
fully situated, and, though a rnile from the river,
is supplied with cold clear water from a never-
failing spring. From the cabins around Fergu-
son's ranch a magnificent view is obtained of the
great Mummy Eange ; and the sunset lights on
the cliffs of Lily Mountain, to the east, are inde-
scribably beautiful. Especially is this true during
the waning of the rainy season, if the slight rain-
falls of June and July can be so called. The
mornings during this season are clear and beauti-
ful ; but in the early afternoon the great peak of
the Mummy will perhaps throw off its cloud
streamer, and in an hour or two thunder will
rattle among the crags of Sheep Mountain, and
the rain pour down upon the dry pastures. In a
few hours the sun almost gains the mastery once
more ; and though the pine-belts and valleys may


be covered with ascending vapors, the peak of
Lily will glow with gorgeous hues. It is probably
some such spectacle as this that makes one of the
early writers about this valley claim for it the
finest scenery in the world. This statement is
hardly justified, for we cannot apply to the sur-
rounding mountains, however beautiful they may
be, the words of Hiouen Tsang in describing a
Himalayan view : " The top of the mountain rises
to the sky." * Yet Long's Peak, with its great
altitude, is truly a cloud-piercer. Like Mount
Hood, which has probably gone up and down in
the scale of estimated heights more than any other
mountain in the West, its stated altitude has been
subject to marked variation. It was given in
1857 as 15,000 feet, in 1879 as 14,700, while
its present accepted elevation is 14,271 feet.

Near by Ferguson's is Mary's Lake, a little
sheet of alkaline water, Lily Mountain rising on
the south, Sheep Mountain on the west, and Pros-
pect Mountain on the east. It was formerly a
great resort for big-horn, elk, and deer, which
came in great numbers to the lake, as they would
to a salt-lick; and many have been shot there.
Mr. Ferguson told how in those days, when hunted

* Quoted by Andrew Wilson, Abode of Snow, p. 274 :
Putnam, 1875.


near the lake, the big-horn would scramble up the
steep isolated ledges which rise out of the open
country to a height of one or two hundred feet.
They were then easily surrounded, and escape
from rifle-armed hunters was impossible. This,
however, was in the early days of the country's

settlement, and
before the big-
horn had learned
the ways of

This very
wild ani-
mal is un-
the rarest
and most
ing game
found in
the Kocky

Mountains of Wyoming and Colorado.* Hunters
and ranchmen assured me that it had entirely

* The accompanying illustration of the head of a young ram
is made from an animal which Mr. Ferguson shot on the banks
of Mary's lake. The circumference of the horns in the illustra-
tion, at the base next the head, is thirteen and three-fourths
inches ; length of horn, nineteen and a half inches.


forsaken the Front Eange, and was to be found
only in the mountains beyond North Park, or in
Wyoming; but I was able to prove it otherwise.
The higher sierras retain all their primeval wild-
ness. Many of the peaks in the Front and Rab-
bit Ear Ranges remain unsealed, canons among
them are still unexplored, and dark forests which
fill the upper valleys have never known the foot
of man; so that the chance which the explorer
runs of meeting with rare wild animals, some-
times of a ferocious type, makes mountaineering
in the Rockies more exciting than in the older

Aside from the deer, which are numerous, the
most common large animal in Estes Park is prob-
ably the bear. The brown and cinnamon bear are
the species generally met with. I am informed
that there is perhaps no real difference between
the two, for when a litter of cubs is found, some
of the young ones are black and some are brown.
Grizzlies are rarely seen; but it is related by
ranchmen in Estes Park that during the summer of
1886 one made himself quite at home in the val-
ley, and one night while wandering around killed
several full-grown steers. Lamb, the guide to
Long's Peak, says that he saw his tracks many
times. A mountain lion was seen at Sprague's



ranch during the early winter of the same year,
coolly prowling around and among the log-

As before
stated, the
principal vis-
itors in this
upland valley
are from the
low regions of
Larimer Coun-
ty. Many of
them bring
tents and
cooking uten-
sils, and camp
by the Big
Thompson or
the St. Vrain
Eivers. The
visitors at the
ranches are
from Denver

Near Timber-line on Sprague's Trail. and far east-

ern towns.

Trout-fishing is the principal sport. Hunters are
more attracted to the North Park, which one



may reach by Cameron's Pass. The lover of
high mountain ascents finds a good field for
novel expeditions throughout the range; for,
with the exception of Long's Peak, the high
elevations are rarely visited.

Some of these objective points are visible from
Ferguson's Eanch; one has but to take a half-
hour's stroll on Sheep Mountain near at hand, to
behold a long line of noble peaks from a point
where Albert Bierstadt made many studies for
one of his great pictures.



LONG'S PEAK is of great interest to the
mountaineer. It is the highest point in
northern Colorado, and its ascent is more difficult
than that of any other peak in the range. It has
been rather fancifully named the " American Mat-
terhorn ; " but when we consider that one side is
actually inaccessible, perhaps it is worthy the
comparison, for the Matterhorn has been as-
cended by ardtes on all sides, though, of course,
its easiest line of ascent is manifold harder to
conquer than is the ordinary route of Long's

Before narrating our experiences on Long's Peak
itself, perhaps it would be well to speak of several
views of the mountain from points in and around
Estes Park. One thing very noticeable is the
fact that the mountain presents so widely different
aspects when seen from the four points of the
compass. From the plains to the southeast, two

' \^3$$i* ^5ji^" "



noble peaks appear as if of nearly equal altitude.
From the top of Sheep Mountain, a long range
(9,000 feet) near Ferguson's ranch, the final cone,
only five miles away, demonstrates its superior-
ity, and grandly lifts its head over the intervening
wooded slopes of Estes Cone. Wind Eiver Val-
ley, which lies between Sheep Mountain and the
main range, is 2,000 feet lower than Sheep Moun-
tain; so from this elevation one may behold a
slope of 7,000 feet leading up to the summit of
the principal peak. Still more majestic is its
appearance from the top of Prospect Mountain,
eight miles distant and overlooking Sheep Moun-
tain, which is then projected against the base of
the great range. But by far the most striking
view is that obtained from Table Mountain, a
peak on the Continental divide, about six miles to
the northwest. I imagine that very few persons
have beheld Long's Peak from this direction ; and
the photograph from which the illustration that
precedes this chapter was made, cost me many
hours of climbing and much setting up of the
camera and experimenting before this most char-
acteristic view was obtained. The appearance of
the noble mountain is like a citadel perched upon
enormous bastions and protected by ramparts
made by intervening walls of rock.


Mountaineers may realize, from examination of
this illustration, what a splendid field it is for new
expeditions, - either to follow the summit of the
chain along the spur to the right, or to explore
the upper canons and glacial lakelets. The nu-
merous lakes among these gorges add greatly to
the picturesqueness of the views. A summer
spent among these rock walls would present any
number of varying excursions which would show
to the explorer marvellous and enjoyable sights,
with the bare possibility that he might find some-
thing that would add to our stock of knowledge.
Members of foreign alpine clubs have thoroughly
explored and photographed the ice districts of
Switzerland, and partially so the Caucasus ; but
the noble work of the survey parties in the sierras
of Colorado has not yet been supplemented to any
great extent by individual effort. The same work
remains to be done among the higher elevations
of the whole great chain reaching from New
Mexico to Alaska, that has been done by Euro-
pean alpine clubs in Switzerland, and is being
marked out by the Appalachian Mountain Club
in New England. Paths are to be made, trails to
be cut, detail maps to be laid out, before the
grandest scenes among the mountains can be
shown to the tourist.


It is a rare occurrence in Estes Park to have
four successive rainy days ; but so it happened in
the summer of 1887, from July 14 to 17. The
season, however, had been very dry, and the
parched ground needed the deluge which it re-
ceived. The sun appeared at intervals during
each of these days, but it would soon be hidden
and the storm would continue. We had set sev-
eral times for an attack on Long's Peak ; but the
weather had put us back, and we knew, from the
whitened appearance of Mummy Mountain, that
much snow was falling on the great range. At
last, however, on Monday, July 18, we had a clear
day, and made arrangements to start in the after-
noon for Lamb's ranch, which is situated at the
base of the peak, there to spend the night, and
in the morning make an attempt to gain the de-
sired summit. There were four of us in the party;
and two of the number left Ferguson's at five
o'clock, while with one companion I rode over
after tea, arriving at Lamb's at eight.

Even this part of the expedition is full of inter-
est. The road skirts the side of Mary's Lake, and
leads through wide pastures for the first two miles ;
then passes up a steep hill, through a forest, with
the stupendous cliffs of Lily Mountain hanging
over the valley. This mountain is 11,453 feet in


height above sea-level, and its summit corresponds
with the average of timber-line on the great range.
The upper cliffs are steep and bare on the inner
side, while on the eastern side, which is a gradual
slope, heavy timber grows to the top ; hence from
the plains the mountain has an entirely different
appearance, showing two black summits, and is
called by another name, " The Twin Sisters."
Lily Lake, quite a large expanse of water, lies at
the base of the mountain, and gives it its name,
As we passed the lake, we saw several mallard
ducks on its surface.

Our host, Mr. Ferguson, tells this story : Many
years ago, with one companion, he was shooting on
the edge of this lake. They discharged their guns
into a flock of mallards which were out on the
water, but with no other effect than to cause the
frightened ducks to fly over Sheep Mountain to
another lake. Very soon he noticed them return-
ing in his direction, and two of them flying in a
straight line at as rapid a rate as possible, while
the others bore away down the valley. The fore-
most bird struck the lake in the centre, and dived
out of sight ; and then Mr. Ferguson saw that the
one following was a very large eagle, which, foiled
in the pursuit, soared into a tree and alighted
there. The hunters now emptied barrel after



barrel at the duck ; but they could not frighten it
out of the lake, where it remained until they finally
killed it. The eagle, of course, escaped.

Lamb's claim is in a high, well-watered valley ;
in fact, it is al-
most a swamp in
some places.
The elevation
is about 8,500 ^
feet above the
sea, making it
about 1000
feet above

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Online LibraryFrederick H. (Frederick Hastings) ChapinMountaineering in Colorado : the peaks about Estes Park → online text (page 1 of 8)