Frederick H. (Frederick Hastings) Chapin.

Mountaineering in Colorado : the peaks about Estes Park online

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that night we discussed the probabilities of our
meeting with some mountain lions that had been
observed near the trail the day before.

In the morning we were ready to start at 6.40
o'clock. Close examination of our fire-arms made
us shiver. I carried an old double-barrelled shot-
gun, and was provided with a number of charges
of buckshot; but one trouble with the weapon
was that, after firing it, it was necessary to use a
knife blade to press back the pins that discharged
the cap. This would necessitate lively work in a


close encounter with a puma, if two shots did not
kill. Lamb gave Mi*. Gilman his little revolver
with only three cartridges in it, which was all the
stock at the ranch. He reserved for himself a
small jack-knife. But notwithstanding our weak
armor we turned off from our route to the lake
when a little above timber-line at half-past eight,
and scrambled for an hour among the ledges where
the " lions " had been seen ; but careful search
failed to reveal them, and we reasoned that they
had left the mountains, as there were no fresh
tracks. These beasts are very shy. Carlyle said
that one crossed his claim near the corral the
previous winter, but was never seen again ; and
that he probably " lit out " of the valley on dis-
covering that it was inhabited by man.

Our going out of the way was repaid by the
glorious view that we had of the Front Eange
from the ledges ; but it required haste to reach
the lake by noon, which we did, and later
lunched far up under the precipice.

We then examined the line of cairns which
were on the snow. The end cairns, which had
been placed on a level with the snow, were now
six feet above it, showing that the snow had sunk
that amount. Mr. Gilman sighted across the line.
He looked amused. " How did you get them so


straight ? If you wanted to prove motion, why
did you not place them in a curve ? " The fact
was settled; there was no motion in that ice-
stream, though Lamb and I thought his remarks
rather complimentary to the thoroughness of our

Section of Snow-field on Long's Peak.

The great amount of settling of the snow-field
seemed strange to us, as there appeared to be but
little surface melting ; but we noted one fact
which explained it in part at least. At a point
where the trend of the snow crosses the gorge, and
on the lower side, is a lateral moraine, the top of
which is some twenty feet above the ice at its
lowest mark. Upon the lower side of this mo-


raine, and about sixty feet below the top, a torrent
bursts out of the rocks, which comes from under
the snow of the opposite side, and has worked its
channel through the debris. The stream was such
a one as would come from a fire-department hose,
without nozzle and half turned off. The water
spurted up about a foot.

This day we spent more time about the lake,
and lingered long on the dike at its exit end.
Notwithstanding the grand scenery above us, one
thing below received our marked attention, and
that was a great lateral moraine, which, commenc-
ing but a little way below our position, ran for a
long distance down into the valley, and revealed
what must have been the might of the ancient
glacier that carried the stones down to form it.
Similar scenes are repeated on the peaks near
Long's, and all tell the same story. All along the
Front Eange to the westward of Estes Park, snow
clings as beautiful cornices, cutting the sky-line
in the sierra notches ; as broad shining expanses
it lies in hollows at the head of the deep canons ;
in the form of icebergs it floats in semi-frozen
lakes ; and as bands or winding ice-streams it fills
grooves on the rock fronts of precipitous peaks.
The hot sun and clear dry air of Colorado have
nearly prevailed in the struggle against the rule


of ice, and what perpetual snows remain are but
slight traces of the vast ice-fields that once cov-
ered the country. The creaking of grounded ice-
bergs, the cracking of granulated snow, or the
rumbling of waters under the rocks are but feeble
mutterings in this nearly hushed and silent region
of cliff and bowlder, compared with the crash of
avalanche and roar of torrents that once must
have reverberated among the crags and ledges.

In many parts of our continent, where rains
have come in floods and all aerial forces have had
full play, the tracing of past glacial action is only
possible to the skilled and persevering geologist.
In Colorado, however, on account of the lack of
moisture and frost, many records of geological
interest remain essentially unchanged by time,
and we see uplifted strata near the mountain tops,
banded structures of granite on the mountain
sides, and rnorainal debris at the mountain base,
the rocks remaining much as they were originally
reared, compressed, or distributed. Age upon age
of geologic time has passed since the ice crowded
down the whole length of the gorges, and filled
the narrow valleys, but the length and magnitude
of the ancient glaciers are attested by the present
aspect of these valleys; and though the active
forces are confined to the mountain tops, their


past work in the lower country is plainly seen,
more plainly, perhaps, than in any other locality.
A series of mighty rocky barriers crosses the
canon beds at frequent intervals, marking the suc-
cessive stages of the retreat of the ice up through
the gorges ; while, sweeping away from the base
of the peaks, are great lateral moraines, many hun-
dred feet high, extending to a considerable dis-
tance. Such is the huge moraine in Willow
Park. Five hundred feet in height at the base of
the mountains, it runs with true tapering lines far
down into Estes Park, its limits being marked by
a row of straggling bowlders. The path of the
ancient glacier which brought down the rocks
from the mountain tops to form the ridge, has
been traced high up into the range, showing that
it must have been at least ten miles long, with
tributaries nearly as large.

On the opposite side of Long's Peak from that
which we were exploring are a number of mo-
raines similar in appearance to the one in Willow
Park, but this one that we looked upon seemed to
surpass them all in interest and in pictorial effect.
It begins but a little way below the lake, and
sweeps with a beautiful curve far down into the
valley, looking like a great artificial embankment
reared by a gigantic race of men. Differing from



the ledges of the foot-hills, and from the scarped
cliffs of the mountain flanks, this ridge is made
up of bowlders and debris ; and though over-
grown on its lower portions with spruce and pine,
its origin is evident to even those little versed in
glacial lore. Few scenes in nature can be found
like this, where the observer can so easily throw
himself back into

The Great Moraine east of Long's Peak.

the geologic past. Far above is the remnant of
the glacier, with its steep incline ; and though
our investigation proved it lacking in motion, yet
with its fields of itdvS and tributary couloirs it is
very glacial in appearance. Spires of rock and
splintered crag tower above. The wild amphi-
theatre of cliffs around has been swept of debris,

Across the Gorge to Escarpment of the East Peak.


and the place of deposit of the torn fragments
lies far below ; for in the days of old, rocks that
crumbled fell upon the moving ice-stream, which
in its passage scooped out the lake bed and landed
its freight in the valley.

In the distance, overlooking a beautiful valley,
and past the wooded slopes of Lily Mountain,
one sees the wide stretch of hazy plain, in appear-
ance like the ocean in a calm, and can imagine
himself back in the paleozoic age, when the great
inland sea rolled to the westward before the
mountains were uplifted and the waters retreated
toward the gulf.

Surely, in resting on this dike, one dreams of
a past and thinks not of the future. In descend-
ing from it this day we followed down the gorge
farther than in the previous trip, in order to see
some very pretty falls that tumbled over the
ledges. At one point the height of the fall is
seventy feet, while a little farther down stream
is a second fall of a hundred feet Standing be-
low it the view is remarkable, for the great walls
of Long's Peak are in the background.

This records my last expedition of importance on
Long's Peak, and I would not fail to impress on
the mind of the tourist that the scenes are too grand
for words to convey a true idea of their magnifi-
cence. Let him, then, not fail to visit them.



INTERESTING as the ascent of Long's Peak may
be, no one expedition by any means exhausts the
attractions of the mountain. Both upon its sides
and at its base, removed from the beaten trails,
are forests, glens, and brooks deserving of detailed

On July 4 I set out from Lamb's ranch, ac-
companied by Carlyle, in search of the homes of
the beaver. We explored several streams to the
south of the ranch in vain for new dams and oc-
cupied houses ; but equipped as we were with a
camera, we found plenty of amusement in inves-
tigating and photographing the ancient beaver
works. On Rock Creek, which flows from the
snows of Long's Peak, there are many of great
interest. In the meadow through which this
stream runs, an area of many acres is grown up
with willows and intersected with a perfect net-
work of old dams. The stream has been turned
from its channel so many times that it zigzags
in every direction. As a rule the novice would
probably not detect the fact that these embank-
ments are the work of beavers, for they are all
turfed over and may be a century old. Some of
them cross the meadows like causeways, others



are covered with tall rich grass ; but in one place
we succeeded in getting an illustration which
shows plainly the origin of the artificial ramparts.
The stream had broken through the old dam, and
had left exposed to view the manner of its con-
struction. In places the earth had been washed
away, leaving sticks projecting both parallel and

Old Beaver Dam.

at right angles to the length of the work. The
sticks and twigs were well preserved. At places
on the side of the embankment these sticks and
mud were solid as if stratified in alternate layers.
Near this broken dam we found the skull of a

The old houses were very interesting ; many ap-



peared like heaps of branches and decayed wood.
We discovered one, however, that was much more
regular in its form than the new houses observed
in other localities. The channel of the stream
had been
changed some
yards from
the house,
trees and
shrubs had
fallen away,
and the an-
cient dwell-
ing, left on a
high and dry
spot, had set-
tled into a
regular conical
heap. My
in general lead
me to think
that the bea-
vers do not intend to build their houses so as to be
conspicuous, as often portrayed, but rather choose
to have them appear as a mere heap of brush
which might have collected in a natural manner.

Old Beaver House.



Another day Mr. Hallett, Mr. Oilman, and I
were exploring the sources of Wind Eiver, upon
the northern slopes of Long's Peak. Within a
few years Mr. Sprague. the proprietor of the ranch

in Willow
Park, has
c u t a

New Beaver Dam.

trail to the peak, which runs by the side of this
little stream for a few miles. At a point where
it was a little too deep to ford, he laid down a
few aspen-trees to answer for a bridge. Our


route intersected this trail, and we made use of it
for some distance; but when we came to the
banks of the stream, we found its passage im-
possible, for a large deep pool lay immediately
in the place where the trail led down to the
brook. For a moment the cause of the pool
was a mystery, but peering beyond we caught
a glimpse of the newly made dam, and there
dawned upon us the explanation of the disap-
pearance of the lightly built bridge. To save
labor the cunning beavers had made use of the
cut aspens, and had worked the greater part of
them into their dam. It took us over an hour to
cut an opening through the woods at a place
where we found a suitable ford to cross the
stream, and thus flank the breastworks of the

After quite a long search we discovered the re-
cently built house, hidden among aspens and wil-
lows in such a wild spot that, without having seen
the breakwater in the stream below, no one would
have suspected the existence of the dwelling.
Clear cool water flowed by its base. Mirrored in
the pool one would hardly know where the trees
and tangled brush ended. The house was placed
on the edge of the stream, and some of the poles
forming it projected over the water, so that the



edifice seemed to overhang. A well-worn path
led from a steep bank near the log and mud house
up through the forest. Large trees lately felled
lay around, and had been completely stripped of
their bark. From the freshly cut twigs observed,
it was evident that the animals had been at work
the night previous, and only a few hours before
our arrival. Under a tree we found a number of

%"f' : .:

Inhabited Beaver House.

freshly cut sticks, all of the same length, about
eighteen inches, and of a nearly uniform diam-
eter, one and one-half inches, which we sup-
posed the beavers had provided to use for dividing
the interior of their house into apartments, or
more probably to make an upper room. This
latter work they accomplish by thrusting one end

" We three.


of the sticks into the sides of the house from the
inside, the other end projecting nearly to the
centre of the interior. Placed thus in a circle, an
opening is left through which the animal can
crawl and rest high and dry. This upper story is
necessary, because the streams are liable to rise
suddenly and flood the ground floor.

Dependent principally upon aspens and willows
for food, the beaver is certainly hard pressed now
to maintain his " claims " in Estes Park, for the
pre-empters are fast taking up all the land where
these trees thrive. Higher up in the canons, the
willows entirely disappear, the aspens are scarce,
and there will soon be nothing for the beaver to
do but to migrate beyond the range.

This day we spent so much time among the
beaver works that the object of the expedition, an
intended trip to the headquarters of the south
fork of the Thompson, was defeated ; but a pro-
spective hard tramp was replaced by an enjoyable
scramble in the afternoon among ledges on the
slopes of Long's Peak ; and this, with the episode
of the beaver dam and the bagging of grouse, that
fell to our gun, made the day one of the most
delightful that I passed in the Eockies.




AFTER having made the ascent of Long's Peak
and a number of lower elevations, I was
bent on investigating the rock walls of the range
that extend around to the northwest from Long's
Peak to Hague's Peak, the eastern face of which
in many places rivals the mural cliff of Long's
Peak itself. As observed from high points in the
centre of Estes Park, it is evident that there is
but one pass in the chain, and that is over Table
Mountain. The rest of the range is one solid
rampart, at least as far as Willow Canon, and
impassable for pack mules.

In the northern Rockies the difficulties to be
considered when attempting to cross the chain
depend upon whether pack-mules and horses can
be gotten over it or not ; for it must be remem-
bered that their aid is absolutely necessary for the
success of any long expedition, as there is no com-
fortable hotel, nor even a log-cabin, to be found on
the western side of the ridge. For hunting expe-


ditions the beasts have to carry blankets, flour,
coffee or tea, salt, and pork ; no sugar or milk is
allowed. For such an expedition as is to be de-
scribed, a pack animal is not generally required ;
but as I had a camera and plates to carry, it was
necessary for me to have a horse, and to ride as
far as possible. The ideal way to climb moun-
tains is to have nothing whatever to carry, no
camera, no theodolite, no rifle, nothing to load
one down, except perhaps a cracker and a bottle
of cold tea to sustain one's self during the walk.
But in all my ventures during the summer of
1887 I carried my photographic apparatus to the
highest ledges. Therefore I always rode a horse
as far above timber-line as a route could be found
for him.

The first difficulty which presents itself to the
mountaineer in Colorado is a lack of guides ; there
is much trouble about securing them to accom-
pany one even as far as trails go and as far as a
horse can carry. The hunters object to climbing
or walking ; and although very familiar with the
country, hunting as they do all around the peaks,
it is rarely that they climb to the mountain tops.
One of their number, a dweller in an upper park,
told me that he did not " see anything in the high
mountains, and did not know about the scenery."



" Yes," said a listener, " he don't know about
anything but 'bar.'"

But our little company at Ferguson's was
well provided with a leader in the person of
a gentleman who has
a cottage near
this ranch, who
spends all
the summer
months in the
and knows
every trail
and stream for
many miles
around. To
him I am in-
debted for all
that I saw of
the Front
Range, e x-
cepting in
my ascent of Long's Peak and of some of the
lower elevations.

The sharpest peak in the Front Range, as seen
from the valley of the Big Thompson Creek,

Peak of Mount Hallett.


which runs through Estes Park, is a mountain
near the centre of the range, to the left of Table
Mountain. It rises from the large snow-field
which hangs like a true glacier to a steep ridge
connecting the peak with Table Mountain. For
several weeks I had looked with longing eyes at
this peak and its snow surroundings, wishing to
climb it in a single day from Ferguson's ranch,
and to do this in connection with a ride over
Table Mountain toward Middle Park. When our
acknowledged leader proposed taking our little
company, consisting of a member of the Appala-
chian Mountain Club, the surgeon, and myself,
over the mill trail to the continental divide, I had
no doubt that my plans would succeed.

The day fixed upon was late in August. We
were to have been off at six o'clock, but it was
half past six before we left the ranch. We in-
tended to take a barometer, but our leader dropped
it on the porch as we were packing, and it fell
three thousand feet. We rode off, however, in
good spirits, thinking ourselves fortunate in get-
ting started even so early, for the horses had to be
" rounded up " for us ; and Tom, the mule, galloped
all over the hillside before he was captured.

We rode down the hill and crossed the Big
Thompson Creek, recrossed it to the Wind River


Valley, then over the Wind River and south
branch of the Thompson, and followed the latter
by a road leading through sage-brush until we
came to a flat meadow and ranch at the base of
the mountain.

We reached this ranch at about eight o'clock,
then followed the rapid stream up through tall
aspens to an old saw-mill. The timber is very
heavy on this mountain, but the mill did not pay
financially, as the lumber had to be hauled so far
to market ; so everything has been abandoned and
has gone to ruin. We were now by the side of
Timber Creek, and in twenty minutes struck the
trail leading through tall spruce, and left all
sound of tinkling cow-bells and lowing of cattle
far below us. The wood was dark, the ground
damp, and wonderful flowers and moss grew on
the trail. Deep-colored Painted Cups, and the
tiny fragrant bells of the Linncea lorealis, the
white Pyrola cldorantha, the curious Lousewort
(Pedicularis racemosa), and the Arnica alpina
gleamed out of this green darkness. These flowers
were carefully transferred to boxes, for the inspec-
tion of botanists down at Ferguson's, to whom also
we carried several genuine alpine plants, found
far up toward the mountain tops.

We found a deep snow-bank in among the trees


a little below timber-line, which is at about eleven
thousand feet above sea-level on this, the north-
eastern side of the range. Here we turned off
from the trail to a ledge a few steps away, from
which we had a wonderful view, through a deep
gorge, of the rocks belonging to the peak which
we intended to scale. A thousand feet below us
was a large lake, which appeared dark as night
and is evidently very deep, as the sides run down
steep from the edges ; we called it " Black Lake."
A little higher up was another, from which the
eye followed up the ravine, over bowlder waste
and white snow coverings, to the large snow-field,
which looked still more like a glacier than it did
from the valley below. It is evident from the
succession of moraines that a mighty ice-stream
once filled the entire length of the canon.

This scene, which has been looked upon by very
few persons, is certainly alpine. Taken in con-
junction with the view of the tower of Long's
Peak rising in the southeast three thousand feet
above the observer and exposing a grand slope
with a lake nestling at its feet, few sublimer sights
can be met with in the chain of the Rockies.*
From the opposite side of the gorge, a vertical

* See Frontispiece.


wall rises to a height of not less than one thou-
sand feet ; the face of it nearly perpendicular,
a marvellous exhibition on a stupendous scale of
the geological phenomenon of cleavage. The sur-
face of the ridge that we stood upon is broken
in masses, bowlders, and blocks, a wilderness of
debris unevenly distributed, while upon the preci-
pice there are no signs of uneven demolition or
aqueous erosion. The rocks cleave off evenly in
straight up and down planes along the whole
extent of the face.

After leaving the timber the trail is very in-
distinct, indeed there can hardly be said to be
any trail at all, a possible way for horses being
marked merely by stones placed one upon another
at long intervals. These were set there by our
leader or some hunter, on a previous trip.

While among these rocks we shot a ptarmigan.
The first warning we received of the proximity
of this bird was seeing the half-grown young,
about' the size of quail, running around or taking
flight to a distance ; they were evidently able to (
take care of themselves. Then we discovered the
old bird crouching on a rock, its wings spread out
so as to lie as flat as possible, and showing a
few white feathers on them. This bird is heavy,
though not quite so large as the grouse, but its


power of flight is wonderful. When frightened
it will rise immediately and shoot over the top of
a high peak, far away. This one was only wait-
ing for all its young to disappear by flight or
hiding, before it would fly towards the western
mountains. Later in the season the ptarmigan
is perfectly white, approaching this condition grad-
ually. In winter the feet are covered with white
downy feathers, while in summer they are nearly
bare. When disturbed in the winter they fly to
the snow-fields, where it is almost impossible to
distinguish their white forms.

An old moraine among the rocks near where
we saw the ptarmigan, was distinctly traceable
for several hundred feet down the mountain, by
rounded stones piled in a curving row about two
feet high, reminding one of a stone-wall in the
Berkshire hills.

A little farther on in the ascent we had a great
surprise. We were keeping very quiet and were
on the lookout for ptarmigan, when we came upon
three Eocky Mountain sheep, quietly browsing
only a few hundred feet distant on our right.
Our leader told us to duck, and said in an under-
tone to me, " Follow me with your camera."
I did so, and all of us dismounted and almost
crawling along soon saw the big-horn again, though


they had not observed us. The wind was "blowing
a gale in our faces, so they had no scent of us.
Luckily my instrument was focussed. I pointed

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Online LibraryFrederick H. (Frederick Hastings) ChapinMountaineering in Colorado : the peaks about Estes Park → online text (page 3 of 8)