Frederick H. (Frederick Hastings) Chapin.

Mountaineering in Colorado : the peaks about Estes Park online

. (page 5 of 8)
Online LibraryFrederick H. (Frederick Hastings) ChapinMountaineering in Colorado : the peaks about Estes Park → online text (page 5 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


which led him to wonder whether this snow-field
might not be a glacier.

I had seen many snow-fields in the Rocky
Mountains, but none where the body and weight
of the snow were sufficient to form a true glacier ;
therefore, hearing Mr. Hallett's story, I was very
anxious to have an opportunity to ascend the
Mummy, and, relying on my knowledge gained
in Alpine climbs, determine the nature of this
one, a desire which happily I was able to real-
ize. At the time of my visit the great snow-field
had probably never been seen by other than the
persons above referred to, not only because so
little had been said about it, but also on account



MUMMY MOUNTAIN. 99

of the distance and the difficulty of reaching it.
The expedition requires parts of three days, and
few travellers have the facilities for carrying pro-
visions and blankets so far. Our leader, however,
seeing that our ambition was unflagging, offered
to show the possible glacier to another member
of the Appalachian Mountain Club and myself;
and so, on Monday, August 1, a folding mattress,
blankets, provisions, axe, and coffee-pot in short,
a complete camping-outfit were packed on Tom,
the mule, and mounting our horses at 1 P. M., and
leading Tom behind us, we rode away from Fer-
guson's Kanch toward the Black Canon. I car-
ried, strapped to the back of my saddle, a camera
and tripod, and a package of sensitized dry plates.
It had been my intention to take some stakes also,
and to run a line of them across the snow-field for
future observation, but I found that it was all that
I could possibly do to carry my photographic ap-
paratus to that altitude.

Our trail led up through the canon, under enor-
mous cliffs on the right, than which there are few
finer, though on the left or south side the steep
walls are lacking. Above the canon the trail
winds to the left, high above the brook, and runs
between two mountains thickly clad with spruce.
It is identical with the one leading to Lawn Lake.



100 MOUNTAINEERING IN COLORADO.

From there on, however, there is no trail, and
even to this point there was no sign of the path's
having been traversed for a year. Our leader
showed great skill in guiding us among bowlders
and through tangled dwarf spruce over the ridge
of Mummy Mountain to a good camping-place.

In crossing the ridge east of the Mummy's head,
we had gone far above timber-line, but now had
dropped down several hundred feet into the black
spruce on the north side, in order to get firewood.
This dwarf evergreen is very peculiar. The trees
are not more than shoulder high, but the trunks,
in many cases, are a foot or two in thickness. We
found plenty of dead wood for our fire, and after
unloading we picketed our animals in good feed
and had our supper. This was chiefly from cold
supplies, for we cooked nothing on the trip except
coffee and toast. The altitude of our camp was
about eleven thousand feet. The full moon shone
brightly, and the night was very clear. We
could see very easily the star e Lyrse as double,
much plainer indeed than I ever saw it as such at
sea-level. Our big blazing fire must have been
seen from the plains far away. As a general rule
hunters in the West do not make large fires, con-
tradicting in this respect the Indian saying that
" white man make heap big fire, git way off;



MUMMY MOUNTAIN. 101

Injun make little bit fire, stay close by." The
hunters do not sleep by a fire, but depend upon
blankets and canvas covers for warmth.

We turned in early, slept well, and were up
before the sun, that we might see it rise out of
the plains. And such a sunrise as we beheld !
The flat country of Larimer County is covered
with artificial lakes; and as the sun came up we
counted thirty-five small sheets of water glisten-
ing in its bright rays. The sky was clear, except
high in the east where a mass of clouds was gor-
geously colored. First picketing our animals in
a new place, we then had our own breakfast. We
had aimed to make an early start, but with all our
expeditiousness we did not get our animals saddled
and under us until seven o'clock.

We had considerable difficulty in getting
through the dwarf spruce, which was very thick.
The heavy snows of winter bow down the tops,
leaving them one mass of tangled branches and
twigs, while under the trees the footing for the
horses is very rough. However, in half an hour
we were out of the small timber, and riding over
a smooth grassy surface by the side of a deep
gorge on our right, which was surmounted by
steep cliffs and a large snow-field. The gorge was
a wild, desolate scene, it being the former pathway



102 MOUNTAINEERING IN COLORADO.

of a glacier ; down through it rocks were piled
upon rocks for miles.

We reached the limits of the grass patches at
nine o'clock, and could ride no farther. Leaving
the horses, we walked up the rather steep ascent,




Ancient Bed of Hallett Glacier.

arriving at the foot of the snow-field in an hour.
We had seen the upper snows for two hours, but
had no view of the whole, mass until we were right
upon it ; for an immense rocky ridge heaped high
around the base hides three quarters of the snow-
field until it is surmounted. All at once this
scene burst upon us. A steep snow-bank ex-
tended about a thousand feet above to the top of



MUMMY MOUNTAIN. 103

the mountain. The water which had collected at
its base had been frozen again, not solidly, but
with occasional open spaces in which large blocks
of ice were floating around. As the force of the
wind moved them, they were lifted up by rocks
or firmer ice from beneath, creaking and groaning ;
then broken up into fragments, but only to form
new floes. The long line of the lower edge of the
ice and snow curled over in beautiful combings
as it hung over the open water.

The snow expanse is about a quarter of a mile
in width, and entirely fills a kind of amphitheatre
made by the main range of the Mummy and a
spur which extends around to the northeast. In
some places it makes the sky-line, but for the
most part pointed rocks and towers jut up from
the snow. One shaft, which we judged twenty
feet in height, could not have been more than
twelve inches in diameter at the base, and was
of pure white quartz. The more easily decom-
posed granite had fallen away, leaving this firmer
vein of rock standing alone. The whole extent
of the snow was covered with grooves, markings,
and cracks ; a large crevasse began near the south
end and extended a long way into the centre, and
close examination revealed many more above and
below it, running parallel with it. The longest



104



MOUNTAINEERING IN COLORADO.



of these was about a hundred feet above the water
at the southern extremity. Our leader said that
when he visited the place four years before there
were larger icebergs iu the water. It is evident
how these were formed ; for when the large cre-
vasses, near the water, are crowded toward the
lake, the masses of ice must fall off into it, repeat-




Ledges above the Hallett Glacier.

ing on a small scale what happens when the ice-
masses fall from the Humboldt Glacier into the
Arctic Ocean.

A single glance at the series of crevasses was
enough to convince me that we looked upon a
glacier, and further examination of the ice con-
firmed the first impression. The great ridge upon



MUMMY MOUNTAIN. 105

which we stood was evidently a terminal moraine
formed by the glacier in past ages. What debris
comes down with the ice at the present time must
fall into the lake. The surface of the glacier,
however, is remarkably free from stones and
bowlders, caused, as we afterward determined, by
the fact that the loosened masses above the ice
fall to the west down the much steeper rock-fall
of the mountain ; yet at one point the ledges are
breaking away toward the glacier, and a few
bowlders are already embedded in the ice and are
on their way down the slide.

Having taken two pictures of the glacier and
lake from the moraine, accompanied by our leader,
I carried the camera back from the ice and took a
more distant view ; meanwhile the Appalachian
had strolled along to the south end to look at the
big crevasse. It seemed desirable to secure three
negatives of this section of the ice ; but as we had
only one sensitized plate with us, I started back
to the foot of the glacier, where we had left the
lunch and other luggage, for another plate-holder
containing two plates. And now an episode oc-
curred which for the time being quite eclipsed
the pleasurable excitement of our discovery with
one of a more thrilling, if less agreeable sort. I
had gone about half-way when my companion



106



MOUNTAINEERING IN COLORADO.



called out, "A bear! a bear! come here quick!"
I turned, ran back, and saw an immense range
grizzly standing on a rock about two hundred
feet from us; he had just come out from behind
a huge bowlder. I took his picture as quickly
as possible. This was probably the first time
that " old Ephraim " had ever had his picture

taken in his own
haunts; and if he
could only have
known what was
required of him,
he might just as
well have sat for
it. I then saw
the Appalachian,

standing very near to the bear, but back of him,
looking at him through his field-glass as coolly as
could be. The bear was of tremendous size, and
must have weighed a thousand pounds. His color
was for the most part brown, but his back and
the top of his head appeared nearly white. He
was of the species called by the hunters " silver-
tipped grizzly;" and as the sun was shining very
brightly directly upon his back, the reflection was
such as to give it a silvery-white appearance. He
was evidently trying to make up his mind whether




MUMMY MOUNTAIN. 107

to come down to us and take his lunch, or betake
himself off up the mountain, or, as the local
phrase has it, " pull his freight." I had not
thought of the bear's attacking us, though I had
wondered at the Appalachian's coolness, but now
the beast was growling and snapping. Suddenly
my companion suggested, "Suppose he should de-
cide to come and take us." Then I proposed that
I go for the other plates, and that he get his shot-
gun, our only weapon, at the same time, and load
it with buckshot. " That would not be of much
use," he answered ; " but we can do one thing.
Here, take this knife ! " and he drew a large
butcher-knife from his belt and handed it to me.
" If he turns on us, I will wait till his nose
touches the jnuzzle of the gun before I let him
have it, and you must do the best you can for
yourself with the knife ; this will be our only
salvation, but it will take lots of nerve to await
the proper moment to shoot." Our motions were
so lively that when we got back to our position
by the camera, the bear had decided to move off,
and was soon out of sight behind a ridge, giving
a sort of snort as he turned away. Our fear was
now that he would run down the mountain to
where the horses and mule were tethered and
stampede them. If the animals should get a sight



I

108 MOUNTAINEERING IN COLORADO.

of the bear, they would break their legs or necks
in trying to escape. This catastrophe must be
averted at all hazards, for without the pack rnule
we could never carry the camera and plates back
to camp before nightfall, and a night at this ele-
vation, without blankets, would be horrible. We
started at a brisk run over the rocks, hoping to
head him off. But he travelled so rapidly that
before we saw him again he had covered a great
distance in a circle around us, and was about
three hundred feet below our position, crossing a
large snow-field, and luckily headed away from
the horses. He stopped, turned, and looked at us.
Standing out on the white snow-field, with steep
ledges and jagged cliffs rising high in the back-
ground, his figure was certainly very picturesque.
It was impossible to photograph him, as he was so
far below us ; so my companion asked,

" Shall I give him a shot ? "

" Pepper him," I responded.

" He may turn on us."

" Pepper him," I said again.

Bang went the gun, and the beast jumped.
Bang ! another charge of buckshot followed, and
the bear gave another leap forward, although the
effect of the shot was probably no more upon him
than the cut of a whip would have been if given



\



,i *

l



<?







MUMMY MOUNTAIN. 109

near at hand. However, the shot so accelerated
his gait that he probably reached Wyoming in a
very short time, for he went up the side of the
mountain on a run, and was over the top of the
ridge and out of sight in ten minutes. I watched
him for a moment on the ground glass of the
camera, and his figure looked like that of a rat
running up a wall. This quickness of motion in
a beast of such bulk was marvellous ; for later in
the day it took us over an hour to gain an equal
height, climbing over similar rocks. One can
judge how utterly powerless we should have been
if the conditions had been reversed and we had
been chased by the bear.

The bear being disposed of, we returned to the
glacier and roped ourselves together for an in-
vestigation of the surface of the ice, using a
forty-foot lariat for the purpose, so that we had
about twenty feet of rope between us. Then
we crossed the snow to the big crevasse. This
was fifteen feet wide in some places, and twenty
to thirty feet deep, and large icicles hung down
from the upper edges. After securing photo-
graphs of this, we went back to the rocks, where
the Appalachian threw off the rope and sepa-
rated himself from us to climb the final peak
by the ledges. Our leader and I tied ourselves



110 MOUNTAINEERING IN COLORADO.

together again, and began the ascent to the ridge
by the glacier.

In Switzerland I had been guided over many
glaciers, and on one occasion had had the sensa-
tion of dangling on the
edge of a crevasse
into which I had




JRjf

mf : /-r



fallen ; but never before had I led in crossing
a large snow-field, or assumed any responsibility.
The crossing of this glacier looked easy and sim-
ple, and one not accustomed to ice-work would
have probably laughed at the idea of using a
rope; but my experience told me that the cre-
vasse, which seemed to end abruptly, probably
extended under the smooth snow for a long dis-
tance, and we might strike it or some other cleft



MUMMY MOUNTA1X. Ill

in the ice in any part of the glacier that we might
cross. And then there was our leader's former
adventure, to which I have already alluded. He
was all alone, and ascending on the north side,
trying to reach the curious shafts which stand as
sentinels over that part of the ice. He was get-
ting along all right, when, suddenly, he broke
through the bridge of a hidden crevasse. Luck-
ily the ice was firm at the rim on both sides, so
that he held up by his elbows and managed to
extricate himself. Safely out, he ran down the
mountain, determined never to venture on the
snow again without help.

We had no ice-axe. The snow was in the con-
dition of nM, and very firm. I used my camera
tripod for a feeler, and often could send it down
deep in treacherous places ; but we kept to a sort
of ardte, and by stamping foot-holes made some
progress. It was very slow, however, as every
step must be made, and the incline grew steeper
as we advanced. If the snow had been in a more
icy condition, we could never have reached the
ledges without an axe, and as it was we had to
make detours to avoid glare ice. From the sum-
mit of the arete we jumped over a suspicious bit
of ice to the rocks, and congratulated ourselves
that we were the first to tread upon these upper



112 MOUNTAINEERING IN COLORADO.

snows.* The ledges we found very narrow and
broken up into towers and spires. The west side
of the peak was an indescribably wild scene, such
as I had never beheld ; there were precipices and
gorges, masses of rock and bowlders, smooth cliffs,
rough-hewn towers, and below us several thousand
feet was a gem of a mountain park, with a silver
stream winding through it for miles down to the
Poudre. Encircling the whole were snow-clad
mountains of the Eabbit Ear and Medicine Bow
Eanges, and beyond was the Park Kange, filling
the western horizon with its mountains piled upon
mountains. Part of the wonder and delight of
the scene was caused by the fact that we were
looking upon an almost unknown land as we
gazed into the west. The meadows at our feet,
walled in by high mountains, are very difficult to
get into with pack animals ; hence over and
among the far mountains there is not a settlement
until Utah is reached.

Unlike some of the difficult Swiss peaks, there

* After our return to Estes Park, our party spoke of the
glacier as the " Mummy Glacier ; " but now I am disposed,
with Professor Stone of the College of Colorado, who visited it
later in the season, to call it " Hallett Glacier." " Mount
Hallett " has its name from the same gentleman, having been
so christened by Dr. E. 0. Otis, of Boston, and the writer,
when on its summit in July, 1887.



MUMMY MOUNTAIN. 113

is always some easy way of access to the high
crests of the Rocky Mountains ; but there is hard
climbing to be found, if that is sought. To any
mountaineer in search of such work, I would sug-
gest that he ascend the Mummy glacier by an
arete, on the north side to the point where the
shafts of rock are standing, then descend the
mountain to the deep glen below, being careful to
take provisions for two days from carnp. After
exploring the valley at its upper limit, let him
ascend the west peak of the Mummy from that
side directly to the summit, and I fancy he will
have need of steadiness of head and strength of
limb.

We began to make the remainder of the climb
of the peak by the broken ledges, and found our
way difficult. The rocks, broken and shattered,
afforded poor hold, and if once they gave way,
went spinning to the lake below with a whir and
a crash that made us realize what would be the
result should we fall from these heights. We had
to help each other with boosts and pulls ; for
sometimes there were no firm rocks within reach,
as we felt for them over the edges of platforms
above us. It was not easy to get the gun and
camera up ; so finally, after passing the edge of
the ice, which was too treacherous to venture

8



114 MOUNTAINEERING IN COLORADO.

upon at this point, we were forced to take the face
of the mountain, by which we had an easy route
to the summit.

The rocks on the top of the Mummy have an
entirely different appearance from those of any
other summit in the Rocky Mountains on which
I have stood. On Pike's Peak, Bald Mountain,
Long's Peak, Table Mountain, and on many of the
lesser peaks, the slabs of granite are strewn around
or heaped up in piles, while here there is little
debris, for the rocks are arranged in laminae with
edges up, and present a saw-like appearance ; the
mountain drops off on all sides, excepting the
ridge to the northwest, in noble ledges flanked by
massive towers.

We were more than an hour upon the summit ;
the atmosphere was of rare transparency, and the
view seemed limitless. Mountain ranges far into
Wyoming were clearly seen ; Pike's Peak rose in
the south, and peaks farther away to the south-
west ; but here, as from the ledges below, the
chief joy was in looking toward the sierras of the
west. This was the only peak upon which we
had not found a cairn, and I doubt if it had ever
been climbed before.

As we were ascending the glacier a Rocky
Mountain eagle swooped down over the ridge, but



MUMMY MOUNTAIN.



115



seeing us he soared up over the top of our peak,
and while we were on the summit, was circling
over us at a great height, probably at an elevation
of 20,000 feet above sea-level. It would be a
curious fact to learn at how great an elevation a
bird of that size and weight could sustain itself



by flight ; for notwithstanding its lightness as
compared with its size, it seems as if it would
drop like a piece of cotton in an exhausted
tube.

It was four o'clock when we left the summit,
and ran down the face of the peak to where we
had left our traps and extra plates. Collecting



116 MOUNTAINEERING IN COLORADO.

these, we walked to the north side of the glacier
and climbed about half-way up. Part of the
south side of the glacier is in shadow early in the
afternoon, and on that account is very smooth
and firm, while the north end is exposed to the
sun's rays from early morning till much later in
the afternoon ; consequently, the heat has so
melted the upper snows that the water runs down
and causes the deep grooves seen in Plate VI.
The surface of all the large ice-fields about Estes
Park presents this grooved, or ribbed, structure.*
While we had been examining the formation and
shape of the curious ridges of snow, the sun had
been obscured by high drifting clouds. Suddenly
it came out with dazzling brightness, and we
beheld a remarkable shadow profile cast upon the

* Since writing the above, my attention has been called to a
description of the surface of the snow of the Mount Lyell Glacier,
in California, which proves that running water is not the first
cause in forming the troughs. In the case of the great ice-field,
however, the grooves are " in a direction at right angles to the
slope." According to Mr. J. T. Gardiner, formerly of the Geo-
logical Survey, "the transverse ridges or blades are produced by
the action of sun on wind ripples. During the winter the wind
blows mainly down the canon, and the loose snow is drifted
into wind ripples ; during the summer, when neither rain nor
snow falls for many months, the snow is greatly wasted, but
more in the troughs than on the crests, on account of the rever-
beration of heat within the troughs." PROF. JOSEPH Li:CoNTE,
American Journal of Science and Arts, 1873, vol. v., 3d series.



MUMMY MOUNTAIN. 117

pure white snow by the sculptured rocks. At
first it was a startling apparition, and we stood
there transfixed with awe as we gazed upon it,
shading our eyes with our hands. The length of
the profile traced on the snow by the varying
shadow was fully a hundred feet. The lines were
clearly defined. Of course it can only be seen at
a certain hour on sunny afternoons. The day is
far distant when throngs of tourists will stream up
the gorge to see the largest ice-field of Colorado,
and by that time perhaps the granite rocks will
have crumbled away, worn by rain and cracked
by frost, and the profile which we saw will have
vanished. Meanwhile many will doubtless be
glad that we succeeded in securing a photograph
of the strange and beautiful scene.

It was now five o'clock. We reluctantly turned
away from the glacier, and scrambling over the
moraine to the large snow-field where the bear
had crossed, we glissaded down for several hun-
dred feet, then took to the rocks, and soon reached
our horses and mule. On the way down, we shot
seven ptarmigans. We reached camp at dark in
a very tired condition, but a cup of strong coffee
so revived us that in an hour we were contentedly
lying before the blaze, the thick hedge of spruce
timber at our backs keeping off the strong blasts



118 MOUNTAINEERING IN COLORADO.

of wind. Then \ve told stories of bear, and stories
of elk, and stories of " big-horn/' and smoked the
pipe of peace.

Spruce firewood will always crack and snap ; and
this night the sparks rose high, carried far up by
the wild wind, and then whisked down the deep
gulch toward the plains. As I lay there looking
at the black line of cliffs surrounding us, and then
into the dancing flames, I thought of camp-fires
long since burned out, of blazing pines in dark
forests, of nights in deserted log-cabins in the
West or in the stone-roofed chdlet in the far-away
Alps. Then from the heights and distance came
memories of moraine, crevasse, and berc/schrund, of
expanse of snow, of bowlder waste and the wary
" big-horn," of spires of rock and domes of ice, and,
loosing my hold on consciousness in this strange
chaos, I slipped beneath the canvas and was soon
asleep.




YPSILON PEAK FROM DEER MOUNTAIN.



CHAPTER VI.

YPSILON PEAK.

THOUGH making many climbs among the
higher peaks and giving much study and
investigation to the upper snows, not all of the
time of two joyous summers in Estes Park was
spent on the mountain-tops, but many days were
whiled away in rides, drives, and strolls among
the quiet scenes of this beautiful vale. Encircling
the shores of Mary's Lake and tracing from afar
routes which we had followed into the range, was
a delight. We climbed the ledges of little Pros-


1 2 3 5 7 8

Online LibraryFrederick H. (Frederick Hastings) ChapinMountaineering in Colorado : the peaks about Estes Park → online text (page 5 of 8)