Frederick H. (Frederick Hastings) Chapin.

Mountaineering in Colorado : the peaks about Estes Park online

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pect Mountain, and studied the topography of the
valleys at our feet or of the rugged mountains in
the west. We galloped over pastures ; we forded
river and creek. Seemingly inexhaustible are the
scenes of pleasure to be found along this beautiful
river of Estes Park in its short yet varied course
through the mountains. Dashing forth from a
dark, deep cafion, tumbling over precipices and
ledges, the stream ceases for a space in its hurry,
winds gently through the peaceful valley, then


again descends as a rapid through ravines in the
foot-hills, and afterward sluggishly creeps across
the plains to join the Platte. In one of its little
glens we were shown the last memento of Indian
life existing in the valley, a " wickyup," or
arbor-wigwam, hidden in the dense aspen growth,
and built of these trees. It had stood there longer

than the oldest settler knew ; the poles were rot-
ting and falling in, and could have retained their
position but a little while longer ; but alas ! a fire
has since swept through the aspen forest, and the
" wickyup " has been destroyed before its time.
Still more interesting and novel are the scenes to
be met with, or perhaps rather to be ferreted out,


along the banks of the little torrents that flow into
the Big Thompson from the north and from the
south. One of these streams is Wind River, beauti-
ful to me from many associations. It was on one
of ibose happy days upon its borders that my
great interest began in the mountain that I am
about to describe.

That day I was in this pretty valley with my
wife. We had spent the time lazily near a de-
serted cabin by the stream. I had been fishing
a little. Later we were looking at the mountains,
which from here are so beautiful in the west. One
great peak with a steep wall facing the east, and a
long reclining ridge leading toward the southwest,
especially interested us. A large snow-field lay
on the eastern face ; two glittering bauds of ice
extended skyward to the ridge of the mountain,
forming a perfect Y. My wife said to me, " Its
name shall be Ypsilon Peak." So it went forth,
and the name was accepted by the dwellers in the
valley and by the visitors at the ranches.

I have already described the views from two
little mountains, Sheep and Prospect, which are in
Estes Park, and separated from the main range by
valleys and meadows. There is another elevation,
nearer to some of the great peaks, which is well
worthy of description, especially in connection



with Ypsilon. This is Deer Mountain, a beautiful
wooded elevation, with long sweeps of pasture-
land reaching from the pine growth down to the

rushing Big
Eiver. Bea-
ver Park is on
the southern
flanks, and
separates it
from Eagle
Cliff. On the
north a nar-
row valley di-
vides it from
the southern
ridge of the
Black Canon ;
and this nar-
row valley
leads into a
wide " open "

called Horseshoe Park, which lies between Deer
Mountain and the range. Deer Mountain, itself
beautiful to look upon, gives charming views of
the mountains and valleys. One must traverse
its summit, a great square nearly a half-mile

Gazing at Ypsilon from Deer Mountain.


broad, from one end to the other in order to
obtain the different views ; but each corner is
marked by an elevated ledge, from whose sum-
mit the perfect outlooks are obtained. It was
from one of these ledges, the westernmost, and
overlooking that unique valley, Horseshoe Park,
that I obtained the finest view of Ypsilon.

The larger parks of Colorado, such as Estes, are
beautiful ; but these smaller ones found higher up
among the mountains are far more interesting and
picturesque. Met with in among the fastnesses of
the hills, they can never fail to be a surprise to
the traveller, the hunter, or the explorer. They
are hidden between steep ridges, which are clothed
with dense spruce or pine to their base. In the
glade the trees are scattered, as if planted for a
park with broad walks between. The water flow-
ing through is no longer a dashing torrent, but a
quiet stream, its banks lined with aspens which
quiver and rustle in the breeze. Sometimes the
narrow glen widens into a vast level stretch, with
high peaks walling in the distance and looking down
upon fair meadows. Such a valley is Horseshoe
Park, and Ypsilon and its rocky spurs block the
western sky. The smaller glades found about
timber-line on Ypsilon and Hague's Peaks are
even more picturesque. This is especially true of


those found on the densely wooded slopes of the
latter peak, which upon the opposite side is a bare
rock and snow waste down to a much lower alti-
tude. In following the ill-defined trail from Estes
Park to Lawn Lake, along the slopes of the great
peak, struggling up through the forest, the trav-
eller suddenly comes upon such glades at frequent
intervals, and it seems as if a deer or elk must
surely bound out of the tall luxurious grass into
the dark forest.

Never anxious to send me away from her side
into the mountains, the sponsor of Ypsilon was
always desirous that I should ascend this peak ;
but the summer vacation of 1887 passed away,
and it still remained unclirnbed. During this
last summer, however, the not difficult but very
interesting feat was accomplished.

Thursday, August 9, a camping outfit was
packed in Ferguson's stage ; and our party, con-
sisting of Mr. Hallett, Mr. Gilman, Mr. George
W. Thacher, Mr. J. E. Edmands, Prof. C. E.
Fay, and the writer, started for Horseshoe Park
to attempt Ypsilon Peak. Mr. Gilman and my-
self rode horses, which were to be used as pack
animals on our arrival in Horseshoe Park. We
left Ferguson's ranch at 9.30 A. M., and reached
the end of the road at 11.30. There we unloaded



the wagon and sent it home, packed the two
horses with the necessary outfit, and turning to
the right followed an old trail by the side of a
creek which flows from Lawn Lake. We lunched
in a park
where there
was feed for
the horses,
and higher up
at four o'clock
forded the
creek under
some difficul-
ties, the oper-
ation consum-
ing half an
hour. After
leaving the
ford, there
was no trail;
so Mr. Hallett led the pro-
cession with axe in hand, and was obliged to
cut and hew right and left.

With our faces now turned directly toward
Ypsilon Peak, and several hundred feet above a
brook which flows from its snows, we worked our
way over the side of a great ancient moraine for


three hours, and on the banks of the stream found
a suitable camping-spot at dark. I acted as com-
missary and cook, but fear that my comrades were
not over and above pleased with the very plain
fare. We passed the night under cover of canvas,
rubber, and blankets ; we did not carry a tent.
With the exception of one of our number, we all
slept well.

In the morning we left camp at 7.20, at first
in a body, but, as is generally the case with such
a large party, we were soon scattered all over the
flanks of Mount Fairchild, over the top of which we
intended to go. Mr. Hallett carried my sensitized
plates, a heavy load. I lugged the camera, and
in addition to this burden was troubled with a
very lame foot, and had little hope of standing on
the summit of Ypsilon that day. Mr. Edmands
soon made direct for the summit of Fairchild,
which he reached at 10.55 ; while the rest of us
bore to the right in order to gain a ridge, by fol-
lowing which we thought we should obtain good
views the whole morning long. We kept nearly
together, Messrs. Fay and Hallett arriving first on
the ridge at 8.15. At that point I took pictures
of Ypsilon, and higher up obtained fine views of
Hague's Peak and the west peak of the Mummy
Eange. The deeply furrowed precipitous sides of


the former peak, rising nearly three thousand feet
above the timber, were marvellous to behold.

Messrs. Fay, Hallett, and Thacher now went
ahead for Fairchild ; and Mr. Gilman and I, not
being in good condition, determined to skirt that
mountain a few hundred feet below the summit.
We were soon joined by Mr. Thacher, who was
also out of sorts and had given up Fairchild.
Luckily we had one canteen of milk and a flask
of brandy with us, and constituted ourselves an
invalid corps for a short time, when, strange to
relate, my lame foot with exercise had become
entirely well. Mr. Gilman also had quite re-
covered from his indisposition; so, leaving our
friend to continue a direct high-level route to the
notch between Fairchild and Ypsilon, we made
straight for the top of the former, over the steepest
part of the peak. This enabled me to examine a
snow-field in which I had long been interested ;
but I was disappointed in it. When I came to
Estes Park, the first of July, it was a great body
of snow, and so shows in photographs taken dur-
ing that month; but it had steadily decreased,
and now, a perfect arrowhead in form and at its
minimum in size, the ice was very thin and shal-
low. At the snow we again changed our plans,
thinking that we should be too late to meet our


friends on the summit, and bore away around the
peak, hoping to head them off. We crossed their
path a hundred feet above them, and arrived on
the scene at an opportune moment. We had
commenced to descend at a rapid gait, when Mr.
Gilman shouted, " Look ! a bear ! " He spied the
animal, a great cinnamon, as it was emerging from
its lair under a projecting ledge. I shouted to
Mr. Hallett, who carried a revolver ; and he gave
Bruin several shots, all but one of which sounded
" click " against the rocks. The bullet that re-
turned no sound we suppose lodged in bear
meat. Like the grizzly which we met last year on
Murnmy Mountain, this bear seemed bound for
Wyoming, and soon disappeared beyond the sky-
line of the mountain ; but he gave us lots of fun
for a few minutes.

We reached the notch at 12.50 P. M., and there
joining Mr. Edmands we began on the lunch. Mr.
Thacher soon came in, and reported having seen
two young cinnamon bears playing on ledges below
him. The bear question was getting serious.

At 1.30 P. M. Messrs. Edmands, Hallett, and
Fay started for Ypsilon's crest, which they reached
at 2.25. Mr. Thacher started down through a
gorge for camp, which I considered a very heroic
action ; for my part I never should have ventured


through that country alone and unarmed. Mr.
Oilman and I spent some time selecting view-
points and taking photographs, using up most of
the plates. The views from the notch are very
fine, especially toward the west. Starting for
Ypsilon at two o'clock, we followed the route
taken by the others, which led up the gradual
western slope of the mountain, and reached the
summit at 3.10. We found the topographer busy
taking angles ; but all his labor was for naught,
on account of the disturbance caused by the pres-
ence of magnetic iron in the rocks. Although
the day was perfect for an expedition in the
mountains, the breeze was a little too fresh on the
highest rocks ; so we all dropped down under a
ledge on the east face, and scanned with the field-
glass the gorges below.

Ypsilon from above is even finer than from
below. The snow gullies which form the long
lines converging together at the base, which give
the peak its name, cut deep into the mountain's
flanks, and have formed miniature cafions. Weird
shapes of snow cling to nooks which are sheltered
from the sun. One cornice had a big hole in it,
as if a cannon-ball had passed through. But the
great point of interest is the steep character of the
whole northeastern face. Numerous lakes were



visible below, between us and our camp ; some
were perched on high moraines far away from the
base of the peak ; while straight down and over
two thousand feet below, immediately at the base
of the cliffs, we saw two large ones which were
walled in by dikes. All the great peaks in the
neighborhood have these characteristic glacial
lakelets. The debris seems to have been swept
away from the exit end, though great blocks lie
on the side.

In a short time we went to the point near
where the left snow couloir begins, and hurled
off big bowlders, imagining that we could send
them into the water below. Only one thing pre-
vented : we could not find any rocks tenacious
enough to hold together. All were reduced to frag-
ments before they reached the smooth surface of
the lake.

The three who first arrived on the summit
soon left us, and following the ridge descended
the next peak south on their way to camp. After
parting with these companions we returned to the
summit of Ypsilon and commenced to erect a
cairn, but the rocks being too heavy to handle
easily, we gave it up. As the wind had died
down a little, we spread out a map on the rocks,
and with aid of compass identified many points of


interest ; but soon abandoned that simply to take
in the glorious view. Long's Peak with its grand
tower never looked nobler. The mountains in
Estes Park were but his little foot-hills. The
moraine in Willow Park, the smaller ones in
Horseshoe, and the still larger one, which above
our camp led down towards Horseshoe Park, were
very prominent features in the near landscape.
The imposing rocky face of Hague's Peak cut off
the northern horizon. Past the turrets of the
west peak of the Mummy Kange we saw the ice
of the summit of Hallett Glacier. Then for the
first time I realized why that great mass of snow
exceeded all others in the Front Range. Placed
near the summit of a peak 14,000 feet in height,
it lies in such a cold region that this alone pre-
vents little waste from melting.

The view toward the west is magnificent. It
must be remembered that this district is yet in a
wild state. Let not the reader think when he
looks at the map and sees places noted, such as
" Lulu," " Michigan City," that it means much.
In many cases such dots mark but the site of
deserted mining-camps or lonely ranches. " Mo-
raine," for example, in Estes Park, given place on
the map in large letters, is in reality one ranch,
Sprague's, with a few cottages for summer visitors.


Perhaps two or three members of the family at
the most remain at the ranch during the winter
months. Grand County, whose mountains we
gazed upon, contains some 2,000 square miles,
and had at the last census a population of 417
persons. These mostly dwell in the lower part of
Middle Park ; so it may be imagined that very
few human beings were in the wide country that
we looked upon. Right beneath, a deep upper
valley of the Cache la Poudre River separated us
from the beautiful rock peak represented in Plate
IX. This mountain, like innumerable others
dominated over by Upper Grand Valley Peak,
was a study in itself. The tapering summit, the
white snow-field, the glacial lakelet, were beauti-
ful. What an ice-fall and what a crevasse must
once have marked the place where one sees the
sudden break in the gradual slopes below the
lake ! There were scenes such as the camera
cannot carry away from mountains like these.
Far below in the green valley were dashing
brooks, roaring cascades, miles of green meadow
and great forest, such as the dwellers on the
plains little dream grow in Colorado.

All these things were seen in a few moments,
and we began a rapid descent. In half an hour
we reached the point near the col where we left




the camera, and hastened down the gorge. Of the
three routes to camp followed by our divided
party, we suspect that we took the most inter-
esting. Surely there are no finer turrets and
pinnacles to be found among the mountains than
those which sur-
mount the ardtes of
Ypsilon on the
north. We lingered
to take some pho-
tographs, but when
on the col a gust
of wind had struck
the camera, and
throwing it over had
broken the ground
glass ; so the pic-
tures taken later did
not prove to be
quite in focus. The

accompanying cut represents the sharply serrated
portion of a narrow ridge which descends from the
shoulder seen in Plate VIII. on the right of the
highest peak of Ypsilon. The heavy mass of snow
below the junction of the two arms of the Y, fairly
indicated in the plate, lies in a gulch of which this
ridge forms the right or northerly wall.


As we descended lower we came upon other
beautiful lakes and extensive greenswards. The
cliffs above us echoed back many a shout which
we sent up among them, for we thought that
perhaps our companion of the morning might be
waiting for us among some of the ledges. Our
way was free from great difficulties until near
camp and at dark, when we became involved in
the mysteries and miseries of a forest swamp.
We divided loads and changed packs ; but it
seemed to me, whichever I carried, camera or
plates, that they were never so heavy before. We
got to camp at 7.45 o'clock, and were the last in.
Camp-fire that night was an interesting one, as
each had a story to tell.

It seems that our leader, by an accident and
misunderstanding, became separated from his com-
panions, and getting lower down in the gorges
arrived first at camp. The professor, descending
a little in front of the topographer at the upper
edge of the scrub growth, was very much startled
by two large cinnamon bears, which at full speed,
and growling, advanced upon him in tandem
order. He shouted loudly, and whirled his shin-
ing canteen in the air with sufficient energy to
change the plans of Bruin, who had probably
considered him some small game. The one in



advance, now within twenty feet, turned so quickly
in his tracks that he almost knocked over Ursa
Minor, following at his heels. Their appearance
was for a moment ludicrous, and tended to neu-
tralize the sensation of fright which the beasts
had at first excited. Mr. Edmands hurried to
the scene, of which the two gentlemen remained
masters ; for the animals, after getting themselves
together, disappeared into the timber.

Our camp was also a merry one ; we knew no
sadness. We had been upon a beautiful moun-
tain, had met with adventures and no mishaps,
and were now safe around a blazing fire within
the circle of whose rays neither bear nor mountain
lion would dare to venture.



OUE party for a grand trip to the Hallett
Glacier, returning over Hague's Peak, con-
sisted of four persons, all of whom were connected
with the expedition to Ypsilon. It was a ques-
tion whether we should camp at Horseshoe Park
or in the Black Canon, but at last we chose the
latter. We decided to take a wagon as far as
possible, and so carry a tent. We also made up
our minds to dispense with pack animals, and
make a long day of it.

We left Ferguson's at two o'clock p. M., August
14, reached the end of the wagon-road on the
south bank of the stream at a quarter before four,
and getting our traps across the river pitched
our fly-tent under some pines. While the others
were doing the hard work of making camp, I
shirked duty, and ascending the slope on the south
side of the canon took a number of photographs
of the walls opposite. Three towering rocks
mark the highest part of the canon ; below, the



summits are dome-shaped, and far down, near
the entrance, two sculptured figures stand out
from the parapet, appearing almost exactly like
two great owls. These remarkable rocks inter-
ested me ; but I was soon obliged to leave them,
for I had only been gone from camp an hour be-
fore it commenced
to rain. The rainy
season was sup-
posed to be over;
but this night
gave such suppo-
sition the lie, for
the storm contin-
ued all through
the dark hours.
The fly-tent shed
most of the water,
and we slept
soundly and were

kept dry. This was the only occasion on which
we used a tent in expeditions among the moun-
tains ; and it was very fortunate that we brought
one this day.

Our camp was certainly a luxurious one ; such
living as we had, if continued, would soon spoil
one for hard trips ; but it was a reaction against



the very simple fare that I, as commissary, had
imposed upon my friends in Camp Ypsilon. An-
other acted in this capacity in the memorable
camp in the Black
Canon, and course
followed course,
oat-meal, roasted po-
tatoes, toast, steak,
etc., till at eleven
o'clock draughts of

chocolate ended the supper, and pipes were brought
out. The commissary also did the proper thing in
the morning, built a fire before we were awake,


and at five o'clock whispered gently in our ear,
" Coffee," which we drank before getting up.

The day dawned so dark and rainy that it was
seven o'clock before we decided to start. One of
our number had brought a horse, on which he
proposed to ride as far as the trail led up the
canon. This was a great gain to the rest of us
also, as he carried the lunch. We started off at a
terrific pace, knowing that we must hurry. The
pedestrians got very wet, but the horseman was
so thoroughly soaked and chilled that at half-past
nine he decided to turn back. He had received
all the water from the wet branches that he had
ridden through, while the rest of us were only wet
below the knees.

Mr. Edmauds, Professor Fay, and I kept on
toward Lawn Lake, which we reached at quarter
before eleven. This lake is certainly a marvellous
sheet of water, situated in a valley about 10,700
feet above the sea. It is over half a mile long,
has beautiful grassy slopes on all sides, and fine
groves of spruce near its banks. High above, on
the south, loom the crags of Mount Fairchild.
The precipices of Hague's Peak rise three thou-
sand feet above one on the north, and at the end
of the valley are the buttresses of the west peak
of the Mummy.


Summit of Hague's Peak.

We made for this mountain, our route some-
times leading through a maze of bowlders, and
then up steep grassy slopes ; then again over level


greenswards where innumerable rills wandered.
Among the rocks we saw two badgers, the only
animals larger than conies that we met this day.
They seemed alone in this wild solitary basin, and
we did not disturb them with a shot.

We passed two lakes at the base of the peaks of
Mount Fairchild, lunched near the notch between
that mountain and the Mummy, and soon began
our ascent.

It is rarely that the climber in the Eockies
meets with much difficulty in ascending the ac-
cessible sides of the peaks. I have already
pointed out the fact that an easy route is generally
found to the summits ; but the illustrations which
refer to Long's Peak and Ypsilon Peak show con-
clusively that one face on each of these peaks is
absolutely inaccessible. On this day we seemed
to have struck the rocks on the Mummy at a
place which gave us the only bit of difficult
scrambling that we found during the summer. If
they had been a little more difficult, we should
have been obliged to make a long detour. When
our work commenced the weather was fair, and
we had clear views of the valley below, and of
the surrounding peaks ; but as we got higher up,
a dense fog settled down upon our peak, and later
snow fell, making the rocks quite slippery. To


select an easy route was impossible ; the ledges
became barely practicable. Fortunately the dip
of the strata was in our favor, the rocks were
pretty firm, and we mounted higher and higher.
The storm added to the weirdness of the situation ;
splintered crags appeared before us like the weath-
ered towers of ancient fortresses. Overhanging
rocks forced us to edge around on narrow ledges.
Seen through fog, rain, or snow-flakes, the heights
above were magnified, and the Mummy, which
from the valleys seems as if in repose, now showed
itself an angry mountain. Lover as I am of clear,
distant panoramic views, yet I would not like to
have missed this day's experience. We finally
overcame all difficulties ; but on gaining the sum-
mit, denser clouds encompassed us, and snow-squalls
rushed over the peak. The temperature was 34
above zero. Very soon we started down toward
the glacier. The clouds grew thicker and denser,
and we could see but a little way before us-

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Online LibraryFrederick H. (Frederick Hastings) ChapinMountaineering in Colorado : the peaks about Estes Park → online text (page 6 of 8)