It had slowed down at work enough that I decided to do a four night igloo trip to the top of Otis Peak in RMNP on April 17th of 08.
I arrived at the Bear Lake trailhead at 7:00am after seeing fresh snow on all the trees driving the last few miles to the trailhead. I worried about the snow melting as the day went on which would mean the trees would be dripping on me. I wasn’t going to be traveling on the park trails where the trees are generally removed or pruned back so you don’t brush the branches.
The route I was taking was a familiar one and I knew I’d be brushing a lot of trees as I went through the woods.
Well, the temperatures were cold enough that the snow on the trees didn’t melt and the snow that fell off the branches I brushed,just fell off my clothing and I stayed nice and dry.
There were also low clouds that made the woods seem like a small world:
In less than a mile I came around the end of a ridge and got a view of the east face of Otis Peak. I would travel to the face of Otis and go up along the right side of the face in order to gain the shoulder that was at the base of the actual climb. In this picture you can see a rock pillar on the right side of the end of the east ridge of Otis and I ended up building my first igloo of the trip behind and to the left of the pillar:
I was following my usual winter route to Lake Haiyaha but turned off that route before reaching the face of Otis. I instead went directly to the bottom of the face and turned right up a snow covered bench to the shoulder of Otis where the crux of the climb begins. This was looking back down what I had come up:
I followed the bench up and around the corner of Otis where I finally gained the shoulder. I took a short break in these trees before beginning the climb:
The sun was now nice and warm and I took a long break before beginning the climb up the steep slope to gain the ridge. The steep slope was an avalanche chute that I would stay along side of and in the trees. This picture is looking across the slope’s bottom:
From the bottom of the climb, I could easily see the crux of the climb. It is hard to tell just how steep things are in pictures that look up a slope but you can see the rock pillar on the top left that I mentioned earlier. I had to climb past that pillar to find any terrain fit for an igloo:
I climbed the route using snowshoes and with the fresh snow, it was relatively easy with the 10 inches or so a fresh snow on a hard base. I only needed to stomp a bit with each step so the fresh snow wouldn’t slide off the hard packed underlying snow.
I reached the top of the ridge around 1:00pm and found a nice spot for an igloo that would be out of the wind some should it start getting windy.
I took my time building the igloo while taking pictures, eating and melting some snow for drinking water.
As the day wore on, I walked some 20 ft. over to take this picture of Longs Peak’s west face:
The views were stunning and I took lots of breaks to enjoy the day and take pictures. This is looking north to the Mummy Range:
Because this was a solo trip, I had no one to answer too, I took my time building the igloo and as a result I moved into my igloo at 1:00am. I heard the wind come up through the night and I slept late the next morning. I planned to spend two nights in this first igloo so I mostly hung out and took pictures through the day.
It was nice sitting there and seeing all the beauty around me and I kept myself busy taking pictures and doing a little exploring. This view of Longs is so amazing:
Walking a little further south I got a view around some rocks of Thatchtop and Powell:
The wind blew throughout the day and finally subsided in the evening but it was moving the fresh snow through the day:
What a feeling it was to take it easy all day and then just stay there for the night instead of heading down off the peak like in most climbs. The views in the evening were amazing:
This one is looking north from the igloo:
I did go for a short excursion during the day to see what I was up for when leaving for the summit in the morning and took this picture as I left camp:
I took this picture from the same place and it shows Nymph Lake, Bear Lake and the rock pillar that I saw from below:
Just before dark, the shadows were moving in and the wind died out completely:
I took the time to set up my tripod and get this picture of the lights of Estes Park and the lights on the eastern plains of Colorado:
With a full day of rest, I was up early enough for the sunrise and a leisurely breakfast:
I packed up and had one last look at the igloo before putting my pack on and heading for the summit:
I traveled up the north side of Otis’ east ridge before I finally got on top of the ridge and got this view over the ridge with Sharks Tooth and Taylor Peak in the background:
I climbed higher on the ridge and soon got this view of Lake Haiyaha and Bear Lake far below now:
I had been traveling on the north side of the ridge when I got that last picture but I came back to the top of the ridge again and got some more energy when I saw this view of the Gore Range:
Hallett Peak was on my right and the view of it kept getting better as I got higher. The size of the cornice hanging off Hallett was pretty phenomenal:
As I crested the false summit I smiled with glee. There's nothing so wonderful as seeing a mountain range called The Never Summers:
From the false summit I looked at what I knew was the actual summit. There's nothing so beautiful as seeing that last rise and knowing it is "the last rise":
As I traveled up the last snowfield, I saw the snow conditions I was going to be building my igloo in. A bit wind swept but not rock hard:
When I got to the summit, I got this view looking back down Otis’ east ridge and could see the last rock knob that I had spent two nights below and I was looking forward to two nights on the summit:
I had a good lunch and began building my igloo:
Again, I took it easy and spent lots of time taking pictures, eating and melting snow. Sharkstooth was in the shadows but it stood out nicely from the well lit up Powell behind it:
The view of Taylor Peak made it look like it would be an easy hike from Andrew’s Pass but I’d done it before and I knew better:
With the sun going down, the colors on the peaks kept changing and I had to stop frequently to take pictures. Longs was getting hit with a shade of red:
Taylor Peak changed fast with the setting sun also:
So nice to be able to see forever:
I took a dinner break as the sun went down and had thoughts of Springstein’s song with “But mama, that’s where the fun is”:
Or maybe Otis Redding’s “Watching the tide roll away”:
"Two thousand miles I've roamed and this loneliness won't leave me alone":
And then, you know the song…. “Above the fruited plains":
During the second day on the summit I had time to take more pictures than I've taken for a Long time:
As the day moved to evening, I wondered what the weather would bring:
The weather was coming in from the west and I had no idea what to expect. I only knew I was safe for the night:
The view towards the Gore Range changed and I can't describe the feelings of seeing the views and knowing I was safe:
And as it got later... what can I say:
I slept very good and got up in time for the sunrise:
This is probably my first and only alpenglow igloo:
And then it was time to leave so I snapped one more picture of Hallett before heading back down the ridge:
I had originally planned on going down Andrew’s Glacier but with the high winds I knew there would be some rock hard snow below Andrew’s Tarn where it was extremely steep. Instead I went back down Otis because I knew what I was getting into. The descent was uneventful but a bit hairy going down the crux of the climb with all the snow blown off from the high winds.
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