Monday, August 29, 2011
Pawnee Peak Loop Recap from the Longs Peak Group
Excerpt from Longs Peak Group Member John Layman about his recent Pawnee Peak hike over the weekend. Enjoy!
On Saturday, August 20 Martin, Johnine, and Graciela (all from the Denver Group) joined me on the scheduled hike to Pawnee Peak. This is called the Pawnee Peak Loop because we start on the normal trail to Long Lake, continue on to Lake Isabelle to take the standard trial to Pawnee Pass. It is call the Loop because we return by dropping into the Blue Lake drainage on the other side of Pawnee.
The weather was perfect, just a few clouds around which never threatened. There wasn’t even much wind on top.
This is quite a snow year - as I think we all know. There is always a snow field on the way up to Pawnee Pass, but it is usually melted out or at least is small enough by August 20 that a hiker doesn’t even think about it on the way up. But this year the snow field is still very large. I wondered if it would keep us from the top - or at least cause us to take a detour. But the trail just skirts the snowfield so we were able to stay on the trail (or within just a few feet of it) on the way up. There were quite a few people on the trail. As I looked down I could see at least four groups of two to four people each on the way up. At the Pass we took the standard right turn and started up the side of Pawnee Peak. This part of the climb was very tiring for me - could it be that I am getting older? Once on top we stopped for a good meal, then looked down at the saddle between Pawnee and Mt. Toll. It looked very far away (to this tired hiker) and the rocks we had to travel over looked formidable. Also, we could see extensive snowfields between the saddle and Blue Lake - so wondered if we could even find a way down. We considered retracing our steps, but Martin and Graciela were particularly interested in dropping down to Blue Lake so we started to the saddle with the knowledge that we could climb back up if needed.
When we got to the saddle (wasn’t as far as it looked) we could see a good route down - at least to the top of one of the lower snowfields. As we worked our way down over loose, steep rock we came to a gentle snowfield which offered us our first, short glissade - lots of fun. As we continued to find a route through and over the rock we finally came to a large snowfield which ended a few hundred feet above the Lake. This was our chance - a fun and gentle glissade which allowed us to drop down about 500 feet - just by sliding. We had to cross one last snowfield to get to the trail which skirts the Lake to the north. Once past this it was smooth sailing as we walked out the three miles to the Mitchell Lake trailhead. What, no one there to give us a ride over to the Long Lake trailhead - of course not. Not much fun walking along the pavement between the two trailheads, but then we knew that was part of the Loop, so it provided us all a good opportunity to relive the hike - and to talk about what to have we are having for dinner.