Mt. Ida, Rocky Mountain Nat Park, Jun 18th, 2005

Someone at work recommended Mt. Ida as a great hike along the continental divide, doable in the early summer, though with some possibility of snow below treeline. I found a Jun 7th hike report online and the guy mentioned waist deep snow for the first mile. It would be a week and a half of warm weather since this report, so we decided to give it a try and hope the snow had melted some.

Trail stats:
distance: 11 miles roundtrip
starting elevation: 10752'
summit elevation: 12880'
cumulative gain: 5500' (according to watch)

Wendy, Deepti, and I left from the library at 6:40am Saturday, anxious (at least me) to get an early start to the day. We drove into Rocky Mountain Nat Park, and up Trail Ridge road, which climbs up to ~12000'. It took ~90 minutes to reach the trailhead.

It was supposed to be 93 and hot in Fort Collins today, but at 8:30am, at 10700', it was probably still in the 40s. Wendy brought only a thin long sleeve shirt (and a t-shirt). Fortunately I had brought an extra layer with me, and were good to begin.

There was some snow at the start, which we expected, and it was fairly negotiable at first.

But then we hit much more softer, deeper, and steeper snow. The trail hadn't been used much, and we had a hard time following existing footprints. I started following some prints, until I realized they weren't human. Notice how big they are compared to my foot. Bear anyone?

We soon lost the trail completely, and decided to head straight up, to try to clear the treeline, and snowline, the fastest. It was steep, and we all found some walking sticks.

The snow was more than waist deep in some spots, and it was very slow going. We almost turned back, but I led on, and after 2 hours, we cleared the snow, just under a mile in, with 800 ft elevation gained. I went ahead, and let my socks dry out while I watched Deepti and Wendy arrive.

We rested for awhile, in the sun, squeezed the water from our socks, and let shoes attempt to dry in the sun. Then after a brief walk in the wrong direction, we headed up the ridge toward Ida on dry rocks. (looking back in the pic below)

Ahead we saw a valley, with another white capped ridge in the distance, and the trail down on the side of the ridge.

Let me introduce you to "Samarai Wendy: Warrior with many sleeves". Her motto is: "Talk loudly, and carry a small stick". :-)

We caught up to a group of hikers, ages 40-66 who were amazed we had made it up the mountain without snowshoes. They took our pic.

We stopped here for a lunch. I packed some leftover homemade pizza, which I shared.

A look back at progress so far. The other group of hikers were right behind us. We saw a small herd of bighorn rams running at the bottom of the ridge, but they were too small in my pic.

The ridge was a gentle roll to the west, and a sharpt cliff to the east, with lots of snow just hanging off the cliff, seemingly ready to fall anytime.

Look for me on the very right, midway up, walking near this large mass of snow hanging by a thread.

More dangerous snow (and me near it).

There was some snow off the cliff where a hole had melted through (scroll right).

Mt. Ida is this highest point on this slanty mountain with the snowy cliff. Almost there, but still some snow fields to cross, and elevation to gain.

More snow fields.

Wendy's game of "roll the hoop with a stick" ended when the hoop went over the edge...

We made it to the summit ~2:00, just before the other group of hikers arrived. Spendid views! You could see the west side of Long's Peak in the distance.

I was surprised that there was a valley and lake on the other side of the park. The green valley, blue lake, white snow, and blue sky were gorgeous.

The other group came up, and only stayed around for a few minutes. They took a pic for us before they left. I told Wendy that next time it would be easier to hike up with shoes on...

We spent almost an hour up there enjoying the sites, and resting in the sun.

I had climbed down to a cool rock, and was investigating possibly going to the next peak, but it was a steep hike down, and another steep hike up to hit the next summit, even if it was just .4 miles total.

This cool rock also made for a "dramatic" pic.

Wendy took that pic from another "dramatic" spot.

Looking down the cliff there was evidence of many avalanches. We actually saw one happen up close, while we were here too.

On the way down, Wendy paused for another "dramatic" pic.

It was just as pretty heading back.

These 2 marmots seem to be interested in me approaching, while Wendy took some pictures from behind.

Also on the way back, we saw a Golden Eagle (sorry, no pic), and this group of bighorn sheep (female and kids).

And a big village of marmots.

But the best animal we saw was this male bighorn ram, who posed beautifully against the mountains while urinating. Wendy and I both got good pics after it finished, just before it ran away (wendy's is the 2nd pic with the extra zoom).

More good views on the way back. Soon it would be time to hit treeline, and face the snow again.

It was easy to find the trail coming back, cause the large group of hikers went down before us and left plenty of footprints. However, walking down the snow was not easy, and we post-holed constantly. It was grueling. Worse then a stairstepper, trying to run through the snow.

VIDEO: I took some videos of the trek in the snow. Here's a funny one, with Deepti working her way down, then Wendy hitting me with a snow ball (the only time she's ever managed to hit me) and sliding down the hill.
Snow Video (34 sec, 10MB)

Wendy plops down after sinking through the snow (which we all did throughout the day). She seems resigned to take this fall and relaxes a bit, thinking this is the last snow patch (it wasn't though, and the nastiest was yet to come). :-)

Finally at the end, which just didn't seem to ever want to arrive, Wendy plows through the final snow patch, and Deepti climbs over the fence. It was exhausting work. Often times I would step and sink to my hips, with my foot still not touching the ground...

On the drive back, I stopped to take this pic of of Mt. Ida and part of the ridge we hiked.

It was definitely an adventure, and it took a lot of work, heart, and courage to make it up. And wet feet.

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