Lone Eagle Peak
Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado
September 3 - 4, 2006
Dave Svilar, Jill Wolverton
I had spent the good part of the summer, and for that matter, the past four years bragging about the perfect Colorado weather. On my first weekend back Jared, Manke and I were to rendezvous at the Crestone Needle to climb one of North America's supposed most classic climbs. The good weather I had bragged about did not show. In fact, what was in its place was nothing short of Armegeddon. In short, it's never good to pass through a tornado on your way to an outdoor adventure. After three weekends of sub par weather things finally broke for Jill and I on Labor Day weekend.
Sensing our time in Colorado getting short Jill and I passed through the gates of Rocky Mountain National Park and kept driving. Over the country's highest paved road and right on out the other side of the park to the less trampled western side. Our objective? A peak that looked enticing in a guidebook I had stolen from a high school student. I had never any rantings about Lone Eagle Peak, but from the description and photo in the book I felt we could be onto something. I chalked up a lack hype surrounding Lone Eagle to my lack of friends, and proceeded to the trailhead near the south shores of Lake Granby.
A liesurely 8 mile hike through mostly uninteresting forest spit us out at the base of towering Lone Eagle Peak. The basin was (and still is) shaped like a giant 'W.' Lone Eagle juts out into the basin providing a most spectacular vantage from no matter where it is viewed. Being Labor Day weekend the lake at the base of the peak was a bit too populated for my tastes, so we humped our packs a few hundred feet up a hillside and onto a spectacular granite perch where we built our overnight nest. To make Jill think she was contributing to the trip I asked her to lead me in a session of yoga. After one half hour of fumbling and grunting I escaped down the ridge to watch the sunset. A subpar sunset was trumped by an unexpected moonrise which illuminated the basin and added a touch of joy to our cup of bedtime cocoa.
After a failed attempt to get a decent sunrise shot of our peak we once again left the convenience of the trail for the summit of Lone Eagle. We wrapped around the left side (that would be east side to you intellectuals) of the peak and "ooohed" at the beautiful green valley below us and "aaaahed" at the towering peak directly above. A lack of trail forced us into a long session of side-hilling, which combined with the fiercesomeness (should be a word) of a real mountain environment (surprisingly rare in Colorado) gave Jill a dose of vertigo. Jill's weaving and wobbling was eerily reminiscent of my attempt at Gingyasawaba Yoga the previous night, except that here, on the steep slopes of Lone Eagle the stakes were a bit higher. We cut through the steep defenses of Lone Eagle's eastern face never having much need for appendages other than legs until reaching the ridge.
What is curious, and shall I say unique about the remainder of the climb is the fact that the true summit of Lone Eagle is the lowest point on the ridge. Before arguing with me, please hearken back to my description of this area being shaped like a 'W.' The summit was the tip of the hump in the letter 'W.' So, if you can follow that lousy description you will realize that the lowest point really does make sense! Now that we had achieved the ridge our sense of exposure increased tenfold and not surprisingly, so did the actual climbing. Jill, who we have already discussed had a touch of vertigo was now spinning in circles and almost nausiated with exposure. I told Jill to "stay", which she was already doing, and began to slowly, and very carefully make my way down and across towards the true summit. Popping onto the summit it wasn't hard to realize that this was a special place. I tiptoed across a ridge of rock that dropped several hundred vertical feet through 270 degrees of direction. Nearly as spectacular as the summit of the Petit Grepon, I stood at the edge of the sky and let out a banshee scream. I looked back, and up towards Jill and wondered what it would like to climb the entire length of this knife-edged ridge. A future traverse?
Jill needed to teach Math the next morning, so we methodically made our way down the steep slopes towards an azure colored glacial lake that could not be resisted. We took a long detour to the shores of this little jewel and proceeded to make our way down the beautiful valley that we had "ooohed" over earlier. Later that evening, in the establishment of Grand Lake over a Modelo and doughy burger we agreed that exploring a new area had paid large dividends in the form of huge and, at least to us, new scenery.
|Part of Jill's transformation into a hippy is to cast stones into deep blue waters.|
|One of the more interesting parts of a forgettable approach.|
|Our beautiful granite nest. A mathematics instructor to the core, Jill passes the time with a Sodoku puzzle. Kids, notice the protrusion of brain matter from the back of her head.|
|Jill reluctantly takes time from her puzzle to watch the sunset. Lone Eagle towers above.|
|Jill's headlamp hustles back to the stove to prepare our bedtime cocoa under a clear, moonlit sky.|
|Jill sizes up Lone Eagle Peak from the shores of some unknown pond.|
|Attempting to get artistic with Lone Eagle before conquering it with brute force.|
|Vertigo-induced Jill wobbles her way to the top of the Lone Eagle ridge.|
|Upon reaching the ridge-top Dave inspects the remainder of the climb. Indian Peaks and the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park in the distance to the north.|
|Dave scrambles toward the summit of the knife edge ridge. Our nest the previous night was located in the boulders visible above the lake.|
|Jill at the shores of the azure-colored lake.|
|Jill scrambles down to the green "ooooh" valley beneath Lone Eagle.|
|"The Hills Are Alive...." Jill frolics through the only dry portion of the green meadow.|
- written October 2006
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