Tuesday, July 27, 2010

IPW Backpacking, Day 1

Wet and humid are not words we often use to describe Colorado, but on this backpacking trip I think it rained every day!

Laurel planned a great 6-day route for us through the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It started east of the Continental Divide, hiked west over Pawnee Pass, stayed on the west side of the divide for a few days, then came back east over Buchanan Pass. Along the way there were multiple peaks we intended to summit.

When we left, our packs weighed between 45 and 50 lbs.

On the first day, we started hiking at 6am at the Long Lake trailhead. We hiked past Long Lake and Lake Isabelle, then up to Pawnee Pass. Once on the Divide, we left trail and ascended Shoshoni Peak. It was not a straight shot, as there was one big unnamed point and several small rock piles to cross. The views from the peak were stunning. The summit itself was a big block that required one or two climbing moves and had lots exposure.

So far, the weather was great. Heavier clouds started coming in after noon as we began our descent on the other side of the Divide. The west side of Pawnee Pass was a contrast to the mellow east side. It was steep, very rocky, and other-worldly. We descended the crumbling rock into huge fields of wildflowers.

Along the way we met a group of four backpackers from the L.A. area who were doing our same loop, but without the mountain excursions. For the two girls, it was their first trip. Hope they had a good three nights out!

Pawnee Lake was beautiful as was the forest around it. We continued on the trail until we started seeing designated campsites near Crater Lake. One of the guys from the L.A. group pointed out a few sites that were available but too small for them. We were pretty tired so we set up camp at the first site.

We have been meaning to get to Crater Lake for over a year now. It is the home of Lone Eagle Peak, a picturesque rock outcropping that requires ropes to climb. Our plan was to spend two days at Crater Lake so we could scope out a fourth class route up Lone Eagle for a future trip.

As the afternoon went on the clouds thickened, but we only got a few drops of rain. It was dry enough that we were able to make dinner without a problem -- rehydrated hummus and refried beans with fresh tortillas and sun dried tomatoes. Later the drizzle picked up a bit so we retired to the tent early. The humidity remained all night, as the clouds seemed to be stuck in the mile-wide bowl we were camping in.

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