June 3, 2003

Hallett Peak

June 3, 2003

Well, the Summer hiking season is here! While there is still a lot of snow, even at lower elevations, snowshoes are no longer a must. If you start early enough, the snow will be frozen solid until late morning, making it fairly easy to walk on without sinking at all.

I arrived at the trailhead right as the sun was coming up. The morning was crisp and cool, and a light breeze was coming off of the Continental Divide. This being a welcome change from the winter months and the hard, bone chilling wind that continuously screams over the divide, I was very excited to have a cool calm morning.

The trail was snow free until about half of a mile into the hike. Then it was hard, ice covered snow along the trail.

By the time the trail turned West, after the Flattop/Fern Lake trail junction, some low, thick clouds moved in from the East, and made for some beautiful scenes. I took a few pictures of the incoming clouds, a good excuse to rest my unseasoned legs.

After a few minutes of taking in the scenery, I continued up the trail towards tree-line. Some of the first Alpine Flowers have begun to bloom. The American Pasqueflower, a beautiful flower named after the Easter season, has decided it's time to wake up. There were thousands of them along the trail right at tree-line.

I was also happy to see a few Ptarmigans. It amazes me that this bird can survive the harsh Winters in the Tundra. It does have very good camoflauge. When it is in its Summer plumage, it is the exact same color as the rocks. In the Winter, it is a beautiful pure white. The Spring and Fall are the easiest time to spot them. This time of year, they are in the middle of changing colors, and the white can easily be seen against the gray of the rocks.

As I continued up the soggy trail toward the summit of Flattop Mountain, the teperature dropped quickly. Moreso than I have noticed in the past. It was COLD! The stronger wind didnt help either. The only way to stay warm was to keep moving. So thats what I did. Hopping puddles of ice, on and over small boulders, across frozen mudded sections of the trail, and across the large snowfields near the summit, I continued towards the Continental Divide and the summit of Flattop.

Flattop Mountain is very well named. As you can see in the picture, and looking at the mountain from a distance, it has a large, flat summit. Big enough to build a small town on. From the summit, you can see down to the town of Grand Lake, and the lake itself.

To the South rises Hallett Peak. Only another half mile, or so, takes you to this mountains summit. For some reason, this is my favorite summit in the park. It is not a difficult mountain, and is often crowded, but something about it brings me back time and time again. it is located almost in the middle of the Park, and is 12,713 feet at the summit, so it is a great vantage point for seeing all of the parks high peaks. From the top, you can see the Never Summer Range to the Northwest, the Gore Range to the extreeme West, the Mummy Range to the North, and many other mountains in the Front Range to the South. There is also a great view of the High Plains to the East.

I didn't spend too much time on Hallett, because when you sit still in freezing temperatures and a strong wind, you get pretty cold pretty quick. I took a few pictures, thanked the mountain for another great trip, and started the five mile walk back to the trailhead.

It was a fairly uneventful hike back. One nice thing was that I didn't see another person until I was about five minutes from the trailhead. That is the first time that has ever happened on this trail. For me anyway.

Hallett Peak is my favorite way to start the Summer hiking season, and this trip made that all the more clear.

Until next time.....

Click on the pictures!

A view of Hallett Peak, my destination for the day, reflecting in Bear Lake at dawn.

Longs Peak, Thatchtop Mountain, and low clouds along the Flattop Mtn trail.

A Twisted Pine along the trail, with Longs Peak in the background..

Hallett Ridge towering above Emerald Lake.

The American Pasqueflower starting to bloom.

A Ptarmigan along the trail.

The trail leading up Flattop Mountain. Hallett can be seen peaking over the horizon on the left.

Looking at Hallett near the summit of Flattop.

The broad, flat, summit of Flattop Mountain.

Hallett Peak with Longs Peak in the distance, from the summit of Flattop.

The final, short push, to the summit of Hallett.

The summit of Hallett Peak. You can see the Mummy Range in the distance.

On top of Hallett Peak!