I have been eyeing the southeast ridge of Mt. Chiquita for some time now. It is easily visible from many places around town and the National Park, and I thought it looked pretty fun. So I decided to head up that way this past Saturday and see what this ridge was like. From down below, and even from topos, I couldn't tell exactly what the terrain would be like. I knew there wasn't a trail to gain the ridge, but the snow cover would make it nearly impossible to get even a little lost, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

The only bad part of the day was my decision to leave my better camera behind. I just wanted to be light on my feet and didn't want to have the extra weight of the tripod, large camera and lenses. So I just brought my little canon s30 with me. But it turns out that something must be wrong with this camera as a vast majority of my pictures just didn't come out. The few I was able to salvage (with huge amounts of creativity with photoshop) are below. I tried a different format for this page with such few pictures. Hopefully it will look ok.

I was well into an uneventful hike toward Chipmunk Lake along the Ypsilon Lake Trail (by way of the Lawn Lake trail head) before I started to wonder where I should begin to head to the southwest in order to gain Chiquita's SE ridge. I picked a place that looked good with pt. 12,005 as my first leg's destination. Amid lion tracks and coyotes yipping and crying I forged a route through the deep, soft snow. At times I was up to my waist, and for the most part I was thigh deep. This part of the trek took a vast majority of my energy and I thought of waiting until some of the snow was gone and returning in May. All in all it took me about 2 hours to trudge this three-quarter mile section to the edge of tree-line. I would not call this section of the day "fun." I was not enjoying it one bit.

I finally made it to tree line and had to ascend the 600 vertical feet to gain the top of the ridge just below point 12,005. Here the going got much easier. The snow was excessively well packed with a slick layer of ice on top. I took this chance to break in my new crampons which were very much appreciated on these steep, icy slopes. Before long, I was on top of Mt. Chiquita's southeast ridge with this wonderful view of the mountain.....

Once on the ridge proper, I took a well deserved break. It looked intimidating...knowing I had another 1000 feet to climb in less then a mile, with my legs completely worn out from the deep snow slug. But who could ask for better weather. So up I went. I picked a nice stroll of a pace that would keep me at a consistent speed and before too long I was standing on my next goal...point 12,537...looking back down on the ridge I had just ascended....

The large meadow at the top of the picture is where I started! But not much farther and then it would all be downhill! I continued up the gentle slopes toward the summit. This is the way it looked standing on top of point 12,537...

As I was nearing the summit, I came across this small family of bighorn sheep...a momma and two little ones. They watched me for a bit and then dropped down the mountainside a little bit and out of view. Man, I wish I brought my other camera!

From here it was an easy walk across a large snowfield to the summit. There were great views all around. It was neat to see the backside of this mountain covered in snow. The valleys below looked beautiful. I have never seen them in the winter months before and was glad for the opportunity. Here is a view of the Never Summer Range from the summit of Chiquita...

I took a few pictures, that didn't come out, and had myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was a great day to be out on the Rockies. Here is one happy kid....

Sitting still, I started to get a bit chilly, so I loaded up my gunna and started the descent back to the trail head. Another great day. All in all this is a very fun ridge that provides a great alternate route for those wanting to access this, otherwise inaccessible, mountain in the winter. Expect a long day, especially in the snow. It's a little over 11.5 miles round trip and a bit over 4,500 feet in elevation gain. I will go on a colder day so the snow below tree line is hard and not waist deep and slushy. Bottom line...this is a fun route that any Rocky love will completely enjoy!

           
until next time...
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