Colorado - part 2

On this year's trip, having hiked on both the east and west sides of the Cascades, I was able to appreciate the Rocky Mountains for their differences and similarities to the Washington experience. Nevertheless I was surprised when Tom pointed out that we could hike to three mountain summits in one day and said he wanted to do it.

I went along, wondering if we'd make it. It took a long time, but as soon as we started to approach the first one (Mt. Chapin), there was little doubt that we'd reach all three.

Once you get to the summit of Chapin, you walk across a saddle to Mt. Chiquita, losing as little elevation as possible, and then across another saddle to Mt. Ypsilon, the highest of the three.

We encountered no snow except what we could see looking down the steep side of Ypsilon from the top—it has a giant Y-shaped pattern of snow in its deep cracks, visible from miles away, which gives it its name. From just above the top lips of the snow streaks, we could see that they were many feet thick, and had melted away from contact with the mountainside because of the radiating heat from the sunlit rocks. The top portions of the snow were like sculptures in full relief, supported from underneath and not touching the wall behind them.

In 1996 we hiked to Lake Ypsilon, which is at the foot of the steep side of Ypsilon's summit. From parts of that hike we could see the Y of snow above us, and then from the lake our view of it was blocked by a nearer wall of rock. That hike comes from an almost opposite direction than the hike to the summit, which goes up the gentle and rounded side of the mountain. We went to the lake on one of our first days this year and I was just as fatigued and footsore as when we did the same hike in 1996, in spite of all the “physical conditioning” I do these days. I think no kind of workout training really conditions me for walking on rocks for seven hours.

It was fun to look at the topo map of the route we'd take to the three summits ending with Ypsilon, see that we'd approavh the mountain from the opposite side, and figure out how much elevation we would lose and gain when hiking the saddles between summits. When we got on the trail we knew exactly what to expect except that we did not expect to be quite as slow as we were. The extra superslowness was due to our diligently hopping from rock to rock on the tundra to avoid the plants.