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Monday, September 17, 2012

Mount Ida, Continental Divide, Rocky Mountain National Park

August 13, 2012

Our first hike and mountain that we conquered in Colorado was Mount Ida. Ida had a summit of 12,880 ft and was part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. After sleeping at Timber Creek campground to acclimate, M and I woke up at 5 AM and drove to Milner Pass trailhead. We started the 9 mile roundtrip hike at 6 AM with the sunrise. The first mile or so consisted of moderately steep switchbacks with some steps to climb. There was a marker around half a mile that identified which trail to take for Mount Ida. The switchbacks were rough for me as I kept having to stop to catch my breath every 5 minutes or so. This might have been due to us rushing this first segment of the hike and we also weren't well acclimated.

After a mile and half, the trees thinned out and we approached the alpine tundra. The tundra was gorgeous with its olive green grass, slate colored boulders, mountain flowers, and abundance of animals (pikas, marmots, ptarmigans, antelope). The trail was now distinctly carved into the side of the mountain and we could see that it climbed over some rocks a mile out. We couldn't see anything beyond that and figured that that was the summit of Ida. We were elated that the summit was already in view and marched onwards. Further on this part of the trail, we encountered two very large male antelopes. They stood right on the path and we were forced to wait 15 minutes before they moved down the steep slope. After they moved, we trekked to what we thought was the peak.

Turned out that that was not the peak! We were sorely disappointed when we realized we were only half way. Before the hike, we had forgotten our map in the car so we had no points of interest to identify how far we were on the trail. I remembered there were some lakes near the peak and this mid-section of the trail had two little lakes, making us think that this was the peak. We pressed on after our initial disappointment.

We approached what looked like a saddle between two false summits and from there trail became more rocky and steep. The last mile and a half of the hike was a scramble over dark gray rocks and boulders with no path. We followed the cairns set up by other hikers and tried to make our way through the maze to get to the summit. M and I had gotten lost twice on the way up but after going over what seemed like a hundred false summits, we finally reached Ida's summit (12,880 ft) at 10 AM. We were planning to eat on the summit but dark clouds started forming and we started our descent after 5 minutes on the peak.

The hike down was scarier than going up because it was very steep and full of rocks. With the possibility of us hiking back in rain/storm, M and I wanted to get off Ida in case there was lightening. Hiking quickly meant we might trip and fall and the sheer grassy alpine tundra wasn't going to catch us if we were to slip. The rain started falling and we quickened our pace. The treeline was 4 miles away and we would have nothing to cover us. On our descent, we passed about 15 people who started late and were still trying to make it up to the peak. The winds were howling, the rain intensified, and fog was settling in. We were still above treeline. Some of the people turned back once they realized that they were only half way to the peak while others fought their way up. We made it down to the parking lot in 2 hours and the rain continued until evening. M and I were happy that we made it back safely and conquered Mount Ida before the storm.
Approximation of the hike from Google Maps. (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Hike to Mount Ida

Mount Ida is the middle peak. (Rocky Mountain National Park)
Lake Poudre  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Trail to Mount Ida  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Trail  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Trail Marker around 0.5 mile  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

On the trail with the treeline  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Never Summer Mountain Range in the background  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Spot the ptarmigans  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Getting above tree line (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Trail  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Not even half way on the trail  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Marmot  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

One of the two male elks that blocked our path  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Looking back at the trail. We were past the dark green forested area at the start.  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

M and the elk  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Trail becomes more rocky  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Trail splits. We took the path on the right which was the correct one.  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

First false summit. We thought this was the end of the hike but we were only half way!  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Half way  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

The lakes below the false summit  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

The path dwindles down to this and then there was no more trail after this section  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

First rock field. We followed the cairns along the way but still got lost.  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Second rock field. Trying to figure out a path to the top.  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Looking back at our hike.  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Getting closer to the summit.  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Closer!  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Summit of  Mount Ida 12,880 ft. No GIS marker.  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

On the peak of Mount Ida with the Never Summer Range in the background.  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

View from the summit of Mt Ida  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

View from the summit of Mt Ida  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Azure Lake (r) and Inkwell Lake (l)  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Hiking back and getting lost through the rock field.  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

No pictures of the descent since the storm hit us. Down at  treeline.  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

Treeline  (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Back to the parking lot and in the rain.  (Rocky Mountain National Park) 

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