The plan was to start at Glen Alps, and traverse the ridge dividing Power Line Pass and Rabbit Creek valleys back to the Falls Creek drainage. Along the way, we’d tag Ptarmigan and North and South Suicide peaks, along with the lesser Flat Top, Peak 2, 3, and Flake Top.Ambitious; as Dan noted, the advantage was that if we needed to bail, it would be pretty easy to exit.
Despite an optimistic forecast, the weather over the Front Range spun in the wrong direction as the day went on. We started early and cruised along Flake Top Ridge with clouds clinging to the upper reaches of our higher destinations, but appearing to maybe be breaking up, or maybe we were just optimistic.
We summited Ptarmigan via the west ridge, climbing into a soup, but following a descent path, and picked our way back down the wide south gully in hero scree. As we dropped, it was obvious it was taking longer to descend back out of the clouds then it should have, and the clouds wrapping around us felt darker. When we finally dropped down low enough to see where we were, we had emerged into a stormier world, and had also passed well below the ridge line and were closer to the valley bottom.
We could hardly even see the Suicides anymore, let alone the crest of Homicide Ridge. We decided to head up valley to Rabbit Lake in the hope that the weather would turn again and show us the way.
No such luck. We caught only a few momentary glimpses of the day’s final, but much more committing objectives, and each time, a wall of clouds would come barreling up the valley, socking us back in. I'm sure we could have picked our way through, but climbing slippery rocks surrounded by cliffs with no views had no appeal. We turned into the wind and headed back down valley, veering north at the end of Canyon Road up the back side of Flat Top and back over to Glen Alps. Along the way we jogged through a 40-degree rain, and passed back over Flat Top for the second time of the day with far less to see and far more people. Delightful.
We assumed that when we got back to the car, the skies would lift and the sun would shine, but instead I had the wipers on high headed down Toilsome Hill as a fall downpour cut loose from above.
No regrets though. This circuit was 13 miles with 7,000 feet of climbing, and we were both pleased with the climb up Ptarmigan, which had a few interesting scrambles near the top, but super smooth on the way down. I’d do it again for sure.
|Looking down at the Ptarmigan Tarn from the west ridge of Ptarmigan just before disappearing into the clouds.|
|Re-emerging from the clouds lower than planned to a gloomier world.|
|Looking down valley during a momentary break. A wall of clouds on the way up to block it back in.|
|A quick view of South Suicide from Rabbit Lake. Not going to happen today.|
|The sweet smell of desperate September skiing.|