06 May 2010

Mount Chiquita

The Lizard takes in the view from the Mount Chapin-Mount Chiquita saddle20 August 2005

We got up at 4, drove up to Chapin Pass Trailhead and then took a half-hour nap before heading up the trail. Bluebird skies slowly turned into full overcast by the end of the day, but we arrived back at our car before the storms hit. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful hike.

I was able to carry my pack the entire route. I wasn’t always pain-free, but this was my best hike so far since surgery in November. Best of all, I didn’t have to let The Lizard rescue me and carry my pack for me. Maybe I’m finally beginning to heal.

Mount Chiquita is the lowest named 13er in Rocky Mountain National Park. It rises 283 vertical feet above its connecting saddle with nearby Mount Ypsilon, so technically it is not a mountain but a sub-summit. To people who adhere to the 300-foot rule. I am not one of those. A mountain is a mountain, and if your feet (or bicycle, unicycle, skateboard, etc.) went up it, you certainly may claim it. If your car drove up it, I’m sorry, you did not climb that mountain. Your car did.

Mount Ypsilon in WinterMount Ypsilon, in contrast with its neighbor, is the second highest summit of the Mummy Range, the fifth-highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park and one of Colorado's 300 highest summits. Two distinct couloirs form a large Y on its east face, prompting Frederick Hastings Chapin’s wife to call it Ypsilon, a misspelling of the Greek letter of the alphabet.

Chapin, a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, was not the first historical photographer and writer to venture into Rocky Mountain National Park, but his popularization of hikes there left his name upon a mountain summit (on the other side of Chiquita), the aforementioned mountain pass and the creek below.

This was my first time returning to this particular trailhead since about 2001. My children and I frequented Rocky Mountain National Park on weekends during the school year and every chance we got during the summer when they were still young. This hike, however, bears special memories. It was the first hike I took with my son, although he wasn’t my son then. His adoption took five long years, and he wasn’t allowed to call me his mom that whole time until the adoption was finalized. Crazy rules!!!

Little Pink Elephant HeadsHe was about seven years old when I decided this would be a fun summer outing for him. We made it up to the Chapin/Chiquita saddle, where he joyously sat right on the edge and innocently swung his feet, completely oblivious to my fear of heights and pleadings to get away from there. Only by coaxing him upward on Mount Chapin, which does not have a sheer cliff face, was I able to distract him long enough to squelch his hunger for danger!

As The Lizard and I made our way up this same saddle so many years later, I visualized my son’s expression as he beheld the entire Estes Valley below him. And then I remembered him rushing ahead on the descent and somehow losing me. I found him, whimpering in the trees about 45 minutes later, thoroughly convinced he’d been abandoned, even though he was the one who took off without warning. He threw his arms around me and promised never to leave my side again.

Needless to say, that was not a promise he kept. Kids grow up. Or at least move on.

Now, in that same spot with my newly acquired husband, I could experience the visual, mental and physical joy of climbing in the Mummy Range again. The views are outstanding. The tundra is addictive. Wildflowers and wildlife might be plentiful, or they might not. The trail is never as crowded as Longs Peak on the other end of RNMP, and it’s easier to get a feel of wilderness.

Pica on ChapinI lost my hair scrunchie in the first half hour or so of our hike. The Lizard made jokes about cow elk confiscating it for a “barn dance” next month. He also tiptoed and made tiny bird wing motions along the trail a couple of times, like dancing. (He swears he does not dance or sing. If my camera had a video function, I’d have proof to the contrary.) We both had the words and tune of the song “Chiquitita” by Abba on our minds as we climbed Chiquita. The Lizard chanted the banana song, as well as “Copacabana”, I guess because it rhymes with banana.

I made it only up and down Chiquita. The Lizard did Chiquita, Ypsilon, Chiquita and Chapin. Quite a big day, in my book. Doing these and two other nearby peaks in a day is referred to as Mummy Madness.

My goal was Ypsilon, but by the time I reached the summit of Chiquita, I knew there was no way I could do another peak, too. I did try to make each upward spurt a little longer than the previous one, but I had to stop to let my heart slow down far too many times. It’s been way too long since I’ve been at altitude.

After the hike, we traveled the initial section of Stillwater Pass, looking for moose. Came up empty-handed. We drove to Grand Lake for a caramel apple (with cinnamon!) and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Then we made our way back through Rocky Mountain National Park, once again searching for moose, and once again empty camera-ed.

In his trip report, The Lizard wrote that he went hiking with his favorite person. I find it simply remarkable that he still finds time and opportunities to express romance, fondness and warmth, even though we have morphed from the dating stage to the hitched stage. I couldn’t have picked a better mate!
A Mount Chiquita alligator takes a bite out of Longs Peak


  1. Great story. Love hearing about your different climbs of the same mountain. And, hearing about it being a big deal because you were recovering from back surgery. Yeah, carrying a pack is a big deal... I agree!

    Beautiful photos, absolutely gorgeous!

  2. Excellent recount of the experience. Excellent photos, too. I have been to the saddle several years ago. Maybe we will get there again this year.

  3. Oh, this was a great read and you did, indeed, choose a sweet hubs. Cheers for you. I absolutely hate schlepping heavy packs uphill but I'm always proud when I suffer through it, and finally make it to the top.

  4. Great photos as usual and a great story :) I just love that little rodent.

  5. Wonderful story, wonderful pictures.

  6. Sounds like a great visit. Beautiful and enjoyable.


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