Mt. Alice and Tanima Peak

      by Gordon S. Novak Jr.       July 2, 1999

We leave Wild Basin trailhead at 06:30, heading for Thunder Lake. I am hiking with Tim, a college student working at a local lodge over the summer; I'm quite a bit older.
We reach Thunder Lake at 09:50. There is a log ranger cabin with a female ranger, nice looking too. She offers us a welcome cup of coffee, but she also seems suspicious and is quizzing us to see if we are illegal campers or something. I say that we are planning to climb Mt. Alice, and perhaps Tanima Peak if we have time. She replies, "Oh, yeah, Alice -- that's a nice little two-hour hike from here." I say to Tim, "We'd better multiply that by something." The ranger laughs. It turns out that our multiplier is 2.
We leave Thunder Lake at 10:30. Nice-size trout are trying to struggle up tiny rivulets only a little bigger than the fish, leaving their backs out of the water. It looks like it would be easy to grab them or knock them out on the bank, bear-style -- no doubt an unapproved fishing method for non-bears. We climb upwards, with considerable snow still on the ground above Thunder Lake, reaching the Lake of Many Winds at 12:00. We filter water to fill our canteens. We cross around a snow slope that extends over the lake, then head up a steep slope covered with loose rocks to Boulder-Grand Pass. The top of the pass has a strong wind from the west.
We are approaching Alice from the back (west) up a gradual tundra slope. Although there is a shorter route up the east ridge of Alice, at this time it is probably snow-covered and not something we could climb safely. The route up the back may be long and uninspiring, but it is certain and safe. The tundra slope is largely snow-free until near the top, where a snow slope gives us a chance to use our ice axes and gives the summit an alpine flavor. We reach the summit at 14:30 in mostly overcast but good weather. There is a fine view of McHenry's Peak.
We leave the summit and reach Boulder-Grand Pass again at 15:35; that seems early enough, so we head for Tanima Peak, reaching the summit at 16:10. The trail register container on Tanima is a real antique, cast brass with "NPS" cast into it. After a snack we leave at 16:40, reaching Boulder-Grand Pass again at 17:05, and prepare to go down the nasty steep slope covered with loose rock. There is a snow slope to the side, and Tim wants to go down it; however, I dissuade him, since the snow is steep and ends on rock. Below the Lake of Many Winds, we find snow with a good runout and Tim takes off sliding down it while I go slower to protect my middle-aged knees.

We reach Thunder Lake again at 19:20 and quickly head down the trail. It soon gets dark, although one would expect it to stay light later. I'm hiking by flashlight and hoping that Tim can see well enough to follow, but he soon stumbles and nearly falls. I stop and dig a small backup flashlight out of my pack for him; better to use it now to avoid an injury. We are out of water and getting dehydrated, but we press on rather than stop to filter more water. We reach Ouzel Falls at 21:10 and the trailhead at 22:30 -- fairly early by my standards! My total water consumption is 4.5 liters for the trip.

Rocky Mountain National Park: The High Peaks