Snowdrift Peak

      by Gordon S. Novak Jr.       June 30, 2000

Snowdrift Peak is aptly named, with snow on its flanks well into July. It isn't easy to see Snowdrift from the road, but it is easily visible to the NW from the summit of Flattop.

I leave Bear Lake at 11:30 and reach the summit of Flattop at 14:30. A trail heads north from Flattop and goes much of the way to Snowdrift. An unnamed round hump sits between the trail and Snowdrift; I choose to go around the hump, though going over it might have been as easy. It is necessary to descend into a small valley before reaching the base of Snowdrift at 16:25.

Most of the climb is uncomplicated on rocks. The summit ridge is of course covered by a snowdrift at around 30 degrees. On the east side, the snow goes fairly steeply down until it hits rocks; on the west side, it goes down for about a hundred yards, turns south, and goes over a 200-foot cliff. Normally I try to avoid any exposure on solo hikes, but I decide to try it on the west side, using crampons and an ice axe self-belay and being careful. I reach the summit without incident at 17:48. The summit is rocky but with nice flowers. There are great views down to Grand Lake and some seldom-seen mountains on the west side.
Leaving the summit at 18:15, I again use crampons and the ice axe for safety. Before long the snow flattens out and I relax and start walking, and promptly catch a crampon point and fall. It's a long slog back down the valley and then up and around the hump again. I filter some snow runoff water at the edge of the hump as it begins to get dark, then reach the summit of Flattop with a nice view of the lights of Estes Park at 21:15, just as it gets completely dark. I make a cell phone call to my wife, then head back to Bear Lake at 23:15. Consumed 4 liters water.

Rocky Mountain National Park: The High Peaks