Mountaineering – Little Matterhorn, Rocky Mountain National Park – A CMC Trip

CMC Climbers on Little Matterhorn
Left to Right: David, Jane, Phil, Rick (thumbs up!), Clare, Monika, and Tony (A new friend!)

Summit Cheers on Little Matterhorn

On Sunday, as part of the Rocky Mountain National Park Centennial Celebration, I led a Colorado Mountain Club Trip to climb Little Matterhorn. We were six intrepid hikers looking for a good scramble. Since Little Matterhorn is featured in Dave Cooper’s Colorado Scrambles book; I was excited for the challenge!

This year, the CMC is attempting to climb the 100 highest peaks within RMNP, over the course of RMNP’s 100th Anniversary. Thus, CMC trip leaders were encouraged to pick a peak (or several!). Along with Little Matterhorn, I picked Mt. Meeker and McHenrys Peak.

The day in RMNP couldn’t have gone better. We had a fabulous hike and enjoyed some fantastic fall colors!

Leaving Bear Lake Trailhead
We started at 5:30am!

Snack Break at Odessa Lake Trail Junction
We took a snack break at the Odessa Lake Trail Junction.

Clare and Rick Discuss the Fog
There was fog everywhere and it was difficult to see very far…but that didn’t stop us! Here I am with co-leader, Rick Casey, making a determination about the trail. Let’s go!

Lake Helene on a Foggy Morning
We passed Lake Helene before we dropped into the gully below Little Matterhorn.

Grassy Shelf Leading to Grace Falls
Once we dropped a few hundred feet of elevation, we traversed along a grassy shelf towards Grace Falls.

Odessa Lake Valley
Odessa Lake Valley is obscurred by fog!

Clouds Lifting Above Notchtop Mountain
Notchtop is rising out of the clouds! We get to climb up this tallus slope, angling to the right!

Boulderfield Between Notchtop and Little Matterhorn
Here is the steep boulderfield that we climb! About 1,000 ft up and slightly right! It took us 2 hours and 10 minutes, from the trail head to get to this spot.

Little Matterhorn and The Gable in Fog
Little Matterhorn is above us. To the right of frame stands The Gable, which is barely visible through the fog.

Clare and Little Matterhorn in Fog
Jane Reuteler got this awesome picture of me with Little Matterhorn behind me, in the fog!

Ascending the Boulderfield to Little Matterhorn
Looking back down the steep boulder field. I’m at 10,900 ft, here.

Climbing to the Ridge
This photo courtesy of Phil Straffin. It shows the steep and rocky nature of our scramble. Not all of this rock was solid, but for the most part it was stable.

David Ready to Climb
Here’s David getting psyched for the ridge. Behind him and to the left of the white, puffy cloud, one can see a rock tower. Once you are nearing the ridge, aim for this tower and you will see a rock ramp.

Approaching the Ridge
Jane also captured this picture of the ridge, leading to Little Matterhorn “summit”.

Assessing the Ridge
Thanks to Phil for this great shot of us assessing the ridge! It took us 1.5 hours to climb up the steep boulder and talus field and get to this spot.

Rick Climbing Little Matterhorn
Rick Casey getting geared up for the ridge. Courtesy Phil!

Little Matterhorn Ridge
The first part of the ridge! We went right, around this gendarme, and NOT up and over it! It was easy and 2nd with a tad bit of 3rd class.

Notchtop Mountain
Notchtop Mountain from Little Matterhorn. It took us 4 hours to get to this spot from the trailhead at Bear Lake.

Little Matterhorn Ridge
For the next gendarme, we went around to the left. Scrambling was good and the rock was really solid.

Go Left on the Ridge
Again, go left!

CMC Scramblers on Little Matterhorn
Courtesy Paul Tanger. Showing us CMC scramblers along the ridge.

Mountaineering Mavens on Little Matterhorn
Jane and Monika on the summit. Mountaineering Mavens!

Monika Climbing Squeeze Chimney
For bonus points, one can downclimb a squeeze chimney and go for the very end of the ridge. Here’s Monika making the moves, I’m spotting her from above, and David and Jane are spotting her from below.

Jane and David Celebrate Little Matterhorn
David and Jane join hands at the tip of Little Matterhorn! Yay!

Foot Dangle from Little Matterhorn
A boot dangle from Little Matterhorn

David Helping Me with My Foot Dangle Shot
David helping me with the dangle.

Taking a Foot Dangle Shot
Me Helping David and Jane with their dangle!

Jane Scrambling
Time to head back! Phil captures this great moment as Jane down climbs.

Descending Little Matterhorn Ramp
Descending the Little Matterhorn Ramp!

Grace Falls...Or a Fall From Grace?
We are all laughing because I took a bit of a tumble…and it didn’t stop me from getting to the punchline of my story. With no injury, except my pride, we keep descending. If a little slower and more carefully now!

Almost Done with the Boulderfield!
We’re happy because we’re almost done with the steep boulder and talus field. Whew!

Rick and the Zebra Rock
Rick and a neato looking Zebra Rock

Joe Mills Mountain
Joe Mills Mountain Panorama. It took us 1 hour and 15 minutes to get back down here, from the summit of Little Matterhorn.

An Amble in Fall Splendor
Jane snapped this lovely shot of Monika and I chatting as we amble through the fall colors. RMNP in the fall is amazing!

Longs Peak in Fall
Longs Peak in the fall! Sigh!

Successful Little Matterhorn Summiteers
Little Matterhorn Victors! It took us 4.5 hours to reach the summit and 3.5 hours to get back. From Left to Right: Clare, Jane, Rick, Monika, Phil, and David. I had a great time leading this group of accomplished mountaineers. Thanks to them, and to our new friends Paul and Tony, whom we met on the summit ridge, for a fantastic adventure!

Happy 100th Birthday RMNP!

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