Continuing on our quest to summit Mt. Ida during our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park we leave the parking area and begin our climb. Terry and I have a few breathless moments. I wondered if that was a sign of things to come. We had not been at elevation a great length of time and altitude sickness can occur quickly. The trail skirts around Cache la Poudre Lake, a small beaver pond along the left side of the parking area, then begins to ascend via a series of switchbacks and rocky steps. Upon glancing back over our progress, I realize that my breathlessness is just that—a result of the fact the first mile and a half of the trail ascends rather quickly and it is the climb, not the altitude, that is taking my breath away.
Early on we pass by a spectacular formation of rocky spires. The switchbacks continue and the trail traverses a rocky ridge. We can still hear road noise from Trail Ridge Road, but soon leave the parking lot crowds behind as we continue our climb.
At this point, the trail levels out a bit, but is still ascending. Our huffing and puffing, however, seems to be behind us. We let Ryan and Jake go on ahead, rather than foolishly attempting to keep up with them, a mistake I have made in the past, but they stop periodically and wait for us to catch up. I know this is Jake’s doing, because having hiked often with Ryan in the past, I am aware he has always been in a hurry to reach the summit and awaits our arrival at the top only because I insist on a photo. It is nice to have their company periodically along the trail
We cross over a rustic split-log bridge traversing a dry gully and our climb continues. About a mile from the trailhead, there is a fork in the trail. We continue straight ahead following the sign reading “Mt. Ida.” The other fork follows a large switchback to the left and takes hikers back toward the Alpine Visitor’s Center.
As we look to our right in a southwesterly direction, we can glimpse the Never Summer Mountain range. These peaks are so-named because they typically are snow-covered year round. At this point the trail begins to descend, which, though it makes the hike easier for awhile, is not a good sign because you know you will have to re-climb every foot you descend!
We continue on the level trail through a marshy area and again cross a log-bridge. More rock steps indicate that we are about to reclimb what we have just descended. The trees become more dense as we ascend a gentle uphill grade. The trail meanders around the hill and continues right through the tundra. It crests at 11,379 feet, then traverses along the western ridge of the continental divide leading to some spectacular views of the landscape below.
Soon we begin the long, arduous trek above timberline, which includes large traverses, numerous switchbacks and many false summits. Many times we think we have reached the top, only to spot a higher peak just up ahead! We get a bit disheartened at this point. Ryan and Jake have slowed so that we catch up with them now and seem a bit discouraged by the ever-elusive summit.
For more information about things to see and do in our national parks, read 25 Quick, Easy Weekends at a national park near you.