Photos from this trip can be found here.
First trip to the Inner Mountain Loop this season, an area I’ve neglected for a while due to big mountain climbing commitments. Last time pups and I were here, we hiked to Independence and North Lakes on a rainy day. With no big mountain backpacking tips planned in the near future, perfect time to tackle some of the mountains on the back burner list, which at time I find to be more challenging than some of the big ones.
A couple of groups camped out by Independence Lake when pup and I passed through. As soon as we made it to the pass at about 5,000′, I was able to see our first destination of the day. Visibility was so poor last time we were here that I didn’t see any of the nearby peaks. There were a few ponds below the pass, which some hikers had mistaken them for North Lake. I forgot to fill up more water for the pup, because the ponds were the last water source. From the pass we started moving southerly toward Independence Peak. A defined climbers path lead us to the base of west ridge where cliffs were towering above, also start of the rock route.
We went under the cliffs and around to south side of the peak for the standard class 3 traverse. The goal was to attain the east ridge at 5,000′, but somehow we didn’t traverse far enough to reach the flat area between 5,000′ and 5,200′, but instead we got off route and went straight up a gully northeasterly. Upon exiting the gully we then found ourselves in the aforementioned flat area. From there we followed the east ridge to summit block with lots of giant boulders and big steps to climb up.
What a beautiful day to be up here, yet the silence was periodically interrupted by sounds of target shooting coming from the direction of Coal Lake. To see North Lake in its entirety we had to head west about 100 feet and drop about 20 feet, much bluer than I remembered. Forty-five minutes later it was time to head down, as we still had to make our way back to the pass and then traverse over to Bluegrass Butte.
At the pass we got back on the trail and hiked down toward North Lake, then we left the trail at approximately 4,800′ to start the scramble. For the most part we stayed on the crest, but occasionally had to move to the east or west to bypass some cliffs. From the 4,550′ saddle directly north of North Lake we followed the southwest ridge and reached a flat area southeast of the summit at 5,000′. Then we traversed north-northwesterly on steep slopes to reach the summit. The summit was narrow and elongated, with steep drop-offs on the west. View to the south was obstructed by the trees to get a good view of Independence Peak. Too bad the south slopes were too woodsy, otherwise the view of North Lake would have been quite spectacular from the top.
We made it back to Independence Lake just after dark, followed by a really short hike out to the car.
Access: Independence Lake trailhead