Ascent of Hallett Peak on 2015-06-16

Climber: Collin Sweeney

Date:Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Hallett Peak
    Elevation:12713 ft / 3874 m

Ascent Trip Report

Writing this trip summary well after the fact, so some details are very fuzzy. My first hiking experience in Colorado - so there are lots of rookie mistakes/decisions made herein.

The morning after arriving in Colorado, a state to which I had never been before this, the plan was to hike up to Flattop and maybe Hallett's if we were feeling good. I was with a pretty large party (probably at least 15) and I was not among the weakest hikers, so the pace was pretty manageable. We drove from Glacier Basin campground to (I believe) Bear Lake trailhead and set off. There was a lot of snow on the ground as we approached the plateau which made things more difficult - some postholing. In general, though, the hike up was uneventful and Flattop was reached pretty easily. At this point I had a pretty solid headache, which was to be expected since it was our first day in RMNP and hadn't drank nearly enough water on the drive out through the Plains. (In hindsight, it was a very stupid idea to attempt a peak over 12,000 feet on day one. But we were operating on a pretty tight schedule I guess.)

After milling around for a little bit, the hike leader brought up the idea of going for Hallett's, and in almost unanimous agreement, we decided to go for it. I wasn't going to let my headache (pretty much throbbing at this point) stop me - who knew when I would get back to Colorado? So we picked our way up the north side of Hallett's, up the boulders. Probably no more than an hour later we were at the summit, taking celebratory photos and enjoying the view. As this was going on, clouds were creeping in from the west, as they do in RMNP (cue Metal Gear Solid sound effect). After about 10 minutes on the summit, a chorus of buzzing sounds began, and shortly after that, staticky, painful, microshocks began afflicting the heads of a few people in the party. My head started buzzing painfully as well. It's a difficult feeling to describe - kind of like someone has put a doily on your head that is giving you small static shocks constrantly. As we were all looking at each other in confusion, the hike leader shouted something to the effect of "Get off this mountain as quickly as you can!" and started literally running down the mountain. We all followed in short order, and since we didn't quite have his level of billy-goating skills, it took us about 5 or 10 minutes longer to pick our way down the boulders than it took him. How no one twisted an ankle, I don't know, because we were absolutely booking it down a slope with quite a few loose boulders. We didn't turn around to look behind us until we were just about back off the Flattop plateau - there were some very nasty-looking dark clouds shrouding Hallett's at this point.

That's the story of how my first hike in Colorado was almost my last. I didn't really realize how close of a call it was until a lot later. We probably shouldn't have attempted Hallett's, but at the time, there weren't any threatening clouds. They moved in quickly and surprised us, as they do in the Rockies. Peak climbed, splitting headache acquired, and lessons learned.
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