The last couple of years I've missed out on Rampart Ridge TNAB trips. They always fall on a Thursday (duh) and usually late in the season when there are school events. The last time I did get to go it was in terrible conditions making me almost wish I hadn't gone. (Almost, but not quite.)
This year the weather was good and there were almost no conflicts. After a long week of camp the kids weren't going to the concert so I headed up with the usual suspects for a slightly early start. The road is no worse than it had been two years ago and even was a bit more brushed out. The bugs, though, were a little bit annoying at the trailhead with a promise they'd be worse higher up.
The trail to Lake Lillian is as steep as ever, though a few modest improvements have been made. We (Scott, JK, and me) made a quick detour down to Lake Laura just to see it. Ok, now that we had accomplished htat we were back on trail with Josie and Ingunn (JK's wife) to Lilly's namesake.
At the lake I broke down and busted out the DEET and had immediate relief. I think I'm done with those non-toxic bug repellents. They either don't work well enough or long enough or they smell like fruit, which is inevitably going to attract a bear or a cougar. (Hmm... maybe I should encourage others to use the fruity sprays.)
Over the rock, around the lake. The sun was just settig over the peak to the west (unofficially, "Dungeon") and the hazy air sent streaks of sun across the lake to the north shore. We climbed the gully and were in the open above the lake.
From the trailhead to the lake the way is wooded. It feels like a standard west-side trail. When you gain the ridge and see the open slopes, rocks, and tarns it feels like the official gateway to the east side of the state.
It had been a little stuffy below, but up high the wind was blowing a bit. The thunderstorms that had been threatening all day were off in the distance obscuring peaks yet to be climbed.
Past the tarns each in its own little basin, but all linked together, we gained the saddle and were treated to a spectacularview down to the Rampart Lakes with Alta Mountain beyond. We could see a hiker already on the summit in silhouette and we hurried to get there. The berries that usually crowd this section of the trail were sadly immature so we made good time.
On the rocks that are the summit of the ridge the sun had already turned the hazy sky pink. Lines of mountains faded into the west. The bugs were still there, but somehow the views made the constant slapping not as annoying as you might think. Silhouettes were the order of the day so as the sun set we all shot directly into it.
It was hard to leave, but it was time. The way down has led a few TNAB hikers astray in the past and there was the Pour House waiting 5,000 below us. (And I suppose work the next day, but that's what coffee is for.)
The marmots had gone to bed so our hike out straightforward. The gully dusted us up a bit, but the lake promised a cleansing dip if it got too bad. Lights came on as we entered the woods and only one hiker missed the turn and got an extra hundred yards of hiking.
The Ramparts remain one of my favorites and it's hard to believe it's so close. The girls aren't quite ready for the gully, but maybe I'll get them to Lake Lillian before the snows return.
Totals: 4.4 miles and 2,700 feet of gain.