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440 Flattop - Halletts 2011-07-16

cairns leading to the summit of Halletts Peak

Despite the snowy conditions, Amy - my wife - wanted to test her fitness on a more alpine peak. We chose to climb a familiar favorite, Flattop Mountain and then if possible, the neighboring peak, Halletts.

Starting at the very popular Bear Lake Trailhead, we started the 4.5 mile climb on Flattop Trail. As we left the trailhead two hikers scurrying up the trail stopped at a trail junction and then chose to go the wrong way. Earlier, we had overheard their conversation and corrected their navigation error. Off they went in a determined fashion.

Not many people were on the trail early in the morning. We met three groups that were descending the mountain, presumably from one of the camps, who had made an early morning hike. One boy was still in his pajamas!

At about 9600 feet elevation, snow covered the ground. Drifts were at least six feet deep; but the snow was still hard from the colder night so travelling was easy. We passed a group with small children who were trying to negotiate the snow. They probably turned around shortly; we never saw them again.


snow on the Flattop Mountain Trail


Once above treeline, the snow was gone, except for one large but easy snowfield. We met a group of three from Pennsylvania who were not fully adjusted to the altitude. The two hikers we helped direct near the trailhead were from Chicago. They were moving well higher on the mountain; but the hike was a big day for them.

From near the top of Flattop we began following the climber's trail to Halletts Peak. Flattop Mountain looks like a mountain from the valley but when hiking it, when you arrive at the top it really is just a flattop. There is no summit. It is more like a pass. A trail sign marks the peak-less summit. Halletts, on the other hand, is a true summit. It stands almost 400 feet above Flattop, at 12,713 feet and is a good second class scamper.

Following the cairns (stacks of rocks) we picked our way up the mountain at a steady pace. Soon we were standing on the windy summit looking for a place to get out of the wind. We stopped behind a wind break built of stacked stones and ate a snack. It was quite pleasant out of the wind. A hiker from Munich, Germany joined us at the top.

A pika was living on the summit. He kept running around to my side and eventually dared to run under my leg as I sat cross legged on a rock seat. The pika was not looking for crumb leftovers, like squirrels, he was looking for his food and I was just in the way.


Pika on the summit of Halletts


We saw the hikers from Chicago summit shortly before we left the top. On the way down Halletts we came across the trio from Pennsylvania, they were moving very slowly but still seemed determined.

The hike back to Bear Lake Trailhead was uneventful but there were many hikers still coming up the mountain even as it approached the middle of the day. Most of the hikers we met were not dressed for the mountains. In fact quite a few of the hiker's dress seemed more suited to shopping at the Estes Park shops than climbing a mountain. Luckily for them, the good weather lasted all day.

We had a great hike and were happy to have spent the day with the hundred or so hikers who climbed Flattop and Halletts that day.

A few Flattop and Halletts trail notes ...

The Bear Lake Trailhead has many privies and water.

There is a huge parking area at the trailhead but it still fills up early.

A parking shuttle service, Park and Ride, carries hikers from near Glacier Basin Campground to Bear Lake. There is no charge for the service.

There are kiosks and other information signs near Bear Lake.

Park staff help with information and directions in the busier hours.

With all of the support and amenities at the trailhead, do not be confused; once you leave the trailhead, you are on your own. The Park has a saying that they place on all the kiosks, "Your safety is your responsibility and our concern." On the mountain, you are on your own. If it rains, hails, and snows and you are only wearing jeans and a tee shirt, then you are going to be cold and wet.

It is about 4.5 miles to the sign post at the top of Flattop. It is another half mile to the summit of Halletts.

There are directional signs at each junction - read the signs. Remember to also always carry a map and a compass. Refer to the map regularly.

The snow did not add much difficulty to the climb but it did make following the trail difficult.

Halletts looks much higher than 400 feet from the top of Flattop.

There are no false summits on Halletts.

Halletts is a worthy summit, with a friendly pika.

Happy Flattop and Halletts trails


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