Pagoda Mountain (13,497 ft, 4,114 meters), 07/31/2004
We left home at 5:24, and parked near the entrance station of the Wild Basin area of RMNP a little after 6:00. The entrance station was unmanned this time of the morning. We started hiking from the Sandbeach Lake Trailhead at 6:14. Hiking up the Sandbeach Lake Trail, we crossed Campers Creek at 7:13, and reached Hunters Creek at 7:35. From here, we left the Sandbeach Lake Trail, going up Hunters Creek, keeping the creek to our left, following a faint trail. We reached Meeker Meadow at 8:07, and after this point increased our distance from the creek, but keeping it within earshot. When the Pagoda-Longs-Meeker Cirque Moraine came into view above the trees, we turned right walking toward it, reaching the base of the moraine at 8:57, near the point where a large erratic sits on the top of the moraine. At this point, treeline ends, and we ascended the steep slope of the moraine composed of a mix of rocks and alpine meadow. Reaching the top of the moraine, the country opens up. There is a little bit of krummholz and some willow, but nothing to slow you down, followed by alpine meadow and boulders. We stayed near the upper Hunters Creek drainage, keeping it to our left. We walked by the flat sandy area which we call the "sluice box" at 9:22. Heading up toward the Pagoda-Longs saddle, the way got steeper, and the rocks less stable, especially after the notch. We ascended as gracefully as possible so as to not cause any rockslides, reaching the saddle at 10:27. From the saddle, we turned left, staying near the ridge, and reached the summit at 10:49. To our surprise, there were four people sitting on the top. We had a drink of water, sat down and enjoyed the view. There is a nice view of Chiefs Head to the west, and Mt Meeker to the east, but probably the most impressive view is the big blockhead of Longs Peak. From here we could see the little ant sized people on the ledge and clambering up the homestretch of Longs. We signed the brand new summit register which was placed there only six days before by the Colorado Mountain Club. Thanks CMC. Five people had signed it today. Only one of the four guys on the summit had gotten here from the Wild Basin side like we had come, the rest had come up from Glacier Gorge. The way we had come has an elevation gain of 5,185 ft (1,580 meters), which we achieved in 4 hours and 35 minutes. Clouds were beginning to build, so we began our descent at 11:29, the way we had come. We took our time coming down, doing so gently in the areas of possible rock slides, and frequently stopping to look at the amazing variety of metamorphic rock which has come down off of Pagoda and the Pagoda-Longs saddle. One rock that I recall seeing had a thin igneous intrusion forming an almost perfect sine wave pattern several periods long. As we again reached the top of the Pagoda-Longs-Meeker Cirque Moraine, hail began falling but soon stopped. Continuing down into the forest, we eventually made it to within earshot of Hunters Creek, and we stopped for lunch near the creek a little after Meeker Meadow. We returned to the intersection of the Sandbeach Lake Trail and Hunters Creek at 15:18, and returned to our truck at the entrance station of Wild Basin at 16:32. The round trip time for this hike was 10 hours and 18 minutes, but we took our time on the way back, since the ascent only took 4 hours and 35 minutes. This was a pretty big hike with a lot of solitude. Although there were several people on the summit of Pagoda, we met no one else off of the Sandbeach Lake Trail.