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Archive for the ‘Eagles Nest’ Category

Trip Report 19

  • Points:  1
  • Trip Dates:  September, 1996
  • Wilderness Area:  Eagles Nest
  • Location:  Northern Colorado
  • Wilderness Size:  133,471 acres
  • Destination:  Lake Tipperary via long trail route
  • Total Miles:  10
  • Duration:  Day hike

Cataract Creek below Cataract Falls

An an earlier post I described a trip to Tipperary Lake via a direct cross-country route up the side of Cataract Falls.  The destination of this hike was the same, but the route was along a wide sweeping loop trail.

From the Lower Cataract Lake trailhead a trail sweeps up through aspens to a ridge north and then west of the lake.  It continues to circle counter-clockwise and gradually increase in elevation as it goes.  Eventually, after crossing the upper section of Cataract Creek,  it circles around to Lake Tipperary and then swings by Surprise Lake before returning to the trailhead.

This route is a relatively easy 10 miles and the scenery is great for just a teaser of the wonders that might he held deeper within the Eagles Nest Wilderness. 

The photo above was found on the internet.

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Trip Report 18

  • Points:  1
  • Trip Dates:  Several day hikes between 1993 and 1997
  • Wilderness Area:  Eagles Nest
  • Wilderness Size:  133,471 acres
  • Location:  Northern Colorado
  • Destination:  Lake Tipperary
  • Total Miles:  Approximately 4
  • Duration:  Day hikes

Lower Cataract Lake with Cataract Falls in the distance

I was flat on my stomach on a slab of warm granite peering over the sheer drop.  Maybe 15 or 20 feet below, a white torrent of water launched horizonally out from the rocks below me.  The roar of the falls was loud and I could feel the energy. 

This was Cataract Falls from above.  From this vantage point, it looked like the water jetted straight from the inside of the mountain.  In reality, it tumbled in a steep cascade of braiding whitewater some 300 feet from here down to just above Lower Cataract Lake.

This is a hike that I have done probably a half dozen times for the sheer thrill and challenge of it.  It is not a long hike, but what it lacks in distance it more than makes up for in other qualities.

The start of the hike is at the popular Lower Cataract Lake trailhead.  Lower Cataract Lake is a fairly large natural lake on the northern edge of the Eagles Nest Wilderness.  It’s quite a nice setting.  The trail follows gently along the south shore of the blue shimmering lake all the way to the inlet of Cataract Creek on the far end.

From the far end of the lake, Cataract Falls, which seemed so distant from the trailhead, is now a roaring spectacle as it drops 300 feet from a ridgetop.  The maintained trail continues up the creek for a short distance until it becomes too steep.  This is where this hike really gets interesting as you leave the trail and continue up the side of the falls.

On my first trip here when I was in highschool, I had studied the forest service map and noticed a small lake called Tipperary that was not far up the “hill” from Lower Cataract.  Cataract Falls is very steep, but it is not a verticle drop, so I decided that it might be possible to climb straight up the side of the falls.  A little above the falls, I noticed on the map, a small tributary flowed into Cataract Creek from the left.  Half mile up this tributary was Lake Tipperary.

The climb was extremely strenuous.  I stepped and crawled and pulled my way slowly up the impossibly steep and tangled slope.  I crossed a loose field of talus.  I negotiated a small jumble of teetering boulders.  And, I scrambled my way up a small cliff via a three-foot “crack” I called “the keyhole notch.”  I had no idea what scene I would find when (if) I finally reached the top of the falls.

What I found was Shangri La.  It was the most beautiful little alpine meadow I’ve ever seen.  A lush field of green mountain grasses and wildflowers interrupted here and there by sun-brightened granite boulders.  The clear-as-air creek meandered perfectly through the meadow.  A perfect forest of spruce and fir ringed the meadow.

Special as this place was, it was not the ultimate destination I had in mind.  I continued up the stream back into the forest until, sure enough, the tributary I saw on the map flowed in from the left, nothing more than a two-foot-wide brook.  I followed the tributary for a half-mile, the terrain again becoming very difficult.  Fallen timber made for a tactical challenge.  At one point I must have walked a good two hundred feet purely on the horizontal trunks of interconnected fallen trees, at times rising to nervous heights above the ground.

Eventually, I crested a small rise and there it was.  I went straight to the little lake I found on the map–Lake Tipperary!  It was a serene place made extra special by the accomplishment of route-finding and difficult terrain.  I felt as if I had discovered something.

Next time I did this one I took my fishing pole and caught four fat rainbows and brookies out of the lake.

It’s not the easiest way to reach this lake.  There is a much easier five-mile route that makes a wide circle around Cataract Falls.  But, it is without a doubt the most interesting and exciting way to get there.

*** Caution.  If this trip interests you DO NOT take it lightly.  It is a dangerous, slippery, extremely steep, very difficult climb with no trail and fully choked with such hazards as spikey fallen timber and loose boulders.  I’m not responsible for what happens to you on this, or any other hike that I describe here. ***

The photo above was found on the internet.

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