Hallett Peak smacks you right in the face every time you drive up Bear Lake Road to the Bear Lake/Glacier Gorge area.
Rising above the area like the Rock of Gibraltar, I would guess that it is the second most recognizable landmark after Longs Peak.
I’ve taken so many photos of it over the years, after our snowshoe last weekend I decided I was finally going to bag it this week.
The normal way is to head up the Flattop Mountain trail, head south along the Continental Divide for a bit to hit the peak, then return along the same route.
I wanted to hit Otis Peak as well and knock off 3 12k peaks in one shot, and descending the Andrews Glacier seems like a good way to make a loop trip and see as much as possible.
Andrews Glacier is the only good descent route along the Continental Divide this time of year, the Tyndall Glacier would be another option later in the season.
The Bear Lake parking area is a crowded nuthouse in peak season, not so much at sunrise midweek in the winter. I was lucky enough to catch the sun rising on Hallett Peak, and took a break for a couple minutes sitting on the ice on Bear Lake to watch the shadows fall away.
Lots and lots of snow – and lots and lots of huffing and puffing from my lack of acclimatization from being at sea level for so long.
Flattop earns its name, as you crest a ridge and you have nothing but rocks, snow and ice stretching out in front of you. It makes a great spot for 360 photos and video though as you can see out in all directions.
The climb up to Hallett and Otis are both relatively unspectacular, except for the steep drops on your left the entire time. You can feel your heart quicken just peering over the edges.
Now I See
I planned ahead for the descent down Andrews Glacier and brought a contractor garbage bag to help glissade (sledding for grownups) down. Punch holes for your legs and wear it like a diaper, and the slickness of the bag helps you slide while protecting your expensive hardshell pants from wear from the hard ice crystals. Use your ice axe for a brake and make sure you don’t catch a heel or you could break an ankle. Here’s a glissade video from La Plata Peak in 2019 to experience the fun.
Blue and White
Getting down the glacier itself isn’t too bad, and you stop at the beautiful glacial blue Andrews Tarn before descending down into Andrews Basin. The headwall below the tarn was pretty sketchy and I had to keep to the center spine to avoid triggering an avalanche. Once into the basin, out come the snowshoes again as the snow is crazy deep and nobody else has been up here.
Now it’s just a long slog back to the car, and after 9 hours and 40 minutes, 10.6 miles, 4,478 feet of elevation gain, and 4,500 calories I’m ready for a nice cold Colorado beer and the hot tub.