Friday, August 21, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park- Bear Lake and Beyond

Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Lake Haiyaha

Rocky Mountain National Park


This is the most popular hike in Rocky Mountain National Park (Emerald Lake). It's easy to see why- good trailhead access, stunning scenery, mild grades, easy trail. In 6 miles you can see 5 different lakes, forest, streams and waterfalls. This Friday morning was quite busy, and a Saturday or Sunday would be even more crowded. This is quite a nice hike, and would be excellent for snowshoeing as well. 

 I took my sister and nephew from Wisconsin, and my 3 year old son. I was proud of him, he made it 5 miles out of the 6 before I had to carry him. It was his longest hike to date. Altitude doesn't much seem to bother him, but boredom certainly does.

Nymph lake, filled with lillypads

Nymph Lake

Longs Peak

Dream Lake

Emerald Lake

Longs Peak from the Lake Haiyaha spur

Nice forest trail

Panoramic composite shot of Lake Haiyaha

Lake Haiyaha
GPS Says:
6.0 miles
1309' of elevation gain
GPS tracks loaded into Google Earth. We did Emerald first and then Haiyaha.
If one were to repeat this hike, there is a shortcut at the switchback above Dream Lake so you don't have to circle all the way around the bottom. I didn't investigate to see how viable it is. As this is a high-volume trail, it is important to stay on the trail as much as possible.

Mt. Fletcher, the one behind Quandary

Mt. Fletcher  13,951'


From Blue Lakes Dam

I did this hike true "ultralight" style with only a few items- my phone served as camera and GPS unit, and a running hydration bladder. It worked out fine, although it was pretty cold and windy near the summit. GPS tracking and photos are from an iPhone 6 with no additional processing or editing.

The trail has been rerouted above the dam to avoid erosion. In addition, just like the route description mentioned, the trail effectively disappears above the lake. The route never really exceeded class 2 at any point, despite having to move around the cliff band/ snow gully. I suspect this snow will remain all year.

This large snowfield blocks access to the standard ascent gully

Large flat area on the saddle with Quandary

Quandary Peak (14er) at left
We were thinking about a traverse over to drift peak, but a couple things gave us pause. There were clouds building and visibility wasn't perfect. It was cold and a little windy. Unsure of the weather and also lacking proper gloves, I decided we should skip it this day. It was probably a good choice.
Looking over at unranked "Drift Peak" with the summit in the clouds.

Little pan from the summit from Drift Peak over to Quandary and back
Summit Selfie! You can see the clouds moving in.
Drift Peak at left

Taking a snoozer on 100 year old box springs

Colorado Springs water supply huh?

Afterwards we went to Breckenridge Brewery where I had a pulled pork sandwich and a Dark Rye-der Black IPA

GPS says:
2200' of gain
5.0 miles RT

GPS track imported into Google Earth

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Crystal Peak A

Crystal Peak 13,852'

From Aqueduct road (sort-of)

10 miles RT, 3200' of elevation gain


Cameras used: Nikon D5100 and iPhone 6

I was looking for a hike to do with my friends who recently moved to Washington. They live just above sea level and were wary of their conditioning.

When we arrived in Breck it was 48 degrees and raining. Not typical July weather.

We were planning on Quandary but a combination of a probable late start on a Saturday and parking issues made me think something different would be better.  The plan was to start at the Aqueduct road and hook up with the 4x4 road in Crystal basin. However, due to my lack of knowledge of the area, and a rougher road than anticipated, lead us to stop short and hike a chunk of the road. Fortunately hiking the road goes pretty fast, almost as fast as driving it in a 2WD rental Rav 4.
We parked at the creek crossing. Little did I know we were far from the aqueduct road

Some nice trail on the Wheeler Trail shortcut/bypass
The wheeler trail has a challenging creek crossing before joining the Crystal Creek 4x4 road. We eventually made it but someone got a foot in the river.

Stream crossing on Wheeler trail

Wildflowers were abundant
The meadows and dwindling forest were superb, the wildflowers were in full force. This early in the morning, there was no one to be seen.

Some Columbines in the wild
Crossing the creek just below the lake was quite challenging, the road/trail brings you up to a portion where the outlet is almost 80' wide. I managed to rock-hop my way across.
Father Dyer on the right

2-shot panorama. Crystal is distant left-center (with snow on it)
On the other side of the creek, the trail very gradually makes it's way up the side of Peak 10.
5-shot panorama of the lower basin

We had to cross a snowfield about 50' long in late July

Looking down on the lower Crystal Lake

It's hard to believe this used to be a jeep road.

Upper Crystal Lake, about 12,800'

Hiking up tundra to the saddle at 13,200'
Almost to the saddle...

The saddle had wonderful views

Looking up the ridge, about 650' from the summit.

2/3 of the way up the ridge- this was nice solid class 2 hiking

On the summit with Avery and Anastasiya.

Just for fun :)
It was Avery's B-day and his girls sang him "Happy Birthday" on FaceTime from the summit!

Pacific Peak dominates

Looking down at the mayflower gulch, Quandary standing guard in the distance

Super Summit Panorama- Gore range left, Peak 10 right
Peak 8, Peak 9 (notice the lift on peak 8)

A nice and easy trail at this point

Looking East

After the hike we were able to enjoy the mild day by soaking in a salt water hot tub at 10,000', drinking some wine, and relaxing in the afternoon sun. But then it was time for dinner, so we headed to downtown Breckenridge to go to Relish. It's a nice place, I recommend it.

Looking happy after a long hike!

Japanese Lantern Scallops at Relish

Bonus pic from Sapphire Point
 The weather was fantastic, the scenery was gorgeous, and it was fun to hang out with my good friends whom we had missed since they moved. This was a nice route that didn't offer much of a challenge, but had nice views all around. Those seeking solitude should probably look elsewhere, as we saw quite a few people once we reached the summit.