The Loch

Last month, Jerry and I failed to navigate to Lake Haiyaha to see the igloos at Stomp IX. That didn’t seem to dissuade Jerry from taking another short winter hike with me, so this time we went to The Loch. I’ve been there many times, but don’t generally make it the destination – it’s just somewhere on the way to somewhere else. It’s a short hike, and in summer it is typically quite crowded. But I find myself more willing to take the shorter hikes in winter.

We hit the trail at about 11. I’m usually on the trail quite a bit earlier than that, but this being such a short hike there was no need to hurry. The weather forecast for Denver was for a warm day, about 70, with a slight chance of rain. Which, of course, tells us nothing of what to expect near the Continental Divide. We dressed warmly; I wore a sweater and my new heavy coat, with a baseball cap to keep the sun out of my eyes, a knit cap for warmth, and my new gloves. I wore the micro-spikes. Jerry decided against snow shoes, which turned out okay. He slipped a bit here and there, but wasn’t the only one without traction aid on the trail.

We managed to find a parking space at the Glacier Gorge lot, which surprised me. With the weather being so nice I figured there’d be quite a few people out on the trails and expected that lot to fill up early. Once on the trail, it wasn’t long before we were thinking we’d dressed too warmly. Hats and gloves were off and jackets unzipped before we made it to the junction with the Fire trail.

TracksWe were expecting a bit more fresh snow than we saw, but I still have a hard time figuring out exactly how old the freshest snow is. We saw a lot of animal tracks and spent some time discussing what sort of animal made each track. We came across an area where there were lots of small tracks and I saw one I thought would make an interesting picture. Before I left the house, I searched for the SLR batteries. I charged one but couldn’t find the other. When I went to take a photo of the tracks, the camera died. So the SLR was not so much a camera as an anchor. I shot the tracks with the cell phone, but I’m sure I’d have had better results with the real camera. I like the way the light went through the snow, illuminating the tracks from underneath.

Taking the Fire trail really does cut down on the traffic. We saw only one other group of hikers before we got to the Mills/Loch/Haiyaha trail junction, but the trail was nicely packed and we had no trouble without snow shoes. We ran into more hikers at the junction. They were headed to the Loch as well. They followed the sign, which put them on the summer trail. We headed up the Mills Lake trail a few yards to the bridge, then up the drainage. This seems to be a navigation problem for lots of hikers. We caught another group who were on their way to Mills. The tracks split at the bridge – right to the Loch, left to Mills. These folks went right before realizing their error.

Snow Cave EntranceGoing up the drainage, the trail gets a bit steep in places. Jerry had a bit of difficulty on theses steeper spots without traction. He joked that going down might be From Insidemore fun – he’d probably have to do it on his backside rather than on his feet. Just before getting to the top of the climb, some hikers on their way down said it was quite windy at the lake. It’s almost always windy at these lakes in winter, so no surprise there.

Once we got to the top, we were delighted to find that somebody had made a snow cave. JerryHard to say how long it’s been there, but long enough for several people to carve their initials on the interior walls. Looks to me like it took quite a bit of effort. The floor of the cave is the grassy meadow. It’s not quite tall enough for me to stand up in, but there was plenty of room for Jerry and me.

On the lake proper, the wind was blowing quite nicely. Snow wasn’t falling from the sky, but quite a bit of it was blowing around along the ground. We found a spot in the trees, mostly out of the wind. I started the camera and we retreated to the trees for lunch. Soon, the clouds came down the valley and snow began to fall.

Here’s the time lapse:

On the way down from the lake, we caught up to a bigger group clearly enjoying their descent. A couple of the girls fell on their butts, accompanied by much laughing. My micro spikes were providing sufficient traction on the steep snow, but it was quicker and more fun to sit down at the top and slide down.The Descent

When possible, I like to take a different route out than we followed on the way in. Jerry hadn’t done any winter hiking in the area, so I suggested we go down past Alberta Falls. I had a bit of doubt when we left the main trail. It looked like nobody had gone this way since the last snowfall. I didn’t want to get into any snow that would be difficult without snow shoes, but it was easy enough to find a “beaten path”. Some footprints were there, just covered by more recent snow. We quickly found the bridge over the stream and re-entered the drainage there.

After a short while, we came across some folks coming up. They said they wanted to go to Mills Lake, but I was skeptical they’d make it. We met at a place where the there’s about an eight foot climb up either ice or rocks. Jerry and I slid down here and I was wondering how you’d climb back up, even if you had spikes. Those folks were wearing sneakers; clearly not prepared to deal with snow. They must have made it to the top of that little bit, as a few minutes later we heard the squeals of laughter as they slid back down.

We ran into a few other folks on their way to Mills. These were better prepared for winter hiking, but they’d not been here before. I did my best to tell them how to get there. They’d be able to follow our tracks except a stretch where we walked across barren rock.