Lake Haiyaha

Saturday, March 7

Some of the folks on the RMNP forum get together every year for a Stomp. I forgot all about it last year, and the year before Jerry and I made it for the pizza dinner but never got to the lake. So this was my first Stomp.

I’m not a big fan of snowshoes. I generally only go on commonly traveled paths in the snow so I can get by with the microspikes. Our route to Haiyaha is off-trail, though, so I definitely needed the floatation the snowshoes provide. I took poles, too. I don’t use trek poles when hiking but figured they might be good with the snowshoes, but won’t again.

This was only my second winter hike to Haiyaha. The first time, I took the summer route. I won’t go that way again in snow. There are a couple places where you traverse steep snow and I’m not a big fan. Ed’s way is a much nicer route. By the time I hiked out, it had been pretty well traveled. I think I could find my way again, now that I’ve been that way.

With the weather the way it’s been lately, I figured the road to Bear Lake would be snowpacked and icy so I arranged to drive Genae’s car, stranding her at home for the day. But Friday was clear and warm – bright sunshine, brilliant blue cloudless skies all day. It was nearly 70 here at the house and the snow almost completely melted from the pavement in the cul-de-sac. I decided to take the Lotus.

Up at 5:30, out the door a few minutes before 6:00. Grab a breakfast sandwich at Burger King in Boulder and head up the canyon. Coming down Pole Hill into Estes, the Mummy range blanketed in brilliant white snow, the sky above the deepest blue, and again not a cloud in the sky, not even contrails.

I took the “shortcut” by the hospital out of habit. It avoids the traffic through the village, but that’s not a concern in winter. I also tend to go up Riverside rather than 36. Just a couple hundred yards past the brewery I saw an animal cross the road. It was in shadow, but looked too small for a deer or elk, and might have been gray instead of tan. When I got there, I saw the coyote standing forty feet from the road. When I passed Manor RV park I got a bonus – a flock of about a dozen turkeys crossed the road. (I just learned the group name for turkeys is not a flock. It’s either a rafter or gang, take your pick.)

A sign near the park entrance warned the road was icy and recommended 4WD or AWD. Not a good sign when you’re RWD with bald tires. But as I suspected, the sun did it’s work yesterday and the road was clear all the way to Bear Lake. There were a couple of icy patches where the wind blows snow across the road, but even the parking lot was mostly free of snow.

I connected with the group and after introductions (where I apologized in advance for forgetting nearly everybody’s name), we hit the trail about 8:15. We set a leisurely pace, which suited me just fine. I find snowshoeing much more tiring than hiking. I have to alter my gait so I don’t trip over my own shoes and of course there’s the weight. It doesn’t seem like much, but compounded over thousands of steps it adds up.

Before long we were off the trail. We weren’t exactly blazing a new trail, as we had Ed’s (days old) track to follow, but the track was generally faint and fully blown over in a couple of spots. All in all, though, the going was fairly easy. It’s not a long hike, there are only a couple of sections with much of a grade, and it has pleasant views. I saw no other hikers, although a couple did catch the end of our group just as we got to the lake.

It took us a bit over two hours to make the trip. We went to the igloo and met Ed and the rest of the gang and socialized for a while. A bit after noon, most of the gang left. It was lunch time, though, so I sat on the rock above the igloo and enjoyed the view and my picnic. I didn’t exactly eat and run, but soon said my goodbyes and headed back.


The igloo is sheltered by an enormous rock; the floor is about level with the top of the door.

When I hiked to Emerald last month, I was only able to shoot a handful of pictures – the batteries weren’t working well in the cold. This time, I carried them in my pocket to keep them warm. There wasn’t any point in setting the cameras up for time lapse as there were no clouds all day. So the next order of duty was to put the batteries in the camera and check out the ice on the lake.

I’ve been to ten lakes in the park when they’ve been iced over. Lake Haiyaha is unusual. Many of the lakes seem to maintain the same level in winter as summer. At Lake Helene the water level drops a foot or two, but it’s so shallow that the water is quite far from the summer shore. Haiyaha sits next to a large boulder field. Some of the rocks are as big as houses, some as big as cars. When it gets cold it ices up. At the same time, less water flows into the lake than out and the water level drops. Not a foot or two, but eight or ten.

There are a number of large boulders that are fully submerged until the lake drains and they punch through the ice. I wonder how long it must take – it takes a long time to drain a lake and the water drops very gradually. When the ice makes contact with the rock, the pressure will build up slowly but inexorably. As more ice is lifted from the water, the bottom surface of the ice is put under tension. Ice doesn’t handle tension well – I bet it makes quite an interesting sound when cracks.


Icy volcanoes

Now, a line of these rocks poke through the ice like glacier shrouded volcanoes. The broken faces of the ice are no longer razor sharp – wind and blowing snow have softened, almost melted, the edges. It’s crystallizing on the top, but under that zone it’s the palest blue glass. Up close you see the bubbles lined up like beads on a curtain. My pictures don’t do it justice.


Blue ice

I probably spent half an hour soaking it in.


Wind sculpted snow

The hike out was uneventful. I heard voices occasionally but never saw anybody else until I regained the trail. (Again, am I hearing voices, or am I hearing voices?) A few other parties had done round trips on the track by the time I started down, so it was very easy to follow and often well packed. For a while I thought I maybe could do it in spicks instead of snowshoes, but that would have been optimistic.

Back at the car, I considered taking the top off for the drive home. That would have been a bit optimistic, too. And besides, by this time I realized I hadn’t even thought of sunscreen and had burned my face. Oops.

One thought on “Lake Haiyaha

  1. Dave, It was nice to get the chance to meet you and talk hiking and photography with you. Hope to run into you again.

    (RCW on the forums)

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