Bitter Wind at Lake Haiyaha

Sunday, January 26

I’m repeating myself when I say that it’s been too long since I’ve had a walk in the park. This time, it has been five weeks. So I reached out to Ed to see what he had going. He was taking a group up to Haiyaha but said they’d allow one more.

I collected Ed at his house, just a few minutes late, and we headed to the Bear Lake parking lot where we met the rest of the group: six ladies, whose names I would get wrong if I attempted to list them here. I’m sorry I’m so bad with names.

Every time I’ve had Ed lead me to Haiyaha in the winter we’ve gone the same way. This time we took a different route. I’ve seen Ed post pictures of “Beard Falls” many times, always wondering where the heck it is. Well, now I know. Pretty much. As with his other route, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to go this way without his help.

Nymph Lake

Rather than starting up the paved trail towards Nymph Lake and striking cross-country at the large boulder, we took the back way from Bear to Nymph, then headed southwest. Before long, we found ourselves at the base of a series of switchbacks that climb steeply uphill. At the top of this climb, we connected with the summer trail from Dream Lake to Haiyaha pretty much where that trail crosses the outlet from the lake.

It was very pleasant walking through the woods, where the trees protect the hiker from the wind. I’ll say, though, that even at the parking lot it wasn’t particularly windy, so I was thinking it might even be pleasant at the lake. Certainly, there was no indication of what we were to see while we were making the climb.

I always find it interesting how the snow piles up on the terrain. Often, the rocks were topped by giant pillows of snow, and in some of the open areas the wind piles up the snow, then seems to carve it into intricate shapes. I’ve tried many times to get photos of some of these sights, but the most interesting ones are often subtle, and there’s just too little contrast in the white shapes for my photographic skills to deal with.

We had a short pause just before reaching the lake to add back on some of the layers of clothing we’d removed during the climb. And sunglasses or goggles were recommended. It’s always windy on the ice of these high alpine lakes along the Continental Divide. Still, I was hoping it wouldn’t be too extreme.

It was extreme. I hauled the SLR in my pack thinking I’d spend some quality time trying to get some interesting photos of the ice. But to use the SLR, I need to take off my gloves and sunglasses. It only took me a minute or two to decide it just wasn’t worth it. My hands were cold almost instantly, and I didn’t care too much for the snow blowing into my eyes. So I packed the SLR away and set up the GoPro for the time-lapse. I’ve been here before, and I’ll be here again.

Everybody was on their own for a few minutes investigating the ice before we met up on the west side of the lake, out of the wind. Ed had an igloo not far up the slope, so we made the short climb up to it. I didn’t go in, but we dug the blown snow out of the entrance. The top had sagged somewhat since it was built. Ed didn’t think I’d be able to stand up in it.

We all noshed our lunches and relaxed for a few minutes before heading back down. I had one challenge to complete before we left: find the GoPro. I set it in the snow rather than on a rock, figuring that the wind would blow it over. Well, there is no shortage of rocks here, and the camera is small. And, I worried, maybe it got buried by the blowing snow. Luckily, I managed to locate it without too much difficulty.

Our return route was my usual route with Ed. I lollygagged a bit to be at the end of the line, to be “tail-end Charlie”. I hiked in the middle for a while but found it more comfortable to be at the back, neither tailgating nor tailgated. I could stop occasionally to take in the sights.

Since we left Nymph Lake in the morning until we regained the trail in the afternoon, we met no other hikers and saw only one set of footprints. This solitude is a common occurrence on my hikes to Haiyaha with Ed. I’d call it “high-efficiency” solitude: I usually have to walk much, much farther to get three hours of the stuff.

All in all, it was another beautiful day in the neighborhood, even if it was uncomfortably windy at the lake. I usually prefer hiking with a smaller group, but I have no complaints and variety is the spice of life. Good people, stunning scenery, pleasant weather (in the trees!).

It’s tough to beat a day like this.

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