Our hike this week consisted of going to the Loch, a large sub-alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The Loch is a pretty easy (for us) hike that's only about 5.5 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain. But the trail doesn't end at the Loch, it continues on to Timberline Falls, then onto the Lake of Glass, and ends at Sky Pond. We made it to the Loch pretty quickly which is a gorgeous lake, but it was mostly in shade which wasn't as photogenic as I would have liked. After getting to the Loch and both of us feeling pretty good, we decided to continue on to Timberline Falls, which this time of year was completely frozen over. There were several groups of people ice climbing on the frozen waterfall which was cool to take a break while watching them. The next section of the tail was an incredibly dangerous ice scramble. We had to climb up the side of Timberline Falls which is a difficult rock scramble in the summertime, so it was nearly ice-climbing this time of year. With only having our microspikes, we were ill-prepared for what came next. We made it up with a bit of caution but the way back was quite trickier and it only added to the adventure when Katie slid down the 30-40ft "ice slide" at an alarming speed. But neither of us got hurt. This got us talking about wether or not they make mini ice axes (pocket-knife style) that could have helped in this kind of situation. But so far I haven't found such a product...
From the ice scramble we continued on to the Lake of Glass, which was by far the best lake of the hike. The sun was just in the right spot and the surrounding mountains were facing the right direction for the sun. The lake itself was completely frozen over, and as its name suggests, it was like walking on top of glass. The ice was crystal clear in some spots which was quite nerve-wracking to walk on top of. There were several places (on all of the lakes) where there were large cracks going through the ice from the ice moving around. It was in the cracked areas that you could see just how thick the sheet of ice was because there was a deep ribbon of white ice where the crack occurred. The ice on Lake of glass, as well as at the Loch and Sky Pond, were all well over a foot deep, but we still exercised some caution after Katie's mishap stepping through the ice at Lake Helene about a month earlier.
Leaving the Lake of Glass we continued on about a quarter-mile to Sky Pond. The trail to Sky Pond was less packed down which left us post-holing almost the entire way there. We definitely could have benefited from having snowshoes while getting to Sky Pond, but we didn't bring them with us since we weren't sure that we would make it that far (and definitely didn't need snowshoes for the rest of the hike). There was a group in front of us who had snowshoes tied to their backpacks and one of them made the comment to me that it's not worth it to put them on, which made us feel better that we didn't bring ours at all.
Sky Pond was quite windy (more so than the Loch and just barely more than at Lake of Glass). This is expected with winter hiking, which is why we didn't stop at Sky Pond for very long before heading back. We finally found a spot at the Lake of Glass to eat our lunch - burritos that we kept warm in a thermos in my pack. From there we scrambled down Timberline falls (nearly dying) and make it back to the Loch which was now completely in sun, but with the sun in the completely wrong spot to photograph... Oh well, it's still a gorgeous lake even if I can't photograph it well.
Overall, the hike was a little over 9 miles and 2,200 feet of elevation gain. This would have been a difficult hike in the summertime, but we decided to do it in the winter, which made it even harder. Despite the difficulty, we made it to the end of the hike with enthusiasm while seeing some fantastic sights along the way.