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Sunday, February 6, 2022

Bald Mountin

The mountains didn't get any snow this week, so we opted to do just regular hiking instead of snowshoeing. If we tried to go snowshoeing it would have been packed and icy, so we chose to stay a little bit lower in elevation (around 8,000ft) rather than going to our normal snowshoeing spots (around 10,000ft). We picked Bald Mountain which is up Boulder Canyon about 15 miles. Our hike started at the Sugarloaf Mountain trailhead and started off by hiking along the road for the first mile before the turnoff to go up Bald Mountain. The hike posed the entire 900 feet of elevation in the 3/4 of a mile once we turned off the road, which was quite the elevation to do trekking through the snow. Our assumption of not needing snowshoes was a good assumption. There were a few spots where snowshoes could have been helpful, but overall not having to carry the snowshoes up with us was the right decision.

The weather was pretty decent for us, partly cloudy and in the mid 20's (°F) with very little wind. Off to the East was clear and blue skies, but towards the Indian Peaks to the West were pretty harsh snowstorms that made for some pretty spectacular views being able to see a very drastic change in the weather just by turning your head. The storm got so bad that by the time we left the summit that we couldn't make out any of the Indian Peaks at all anymore. We didn't stay up at the top of Bald Mountain for too long because of the storms, even though they were pretty far away and didn't pose a real immediate threat, but the storms were pushing in just enough wind to make it uncomfortable to stay at the top. Despite the windchill, we stayed up at the summit long enough to eat our lunch before heading back down to the car.

The hike ended up being a little less than 4 miles round trip with about 900 feet of elevation gain. The whole hike took up just over 2 hours. Someday we will come back to hike up Sugarloaf mounting which is an even easier trail with less distance and less elevation gain.

Storm is StartingSun Peaking ThroughAlmost at the SummitRolling InHiddenSugarloaf MountainBald Mountain

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Green Mountain

The mountains didn't get a lot of snow over the past week, but Boulder did, so we headed up to Boulder to hike on some fresh powder. Even with the recent snowfall, we hiked with micro spikes, but we didn't need our snowshoes. Our original plan was to do Green mountain from the West parking lot which is only about 700 feet of elevation gain, but because there were no parking spots at that trailhead, we had to start a little lower which resulted in us doing twice the amount of elevation that we wanted to (in the same amount of distance). We took it easy last weekend, so it was probably good to have pushed ourselves a little on this 3.3 mile hike with almost 1500 feet of elevation gain.

There weren't that great of views during the hike, except for an occasional couple of mountains from the Indian Peak range or parts of Boulder through some trees. But once we got up to the top, the views were stunning of the Indian Peaks. There was even a little map at the top to help show you what peaks you were looking at. The only peak that we really know in this area is Longs and Meeker, so having the map definitely helped me identify some of the lesser-known peaks.

Premature BuddingBoulderFramedMeeker and LongsSummit PanoramaMapBoulder From the Top

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Sprague Lake

We headed into Rocky to get in another winter hike. Our plan was to start hiking from Bear Lake, but the road was blocked with a ranger right at the turnoff onto Bear Lake Road. I guess it was good that someone was right there telling us to turn around instead of wasting the 20-30 minutes driving up to Bear Lake and realizing that there is no parking, but I also like to think that we get lucky more often than not when trying to find parking at some trailhead along Bear Lake Road.

With our backup hike also along Bear Lake Road, we had to turn to our third backup, which was hiking to Sprague Lake from outside the park. There was irony in this since the easiest way to get to Sprague Lake is to drive to it from Bear Lake Road, but it's more satisfying to be able to earn the view. This is especially true since the best view of the hike wasn't even at Sprague Lake, which only had views of the mountain peaks surrounding the Bear Lake area. The best view was from the Glacier Gorge campsite which provided an unobstructed view of both the mountains surrounding the Bear Lake area and the Mummy Range.

This was the hardest hike we've done this year. We have done one hike this year that was more distance and elevation gain, but we were underprepared for this hike. We figured since there had been no snowfall in over a week in this area and since we started at a relatively low elevation that we wouldn't need our snowshoes. While that was true for about 95% of the hike, the remaining 5% where we needed snowshoes was pretty brutal without them. Every step would be a gamble with the snow Gods on if we would posthole down to our knees, which happened pretty frequently in certain parts of the hike.

One of our New Year resolutions was to beat one of our hiking stats that we did last year. Below is our hiking stats from last year, which can be found on the hiking page.

Hike Count Distance Hiking Time Elevation Gain
45 154.8 miles 85hr 56min 32,312 feet
Last years hiking stats (2021)

Last year was a crazy hiking year that included 2 hiking trips, and this year we don't have any trips planned specifically for hiking, so we thought that trying to beat just one of the above stats would be a good goal. Here's our current year to date statistics for the year:

Hike Count Distance Hiking Time Elevation Gain
7 29.6 miles 16hr 37min 6,289 feet
Year to date hiking stats (Jan-Feb 2022)

The above tables don't really mean anything without comparing them to where we are in the year. We're 2 months into the year, or 17% of the way through 2022. If I compare 2021 to 2022, you can see that we're above 17% for distance, hiking time, and elevation gain, meaning that if we keep going at the pace we're going, we should be able to easily complete our New Year resolution.

Hike Count Distance Hiking Time Elevation Gain
15.6% 19.1% 19.4% 19.5%
2022 progress benchmarked against 2021 as the goal.

This analysis fails to show how our hiking changes over the year. This is by far the most winter hiking I've ever done, and when we hike in the summer there isn't very much more hiking that we can really do since we're hiking nearly every weekend. So basically we would need to keep up this pace all year long to accomplish this New Year resolution which I'm not sure is possible. Not having those 2 hiking trips that we had last year, I doubt that we'll beat the number of hikes goal (and these numbers support that), but I'll have to see how the other statistics progresses throughout the year.

ColdGlacier Gorge CampsiteSprague LakePortrait at the LakeCrackedHiking Back

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Dangerous Hike To Lake Haiyaha

Rocky Mountain National Park had forecast the weather pretty low, but it was a clear and sunny day so we figured we'd hit the mountains for some snowshoeing. We wanted to hike in the Bear Lake area, so we decided to set an alarm and get to the trailhead early, around 8:30 in the morning. When we arrived there were still plenty of parking spots indicating that we probably could have slept in a little longer. With the stream of cars coming in behind us, I'm sure the parking lot was filled 30-45 minutes after we arrived, and I'd rather be early than fighting for a parking spot. The hike started in just barely double-digit temperatures, but with strong winds, the temperature when accounting for windchill was probably closer to, if not below, zero. There was one time during the hike when my wrist temperature (measured by my watch) was below freezing. My wrist is pretty exposed when hiking, but having skin exposed to freezing temperatures for an extended period of time is pretty dangerous.

That's not entirely why I titled this post a dangerous hike, though. The most dangerous part of this hike was trekking along very steep ridges where one misstep could result in sliding 100+ feet down the mountain. That's not too different than most of our mountain adventures, but the loose and freshly blown snow made it extremely difficult to know where to step so that you kept solid footing. We only ended up slipping a few times, but never tumbled more than a few feet (luckily). On the way back we did see some indications of people who had unintentionally slid off the trail in some areas so the danger was real (even though they all seemed to make it out okay).

Because of the strong winds, the trail to Lake Haiyaha was pretty non-existent in some areas, and if you match our taken path to the actual trail, we were way off trail towards the end of the hike. We hiked so far off the trail that we ended up shaving off about a half-mile from the expected hiking distance. But there's really no danger in hiking off the trail as long as you know where you're going, which we did, and coupled with a GPS device, we were confident we could get back. However, since I titled this a dangerous hike, I might as well point out that because of the extreme cold, my watch rendered the battery dangerously low (electronics don't like the cold) and threatened to shut off a few times. It never did shut off, and we weren't too concerned since there were other hikers around us during most of the hike.

The lake itself was hard to see. The winds were so strong at the lake that the snow hitting the small slivers of exposed skin on our faces felt like getting impaled by sand. We really only stayed at the lake for a few moments to take a couple of photos and then got out of there quickly. I'm sure the lake area was gorgeous, but we didn't spend enough time there for me to think much about anything other than turning back. But that's okay because the real beauty in this hike was on the steep ridges that were dangerous to snowshoe across. We would get an opening that showed amazing views looking North to South. The sun washed out most of the peaks in the South, but the views to the North and East were spectacular and well lit. Those views showed a different part of the park than we're used to that was special to see. We need to come back on an overcast summer day to get the photos looking South, but the views were great nonetheless.

Split to HaiyahaHallett Peak & Flattop MountainDonBear Lake in the DistanceLake Haiyaha

February 2022

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