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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Practicing Neglecting Avalanche Safety

One of the biggest determining factors for hiking this weekend was the weather. Last weekend the mountains all had single-digit or negative temperature forecasts (not including the windchill) so we decided to stay inside. This weekend, however, all our typical hiking destinations had 40-degree weather. Considering this is typically the coldest month of the year, we're starting off February quite warm. No complaints about this other than the fact that we were drastically overdressed for the weather. But I would rather be overdressed than underdressed for any winter hiking.

We haven't been on a hike in a few weeks, and even then, the last hike we went on was in Arizona which barely counted because it wasn't that difficult of a hike. So this week we decided to challenge ourselves by picking a moderately difficult hike. The hike to the lower Crater Lakes was not too difficult, but the hike from the lower to the upper Crater Lakes was treacherous. Not only was it challenging because we were breaking trail in our snowshoes, but the risk of causing an Avalanche was probably a little higher than what we should have been hiking on. The avalanche danger was only a level 2 - Moderate (out of a scale of 1-5), but there were several features where the angle of ascent was much greater than the 30 degrees where an avalanche could occur on an East-facing slope. By taking it slowly and planning our route to stay close to the trees and avoid open areas where large avalanches could occur, we made it safely to the Upper Crater Lake and back down. We don't normally put ourselves in these types of situations, but it's already happened twice this year that we were breaking trail with our snowshoes, so maybe it's time for us to start taking avalanches a little more seriously since I'm positive we'll be snowshoeing in similar situations in the future.

Despite the difficulty getting to the top of Upper Crater Lake, the views were absolutely stunning. The Upper Crater Lake has mountains surrounding it that are mostly West to North facing, which with the sun low in the SouthWest made the whole mountain range lit up for me to photograph. I took more panoramas than I've ever taken in a single trip - 26. That took an immense amount of time to post-process, but it was worth it considering how the photos turned out. The last thing I'll mention that made this hike spectacular is that since we were breaking trail, we got to experience these mountains that no one else had seen in at least a week. This alpine lake was all ours and I doubt anyone else will be hiking up there anytime soon.

Sharp TurnSneak Peek Through the TreesMassive SnowdriftNearing the First LakeLunch SpotSecond Crater LakeFallingBonus LakeUpper Crater LakeTopless in NatureGiving Nature a ViewClockwise Around the LakeLooking Back

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Caribou Hill

After doing a difficult hike last weekend, we decided to do something a little easier. The hike to Caribou Hill (and onto Klondike Mountain) has been on our hike list for a few years. But we've never attempted it before today because of the relatively easy distance (less than 4 miles) and barely 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

We didn't know what to expect starting this hike. No one had reviewed this hike in several months, so we didn't know how busy it would be or how packed the trail would be. When we got to the trailhead, we quickly realized this is a popular cross-country skiing area with dozens of people skiing around us. However, the Caribou Hill area has rolling hills where people can spread out which may be the reason it's popular for that activity. Because of this, we didn't encounter many people despite barely finding parking.

The one annoying thing about this hike was the amount of snow. There were some spots that were completely dry dirt and other areas where the snow would come up to your thighs if you weren't wearing snowshoes. That meant that we were constantly putting on or taking off our snowshoes to cross a section of either dirt or deep snow.

There really was no defined trail since everyone skied wherever. That made this hike a little more fun because we were making our own path and hiking wherever we wanted to. In certain parts of the forest, I hate this, but Caribou Hill didn't have many trees or large boulders so it was easy to follow elevation lines without running into something you couldn't pass.

All things considered, this was a really short hike that gave us some gorgeous views with a fun wandering make-it-up-as-you-go hike.

Dry PathGreat ViewsSurvey MarkerLunch SpotNorth Arapaho Peak

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Forest Lake

This week's hike was to Forest Lake in the James Peak Wilderness area. The hike started in the same spot as the one 3 weeks ago to Crater Lakes, at the East Moffat Portal. The East Moffat Portal is this cool train tunnel that goes through the Continental Divide. When a train enters or exits the tunnel it makes a tremendous amount of sound. The first time we were here, we neglected avalanche safety, but this time we stopped ignoring the danger because we were equipped with new BCA Tracker S avalanche tracker transceivers. The trackers were a gift from me to Katie for Valentine's day because what says love more than showing concern for your loved one's safety?

But just having the avalanche tracker transceivers isn't enough to be safe, you also have to know how to use them and have the accompanying gear to go with them; an avalanche probe and a shovel. However, just having the avalanche tracker transceivers isn't enough to be safe. You also have to know how to use them and have the accompanying gear, an avalanche probe, and a shovel. We practiced using the transceivers to make sure we at least knew how to use them roughly, and we'll continue to practice using them in the event that we need to find one another buried in the snow.

The avalanche tracker transceivers weren't the only new piece of gear that I brought on this snowshoeing adventure.We were in Sierra Trading Post last weekend and I found a pair of snowshoes on clearance for $29! Usually, a good pair of snowshoes cost well over $100, but I got extremely lucky to snag a pair for so cheap. To be fair, these weren't all that high quality and were probably only $80 snowshoes to begin with, but they were very similar to the snowshoes that I already owned, so I knew they would work for what we were doing. My current pair of snowshoes weren't in dire need of replacement yet, but they were getting close. I was planning on getting a new pair after this season anyway so this was maybe a little premature, but I couldn't pass up a deal like that.

Since we've been to this area now twice in a month the second time wasn't nearly as exciting as the first. I think we got better views the first time (at Crater Lakes), but the views at Forest Lake were still worth the hike. I think we'll save the other hikes in this area that we want to do for a different season.

Price TagJames Peak WildernessSnowy TreesSelfie In the MountainsLower Forest LakeSkiingHiking Back

February 2023

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