Finally, some snow has hit the ground and it feels like winter. Winter hiking is pretty great, mostly because you sweat way less and there are fewer crowds. There were so few people on this hike to Estes Cone that we had to break the trail in the snow for the half-last mile to the summit after passing some out-of-towners that were doing it before we passed them. We unintentionally made them feel bad and slow when they asked us what time we started - Don't worry Washingtonians, this is a hard hike for even Coloradans. The snow was pretty light in some areas and knee-high in others, and combined with the rocky terrain, each step forward was a gamble on how far down you'd step. Maybe you would sink in 2 feet deep, or possibly land on a rock and twist your ankle, or hopefully the ground was flat and right under a thin layer of snow. The latter didn't happen very frequently. Because of those gambles, the stats for this hike are as follows:
Fall Count (Katie):
5 (which averages out to less than once per mile!)
Fall Count (Noah):
1 (butt didn't touch the ground, so I'm not sure it counts)
Bruised Knees (Katie):
2/2 (Both of them! Ouch!!)
Bruised Knees (Noah):
The day started with us driving into Rocky to try and park at Glacier Gorge to hike to Sky Pond. We got about half-way up the Bear Lake road when we saw the road was unexpectedly closed. RMNP is usually pretty good about posting road closures on their Twitter, which we checked when we had reception in Estes some 20 minutes prior and hadn't seen any notice of this particular closure yet. The ranger's best guess for when the road would reopen was going to be about 3 hours, so we quickly changed our plans and headed out of the park to get to the Longs Peak parking lot to do the hike to Estes Cone. On our way out, I got the Tweet notification that the road was closed - thanks for the late notice, RMNP... Then some 10 minutes later, I got another Tweet notification that the road was back open (so not the 3 hours that the ranger thought). I know the rangers and staff at RMNP are doing the best they can and isn't their fault, but this started our hiking adventure on a little bit of a sour note.
It's probably good we didn't do Sky Pond anyway since it's above treeline. There was a winter storm rolling over the mountains while we were hiking, and we hiked while it was snowing for most of the trip. Doing any hiking above treeline would have been absolutely miserable with the snow and wind. There were decent views up at the top of Estes Cone, but again, because of the storms, there wasn't that great of visibility and the wind didn't make for a good place to stop to eat lunch. The one good thing that I can say about this hike (other than the lack of people) is that it pushed our stats over the threshold for us to say that we've completed our New Years' Resolution. At the end of this hike, we have done 32,530 feet of elevation gain year-to-date, surpassing last year's 32,312 feet. We're only about 4 miles and 5 hours short of beating our mileage and hiking time stats from last year as well. We will definitely exceed those this year as well, but our New Years' resolution was to beat just one of our hiking stats from last year. Mission accomplished, now we can relax on our weekends instead and not have to hike at all the rest of the year, right?