It’s been a horribly busy fall for both Mark and I. I’ve been focusing on school, Mark’s been working hard at the office, and we’ve been spending our weekends catching up or doing more work. Pretty sad, really. So, we decided to make a conscious effort to get some good, quality, mountain time in last weekend.
We ended up snowshoeing up to Loch Vale in the Glacier Gorge area of Rocky Mountain National Park. We actually hiked this trail twice last summer, and Mark mentioned later that he wasn’t particularly happy with the choice in the morning. But the National Park in the snow is like a whole different world.
About 10 minutes into our hike, we saw a beaten path in the snow head off the side of the trail. Last summer, when we were hiking the approach to the Petite Grepon, we saw climbers head off into the woods in this direction. Mark suggested we try this trail out, and determine if it was actually a short cut, or a trail to a different destination all together. Always up for an adventure, I agreed. And we set off into the woods, off trail, with the promise of a gathering winter storm in the evening, in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Despite our joking about how we were destined to end up on “Storm Stories” next year for this decision, the trail was very easy to follow in the deep snow. It headed straight up the hill, and half an hour later we popped out on the marked trail, just below the split to Loch Vale. Success! I haven’t downloaded our GPS data yet, but I think we cut off about a half of a mile from this section of trail, which means we’ll be using this path for future hikes to climbs in the area.
As we started up the switchbacks below the Loch, we began hearing voices in the woods across the valley. We came upon the tracks of several people leaving the trail, and followed them up the far side of the valley to where a big group of people were ice climbing. Mark and I talked to them for a bit, careful to stay out of the fall zone for the sharp ice that was raining down, or pointy axes or crampons that might be flung about.
The group had top ropes set on various parts of the flow, and, when asked, declared that the route we were looking at was called “Mo’ Flo’ than Go” and was rated, according to the climbers, “um, 3?” “3+, I think” “5!” “1” “20!” “100!”, or something in that range. Mountain project says WI 3-. It looked like a fun, if short, route, and Mark and I watched for a while before heading back to the trail and finally up to the Loch.
Last summer, I declared Loch Vale to be the prettiest spot in the park, even when it was crawling with people. It was even prettier when we showed up there at 5:30am a few weeks later, and the place was dead quiet except for the bugs and fish jumping. On Saturday, it was even prettier. The lake was frozen over, the wind tossed snow about in sweeps and gyres. There was nobody else, and no other living creatures, around at all. The whole scene was full of roaring wind one minute, and then desperately silent the next. It felt like the mountains and lake had been encased in crystal, and would remain like this forever.
After a lot of pictures, and some time spent soaking it all in, we put the snowshoes back on and headed down the hill. We cruised back to the car in less than an hour, practically jogging down some sections in our lightweight snowshoes. Then it was back to our house for hot coffee and even hotter showers, as the promised winter storm blew in.