Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Glacier Knobs and Sprague Lake.

Man, almost a month of sitting at home.  I know we need the moisture and all, but it's been happening on my days off for four weeks in a row now!  This week I was able to get part of a nice day out on Tuesday, but today, on the first of May, we've gotten a good amount of snowfall.  Added to the record breaking amount of snow we got in April, those of us headed to higher altitudes are going to be carrying an ice ax and crampons along until June at least.
Driving into Estes and then into RMNP reminded me why I love this place so much.  The overwhelming scope of the scenery and magnificence of beauty located here is simply unparalleled.  And I thought, 'If this sight ever stops bringing up a depth of emotion in my soul...'.
The moon sets over Thatchtop.
I started from the Glacier Gorge TH and made my way past the still frozen Alberta Falls, though I could hear water running under the snow this time.  The trail was pretty well delineated and I was able to make it nearly up to the split for Glacier Gorge in boots only, though the going was a little slick at times.
It looks like a warm day ahead....
Very shortly before the split, I took off in a north easterly direction to head towards the summit of East Glacier Knob.  The recommended route has you going north east to avoid some of the cliff faces, and then hook back south east to gain the true summit.  Well, I took a slightly more direct route which involved some class 3 and 4 rather than the class 2 of the route described in the book.  I wanted a little more adventure I guess.
Dueling summit cairns frame the view to the north on East Glacier Knob, 10225 feet.
The way up the hill was ok in the snow, it was never enough to make me put on my snowshoes or crampons, while I continued using trekking poles for balance and stability.  This is a cool little summit, not too hard to attain, and with some good views, like...
Glacier Gorge.  But wait, there's more!
Loch Vale and Andrews Glacier.
I followed my tracks back down and the descent seemed to take no time at all.  Judging by the topo, you do only gain 400 or so feet from the trail to summit.
I headed back up the trail towards Loch Vale.  In the book, Lisa Foster describes a "miniature, lush grotto" on the north side of the trail, two tenths of a mile after the intersection with the Glacier Gorge trail.  I have no idea what that means really.  So I'd say to go for maybe ten minutes past the intersection, and then when you find a good looking place, turn right and head up hill.  If you hit cliffs...
as I did, just head left or west along the base and when they end you can continue up.
Alternatively, when I descended back down to the trail, I ended up right near this rock...
And found it was maybe two minutes farther up the trail than where I decided to head up from.
Again, I went without snowshoes or crampons, though I was post holing up to waist deep here and there.  
Hitting the cliffs did provide me some unique views, like these ten foot tall run off icicles.
Over all, I felt it was somewhat easier to obtain the top of this Knob, perhaps because this time I tended to follow the path of least resistance.    
The summit cairn of West Glacier Knob, 10280+ feet.  I'd say this one gave some even better views.
 Which weren't too great at first.
But then I turned around.  Sexy Lake in full effect, with Glacier Gorge looking magnificent.  Half Mountain, Longs Peak, Keyboard of the Winds, Pagoda Mountain all visible.
Just a little bit closer in because look at that view.  This is far from the most difficult peak I have done, not the farthest in either, but look at that.  This is why I love this place.
Looking up to Loch Vale.  I could see the route up to Sky Pond, which looks even snowier than last time.
I was thinking about descending almost directly west to the small unnamed lake in the saddle between it and Otis Peak, and then going north from there to Lake Haiyaha, but the snow looked a little steep.  Now to talk about irony....
Last time I was up here I decided to try for Lake Haiyaha, but didn't know this was also the winter trail for Glacier Gorge and got pretty far down before realizing my error.  This time I was on the lookout for footprints breaking off the trail about ten yards from the sign.  I found them, and followed.  These footprints eventually met up with a more established trail, and when they broke, with the more established trail heading west, while the single footprints continued north, I decided to follow the more established trail.  
This was a mistake.  I should have stopped and looked at a map, and then I would have continued on the correct path.  But I basically followed the trail up the small creek that flows from the unnamed lake I was thinking about going to anyway.  So I pretty much went in a big circle, which took a good amount of time out of the day.  
I thought hard about what to do here- I wanted to go on and had food and water, but at the same time, the sky was now completely overcast and the temperature had dropped noticeably.  I knew the snow today was supposed to roll in in the afternoon as rain, and wanted to be back at the car before that.  So after a lot of debate and reluctance, I headed back and took the winter trail back to the trail head.
I was feeling kind of defeated here- a stupid mistake cost me some more time.  I took a look in the book, trying to figure out something else to do while I was up here.  After all, it is about an hour drive and 2+ gallons of gas each way.  I decided to head to Sprague Lake and walk it.    
Though I would probably try my best to avoid this in the summer and tourist season, I found something here today.  This is probably the easiest hike in RMNP, and I would recommend that you take 15-20 minutes and amble the trail around the lake.  It does offer some great views and some peace and quiet if it's not too busy.  I went from feeling somewhat disappointed and upset to feeling humbled by this place.
Duck, duck, goose.
A full moon under Otis Peak.
The last time I was here was with my parents when they came out to visit a few years ago.  It's been awhile since I've seen them since we couldn't go out for the holidays this winter.  And of course, I miss them and my sister immensely.  I was able to get cell reception here and called them and left a message that I was thinking of them.
Taylor, Otis, Hallett, Flattop.
 Geese in the water.
Ducks swim beneath the continental divide.  And life goes on.  This day really meant alot to me.
Until next time my love.
Glacier Knobs via Glacier Gorge TH:
East Glacier Knob:
2.3 miles one way, 1045 foot gain.  Moderate.
West Glacier Knob:
2.6 miles one way, 1100 foot gain.  Moderate.
Sprague Lake:
.5 mile loop, 0 foot gain.  Easy-.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Andy,
    I like your story about Rocky Mountain NP. I'm planning to go up to this area to camp for a couple nights in about a month. Looks like a lot of snow for May. I've never been up there (except for a virtual trip via GoogleEarthPro).