Trip Date: 2017 02Feb 04
It seems that I am not very good at picking the best day for my adventures. Three weeks in a row, whichever day of the weekend I choose for my winter adventures, it's better the other day. Even though it was surprisingly warm (near 32F in the park) it was very windy, snowy and overcast in the mountains. A trip up Loch Vale and Sky Pond had been on my list for several weeks now I and I decided to go for it.
I arrived at the Bear Lake/Glacier Gorge trailheads a little late and found both parking lots full. This usually happens but you can usually find a spot as you circle the parking lot. I resigned myself to finding something to do in Mummy Range or Moraine Park where there were fewer people and hopefully easier parking. On the way out I spotted a small pull-off without any cars. It doesn't have any easy trailhead access but I don't mind a little extra walking. I don't think I've seen anybody parked there before. I think it'll become my go-to winter parking spot (I'm sure everything is full in the summer).
Helped push a car that was stuck in the snow in the Glacier Gorge lot and I was off. I did some wandering in the deep snow around Alberta Falls that wound up costing me some time (but it was definitely fun to tromp through waist deep snow).
Once I got past the Glacier Knobs my pace increased. The gully (gorge?) leading up to Loch Vale was filled with snow but hardly any people--I only saw two other people past the Glacier Knobs.
Upon reaching The Loch the wind and snow dramatically increased. I climbed up on a rock peaking out of the frozen lake to put on another layer of clothes and take a picture.
Near Timberline Falls, it turned into a near total whiteout. I could barely see 30 feet in front of me and couldn't see where to go. I only had half a mile left and really wanted to press on to to Lake of Glass and Sky Pond. It would be dark soon but I had two lights with extra batteries, plenty of clothes, food and water. I must have switched directions 4 times as I debated. Ultimately, I reasoned I wouldn't be able to see the spectacular scenery anyway and it was best to turn around.
On the return I decided to cut directly between the North Longs Peak Trail and where my GPS said the car was (see first Google Earth image). Adventures like this never fail to be fun, but they almost never save time. It was 2/3 of a mile in waist deep snow and the first time that day I really felt tired. A good end to a spectacular day.