On the Trail: Locked in snow | AspenTimes.com

On the Trail: Locked in snow

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesHikers find a small patch of bare ground and open water at Lyle Lake on Saturday.

BASALT ” A hike with friends to a lake in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness last weekend left little doubt as to the state of the snowpack. It’s still there.

We weren’t but a few steps beyond the trailhead before we knew it would be a wet walk. Trickling water turned the lower trail into a streambed and both water crossings along the route turned into major undertakings. A stream that’s never caused me a moment’s pause on prior outings to Lyle and Morman lakes required careful scouting of the best place to cross and resulted in plenty of wet feet among the group. Shortly after the first crossing, a patchwork of snow concealed segments of the trail.

Soon after that, snow covered the trail more often than not and we wandered up the valley following the rushing stream instead of the still-buried trail.

I figured we were going to run into some snow, given last winter’s bounty, but in the final days of June, I hadn’t counted on so much of it.

Fortunately, it held us up most of the time, keeping the post-holing to a minimum ” at least on the way up. I plunged down to a knee plenty of times on the return trip.

The last time I hiked to the first of the lakes, Lyle, it took perhaps 20 minutes ” if my faded memory serves correctly. This time, it took about an hour and we quickly concluded we wouldn’t continue to the higher Morman Lake.

We found Lyle Lake still covered with ice and snow, but for a small spot at the outlet. There, we also found a bit of soggy grass to serve as a lunch spot before we headed down. The lake was entirely rimmed in snow, and beyond it, a far ridge sported a huge cornice of deep snow.

Meanwhile, two members of our party were tackling a summit attempt on Mount Massive via the trail to Fryingpan Lakes. They spent two hours trying to cross the roaring creek in that valley after discovering the bridge on the trail had been smashed in two by a large avalanche. (They made it across the creek on a snow bridge, reached the summit and were back in camp for dinner at dusk.)

Summer hiking may be a long way off.


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