On the trail: Lost Man in the snow
October 21, 2009
ASPEN – Warm temperatures and blue skies turned Independence Pass, southeast of Aspen, into a veritable locals’ playground last weekend. People were skiing and boarding, playing bocce ball on a frozen pond, having snowball fights and just generally goofing off at the summit.
They’ll be closing the gate soon enough – Nov. 7 unless nature closes it before then – so get your kicks while you can.
A friend and I decided to take a hike I’ve only done previously in the summer months – Lost Man Loop. Taking off from the upper trailhead, not far from the pass summit, we sauntered upward along the gurgling creek that is the inauspicious start to the Roaring Fork River. At mid-morning, the trail was a tad muddy, with a bit of ice in spots, but we were pulling off jackets and gloves quickly in the sunshine.
I had no illusions about doing the entire loop, or even close to that. I figured we might get to the saddle that is the high point of the hike (about 12,800 feet), separating Independence Lake and Lost Man Lake. It would depend on the snow conditions higher up.
We didn’t even get that far.
The trail gave way to patchy snow and eventually nothing but snow, with the browned remnants of summer’s grasses still poking through where wind had scoured away some of the snow. Though others had trod here before us, my companion decided they hadn’t followed the true course of the trail, so she made her own route. I let her think she was right, but I also let her break trail, since we were occasionally postholing through about a foot of snow.
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Since we weren’t really pushing to get anywhere in particular, we didn’t. We turned around just before the climb up to the saddle. We must have been standing near tiny Independence Lake, headwaters of the Roaring Fork, but it wasn’t visible beneath the snow.
Aside from a huge porcupine waddling down the trail in front of us during our descent, we had the place – and the views – to ourselves. The peaks to the south, gleaming in winter white, were breathtaking and, I think, even more impressive than they are in the summertime.
I’m hoping for sunshine this weekend and another chance to head for the pass.