Thursday, May 26, 2005

Hike to Emerald Lake

I have never done a major hike to the high country. This is sort of a sin considering the fact that I live in Colorado and the people here are as outdoors as it can ever get. I guess, some of that has finally started rubbing off onto me. I had often wondered why people would ever strain themselves so much. A hike in the mountains to me just sounded like an extravagant walk in the park. But after my climb to the top of the dunes two weeks back, I have come to the conclusion that just the view from the top is TOTALLY worth the climb.. And well, if I do lose a few pounds in the process, I'm not complaining :-).
The 2 hour climb to the top of the dunes gave me new confidence and enthusiasm to try out some more. Last weekend, I had gone with a few friends to this small place called Boulder Falls.. which is about a half hour drive from where I live in Boulder. Suddenly, on an adrenalin high, we decided to climb the rocks on the side of the falls, to get to the top. It took us just about 20 min to get to the top, and the climb would have probably qualified as a easy/low moderate difficulty climb. But the feeling again of being at the top was inspiring.
Sometime during the last week, I remembered that when I had gone for a walk around Bear Lake (which was frozen) last December, I had seen a map indicating a hike to the top of the continental divide. I thought well, it would be cool to get to the top of the continental divide and take a picture of the view from there especially since the snow had started to recede just to the caps of the mountains. A bunch of my friends were also interested in this hike. This hike to the top is supposed to be a 4.4 mile hike from the Lake, with an elevation change of 2,849 Ft. Final elevation is about 12,324 ft.
Unfortunately for us, this trail was still caked in snow and ice near the top. So, we decided to hike up from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake instead. The hike to Emerald Lake is about 1.8 miles with an elevation change of 685 ft. Final elevation is about 10,080 ft.
Today, I gladly say that I'm thankful for not attempting to do the hike to the Continental Divide. The hike to Emerald Lake was a good learning experience since there was still a lot of snow around and in a lot of places, we found ourself wading in knee deep snow. The entire hike to Emerald Lake and back took us about 5 and a half hours and we were BUSHED. It hit us hard that the air is much thinner up there than we'd expected. We consumed more water than we thought we would. There were many points at which we thought we'd turn back, but thankfully other hikers who were returning from Emerald Lake encouraged us to keep going.
The hike to Emerald Lake took us past two other lake.. Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. Both were at different stages of their melting cycle according to their elevation.
A few pictures from the hike..
Starting out from Bear Lake.. Green trees and white snow, a beautiful combination in spring. 
Nymph Lake, about 0.5 miles into the hike. 
Pristine waters of the lake.. I liked this particular view because of the reflection. 
Me wondering when the heck the rest of the guys were going to get up from their break.. 
Zoomed in view of the snow above the treeline from just above Nymph Lake.. 
A little zoomed out view of the same. You can see Nymph lake below. 
View from Dream Lake.. 
Dream lake had also started to melt.. 
View from somewhere above Emerald Lake.. We were lost at this point.. 
Emerald Lake, still almost completely frozen. 
Thats the continental divide towering about 2000ft above Emerald Lake..  
If we'd been more experienced hikers/climbers, we could've probably made it up to the top.. but right now, we were just content to get some rest. 

If you look carefully into the last few pics, you might actually spot some feet tracks leading up to the top of the continental divide directly above Emerald Lake. Someone had actually hiked 2000ft up those nearly vertical slopes and skied back down to the lake.
We were too tired on our way back to shoot any more pictures. Again, we hadn't rationed out our water very well, so we just concentrated on getting back to BearLake in one piece.
Hopefully I will get fit enough to actually make it up to the continental divide in the near future :-).

p.s. I don't know how to get rid of the yawning gap in this post, just before the pics. Still trying to figure out where it came from. My HTML is still quite rusty..

p.p.s. FINALLY! Figured it out! (21st June, 2005)

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