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St. Mary’s Glacier Snowshoe, St. Mary’s/Alice CO Snowshoed 3/29/14

3 Apr
Looking back Over St. Mary's Lake

Looking back Over St. Mary’s Lake

Starting Elevation: 10,423 Ft

Highest Elevation: 11, 023 Ft

Trail Length: To the base of the glacier and back it is 2 miles round trip

Trail Uses: Snowshoe, skis, snowboards, cross country skis

Degree of Difficulty: To the glacier easy to moderate

Bathroom: Yes – there is a well used port -o-potty in the parking lot

Fees:  $5 a day.

Pets: Yes

Looking towards the Glacier over the frozen Lake

Looking towards the Glacier over the frozen Lake

Same view In July 2013

Same view In July 2013

2 weeks ago we won an all expense paid trip to Estes Park… I am so excited and will tell you all about as soon as we get to experience it!  Because of that, I decided that a break from Rocky Mountain National Park was due this past weekend.  I thought it might be fun to try a more advanced snowshoe since the weather was supposed to be pretty awesome on Saturday and St. Mary’s glacier was the one I wanted to do.  To be honest snowshoeing to the Glacier isn’t advanced but going up the glacier to James peak is.  We had no desire to summit James Peak we just wanted to go to the base and back to enjoy the amazing views on what was supposed to be a perfect day. I had great expectations for the day….

Then I got a crown on Thursday and that 3rd shot hit a nerve, it was almost comical at how quickly my whole left side of my face swelled up, I could see my cheek like it wasn’t my cheek.   What wasn’t so great was the pounding headache I had on Friday that forced me into bed all day.  Saturday morning it was kinda ghosting around so we went ahead and stuck to our plan.

The drive was lovely, no traffic jams on I 70, dry roads and breathtakingly blue skies.  When we got to the parking lot around 7:30, we were super excited and then we open the door ….well I tried to open the car door…. the wind was BAD.

Starting out

Starting out

Not easily deterred, we suited up and headed up.  It was a super beautiful every where we looked and what a huge contrast from the summer when it was different beauty:

Same area in Summer

Same area in Summer

But when the wind hit, we just sort of stopped and stood and waited until it finished up.  We were still optimistic we could make the journey we originally planned.

As the Glacier and its surrounding peaks came into view our optimism died, the snow blowing off and around it never stopped or slowed.  We saw snow funnels on the slopes… tall ones.  I had never seen one of those before.  But deep down there was still HOPE and we had not yet put on our snowshoes so we took a bunch of pictures at St. Marys Lake and headed to the glacier.

me at the lake

We got over to the trees to put on our snowshoes and that is when I discovered you put a bizarre amount of pressure on your jaw when putting snowshoes on while wearing a backpack … My headache went back to raging once they were on.

Heading towards the glacier

We headed up the glacier not once, not twice but 3 times.  Each time we would get in the middle of the winds and try to go a little further and then just get freaked out and turn around.  Again if I had more Avalanche training I might have approached it differently but we could not see anything in the windy snow and we could not even look at the mountain ridges to see what the cornices looked like or see what was coming at us from in front or even where we had just come from.

getting close to the wind tunnel

getting close to the wind tunnel

As close to the heaviest wind I could get with my camera

As close to the heaviest wind I could get with my camera

Looking Back the way we came in the wind tunnel

Looking Back the way we came in the wind tunnel

We were out of our comfort zone on a beautiful Bluebird sky but windy day.   My head was pounding worse with each attempt and after the 3rd one, I called it.  We headed back down and home where I crawled into bed after taking some Alieve.

Me Giving up

Me Giving up

I felt so lazy later when I was  feeling better, so Sunday we hit North Table Mountain ( Hike Details here) to get extra mileage and climb in for the weekend.  The day was beautiful but I forgot my camera!

Directions: Take I70 west and exit at Fall River Road ( Exit #238), turn right on to Fall River Road take it up 10 miles past the town of Alice. Look for the Glacier Hike sign on your left; 100 yards past the sign is a public parking lot. $5 to park.

Windswept

Windswept

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James Peak (2nd time’s the charm!) Via St. Mary’s Glacier, Alice CO hiked 8/31/13

4 Sep

1

James Peak has been haunting me since we had to turn around with the summit in view because of lightning.  I had figured doing a 14er over a long weekend would make more sense but I struggled a little bit at 12,550Ft last weekend so I decided to put it off one more week and worked this repeater/failed summit attempt into our schedule.

2

Here are the details of the first time we hiked James Peak.

We got a very early start ( 6:30AM) and so pretty much had the trail to ourselves.  It was a perfect morning, cool with a slight breeze to keep me from sweating too much and almost no clouds in the sky.  I just missed sunrise itself but the sky was coming alive with sun while it set the mountains on fire.  It was awesome.

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The shocking part for me was seeing how dramatically different the Glacier itself was, like a third of the size it was just 2 months ago.  We ended up walking up most of the way on the glacier rubble  and only had to do a short stretch on the remaining snow.  Here are a couple of  pictures

2 months ago the snow came up to where I was standing taking this picture

2 months ago the snow came up to where I was standing taking this picture

No more glacier here just rubble and some running water from what is melting above

No more glacier here just rubble and some running water from what is melting above

The other amazing part of nature here was how vast all the flowers were throughout the glacier rubble given that 2 months ago it was all under snow and now these were so robust!

flowers2

This bush was covered in butterflies and bumble bees....also growing in Glacier Rubble

This bush was covered in butterflies and bumble bees….also growing in Glacier Rubble

The glacier wasn’t the only part of the hike alive with flowers, the flats had these beauties everywhere and they stretched up to the summit climb.

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I will admit I was not feeling so hot almost the whole climb up the glacier and once on the flats, I was pretty certain I was going to be sick.  I slowed it down and tried to drink as much water as I could and as we moved along the flats I started to feel better, until we hit the summit climb.  I can tell how bad I was feeling in that I completely flaked taking any pictures of it but we did keep going and little by little I started to get it under control.

We made it past our turnaround point from the last attempt with the skies looking beautiful and the wind stopping almost completely.   There are some steep parts through the switchbacks up but really it wasn’t too bad and before we knew it we had crested the ridge to the summit.

me on the summit

me on the summit

The Summit views looking North

The Summit views looking North

Summit facing East and a little North

Summit facing East and a little North

At the top we had it mostly to ourselves and one other couple, who were a wealth of hiking information.  Before I knew it, we had been talking to them for almost an hour!  We quickly got some pictures and then headed down as the summit started to get more crowded.  On the way down we saw this gentleman come up with his Lamas or alpacas, who were clearly very well-loved, I think he was a continental divide trail through hiker.  How cool to through hike with these companions!

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This hike was amazing, getting to the summit and see for miles was the best part of my week!  I also had great views of Grays and Torrey’s, which I think will be our next 14ers, we had amazing views of them throughout the hike.

The flats Grays n torreys

As always, I hope if you find yourself out this way, you can check out the hike it is worth every step up!  Now for some of our favorite pictures of the day.

to show how quickly things change weather wise...one the way to James peak beautiful blue skys

to show how quickly things change weather wise…on the way to James peak beautiful blue sky

Looking back on our way down from the same view point

Looking back on our way down from the same view-point we got to the car as it started to down pour

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