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Active Expert: Gale Bernhardt

1 Post tagged with the backcountry_ski tag

I mentioned in last week’s blog that the Wednesday temperature was 70 degrees. I was mountain biking on that day. Just two days later on Friday we had a big snowstorm. With San Diego friends Rob Klingensmith and Julie Gildred in town, it was perfect timing to snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday. Sunday was a 100-mile road ride. Now if I could have squeezed in a water skiing afternoon…


Big temperature swings are common for Colorado in March. It is also our biggest snow month. While the unruly weather can make some endurance athletes anxious, it affords others the chance to play in the snow just one more time before Mother Nature turns it into drinking water.


The Bear Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park sits at a tidy 9,450 ft. elevation. It is a popular trailhead both summer and winter. Though I’ve snowshoed this trail before, I didn’t realize it was so popular for backcountry skiers, until last weekend.


The trail begins as a gentle walk and it doesn’t take long for it to get steep. With the recent snow and wind, the trail was off-camber and was challenging in a few areas. There were some perfectly flat areas, three to be exact – frozen Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. Below is a photo of Scott Ellis with Hallett Peak behind his right shoulder.  (I think just before we crossed Dream Lake.)



I forgot to mention that when we left the town of Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the temperature was a blazing 4 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t remember what the temperature was when we left the Bear Lake parking lot, but don’t let the sunshine deceive you. Sun or no sun, the wind was whipping and it was cold.


Below is a great shot of the snowshoe trail barely visible through the wind.


I don’t have any shots of crossing Emerald Lake, which I admit creeped me out. I don’t really like the thought of crossing a lake on showshoes with winter clothes on. Below are links to photos taken by other people that give you a seasonal perspective of the Emerald Lake and Hallett Peak:

Larry Moskovitz – late spring (mid-June)

Q.T. Long – early summer

Gordon S. Novak Jr. – likely late summer


Notice the rockslide area above the lake on the Novak photo. In winter, that area is captured up close and personal in the photo below. The person closest to you, in the middle of the photo, is Rob Klingensmith. He hiked up through deeply drifted snow to capture photos of skiers. You can see the tiny figures hiking up the mountain in front of Rob. They are using “skins” on backcountry skis to hike uphill. They remove the skins at the top of the hill and ski down. They are tough to see, but there are the ski tracks coming toward Rob, near dead center of the photo. Barely visible in this photo, to the left of those tracks, are more tracks originating higher up the mountain.


A great day in the mountains of Colorado!


You can find a few more photos on this public Facebook link.

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