Sep 19, 2010 at 11:07 am #1263462
We started the trip hiking from Bear Lake to Odessa Lake to camp for the night. The next day we climbed Ptarmigan Glacier to reach the Continental Divide. The Glacier itself is about 600 feet tall. We hiked out via the Flattop Mountain Trail to Bear Lake. We took a side trip to Fern Lake for some backcountry fly fishing. Permitting good weather, the hike from Bear Lake to Lake Helene to Ptarmigan Glacier and exiting via Flattop would be a great day hike with appropriate gear (read on).
Here I am on the trail to our Odessa Lake campsite.
Near the Odessa Lake Campsite
We hiked down to Fern Lake after setting up camp to catch some Greenback Cutthroat trout. Here are a few pics…
Getting some early morning calories in preparation for our ascent of Ptarmigan Glacier later that day.
One of the spectacular views from our Odessa Lake campsite
Near Lake Helene
The tundra colors were amazing…
Above Lake Helene. North of Flattop Mountain. Heading up towards Ptarmigan Glacier.
Eric hiking towards the glacier… spectacular views!
Backside of Notchtop Mountain. I wished I brought a wider angled lens to capture both the mountain and it colors reflecting in the pool.
For several hundred yards we found bones scattered in the talus. Eventually we figured out what animal it came from.
The snow fields this late in the fall were nearly solid ice in the early morning. Making traversing them more difficult due to the exposure. We had brought along Kathoola Microspikes and we are glad we did. We also had ice axes, that were essential to do this hike. We didn't bring helmets which in retrospect I regretted while on the glacier itself.
The majority of the upper basin is rocks on top of several feet of ice. In places 12+ feet of ice was visible with the boulders resting on top of them. This made the stability of the boulders less than ideal.
Here we have began our final ascent to the Continental Divide.
As you might expect, the glacier itself it quite steep. This required an ice axe and as mentioned above I would bring a helmet next time. Marmots above were knocking baseball sized rocks down the slopes and they would whiz by our heads… (scary!). Sections of the upper glacier are approximately 50 or so degrees steep. With only microspikes available we opted to skirt the side of the glacier hoping on and off the occasional rock that was frozen in the ice. At times there were 10 to 20 foot sections without stable rocks. A few times we needed to drive our ice axes into the glacier to facilitate stable upwards movement. I'm not so sure we attempted this at the most difficult time of the year when the glacier was mostly solid ice without snow pack on top? A short piece of climbing rope (30') with a climbing biner would have been nice to set up a bit of fall protection (clipping into a sunken ice axe). Self arresting with the axe on this sheet of ice would not have been idea.
We were all smiles at the top. Feeling that we accomplishing something but also being thankful neither were injured. There is an impressive bergschrund at the top of the glacier.
We dropped our packs at the top and explored the western side of the glacier. Here is Eric heading back up the the divide.
Looking back on our route for the morning.
We headed due west toward the wonderland area. You can see the west side lakes near Grand Lake from this view.
Resting an injured iliotibial band (outside left knee) and refueling. We opted out of dropping down on the west side of the divide to fish Lake Nanita. Instead we hobbled back down the Flattop Mountain Trail back to Bear Lake.
Watching the clouds build and thinking we best be heading off the mountain.
One last view of Odessa Gorge (Odessa Lake, our initial location for the day is on the left).
I've never seen a Pika in the park so I was excited to do so!
Longs and Glacier Gorge from the Flattop Mountain Trail.Sep 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm #1646979
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
Nice trip photos, Brian. Odessa Gorge is one of my favorite areas in the park and September is my favorite time to be up there with all the reds and golds above treeline. I've got to hand it to you guys climbing the glacier using just Microspikes.Sep 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm #1646998
@skyzoLocale: Borah Gear
very nice pictures! what type of camera were you using?Sep 19, 2010 at 5:03 pm #1647032
@creachenLocale: East Bay
Excellent pictures Brian—I really need to get the Rockies next season……Sep 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm #1647065
Dondo – In retrospect, I'll bring more serious climbing gear when I do something like this again.
John – I was shooting with an old Canon G7. It's my wife camera but I plan to pick up a Panasonic LX5 sometime in the near future. To me the latter will be a much more versatile camera for these types of trips.Sep 20, 2010 at 7:08 am #1647173
Good work, Brian, and great photos. We must have been right behind you. We camped at Odessa Lake the night of the 16th, as we traversed from Bear Lake to the Fern Lake TH. It's maybe my favorite part of the park. At Odessa, we happened to meet Lisa Foster, who was carrying her 15 month old baby in a not-very-light baby carrier. She described her climb up that same glacier a few years ago. Man, you were brave to do that the way you did! Thanks for sharing your very creative trip.Sep 20, 2010 at 7:33 am #1647181
How cool Gary! I agree with you Odessa Gorge is simply spectacular. What a treat to meet Lisa Foster. For those who don't know her – she wrote "THE" book on backcountry travel in RMNP. Curious – what was her take on the glacier?Sep 20, 2010 at 6:52 pm #1647359
Wonderful picturesSep 22, 2010 at 11:03 am #1647908
Thanks Andy!Sep 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm #1647943
@kat_pLocale: Pacific Coast
What incredible pictures. How much experience with morraine/glacier crossing did you have before this trip? And maybe I missed it, but do you have some sort of a gear list for this particular trip?
Thanks for posting this.Sep 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm #1647947
Beautiful! Thanks for sharingSep 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm #1647961
Wow, great pictures! Thanks for sharing your trip. There are just so many places in the CO high country to explore. And nothing better than fresh fish out on the trail.Sep 22, 2010 at 7:41 pm #1648083
Katharina – Beyond snow field traversal with exposure this was our first time on a "glacier". I read quite a bit about glacier travel prior to the trip but still plan to take a course sometime soon. "Ptarmigan Glacier" is most likely a glacier remnant and not an active glacier so keep that in mind. Since it was not snow covered, I was not worried too much about falling in crevasses.
Regarding a gear list, I don't have anything handy that I could share electronically but I'd be more than happy to let you know anything in particular we used.
For the exposure we used Kahtoola Microspikes and our ice axes. As I mentioned in the report I'd bring a helmet and perhaps a climbing biner and a short section of static rope next time. I'd also bring a real set of crampons and not the microspikes. There were times that the exposure of an uncontrolled slide down the ice was a real concern. Having the above ice gear would have decreased the risk quite a bit.
RMNP now requires bear cannisters on all overnight backcountry camps so we each carried one. We shared a DuoMid and had our own bivy sacks.
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