Wintry Logs At Lake Odessa
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I had to laugh when I got to Bear Lake and saw the conditions on this cold, snowy November morning. Well actually, I couldn’t see much of anything – dark, cloudy, snowy, and windy with at least 6 inches of fresh snow in the parking lot. And knowing that active weather can make for some spectacular photography, I told myself to ignore my instincts. So instead of turning around and driving back home to my warm bed, I met up with friends Wayne Boland and Erik Page and at 3:30am started out into the blustery wilderness on a snowshoe trek to Lake Odessa.

At the beginning of each winter season, the cold seems to chill me to the bone. But this time, things were different. I had snowshoes and motivation to use them. And beyond that, I had some good friends who were heading up for an early morning snowshoe trip to Lake Odessa in Rocky Mountain National Park. So this winter season, I decided to grab the bull by the horns.

The route to Lake Odessa from Bear Lake included a climb up to a ridge and then a descent down to the lake – about 2,800 feet of vertical climbing over 8.8 miles round trip. So with all the climbing, we had no problem keeping warm – even with the stormy conditions. After about 2 miles, all the tracks from people who’d climbed in days earlier had disappeared thanks to all the new and blowing snow. And with the deep snowpack already covering up all the markings for the trails, I quickly gained an appreciation for the fact that Wayne was prepared with gps. Even with gps though, finding our route was still a challenge. I’d been in that same area just 2 months earlier in September, but it looked completely different in November!

After making it to the top of the ridge, we proceeded down the shelf route to Lake Odessa in deep untracked snow and minimal visibility. We made it to our target before sunrise as planned, but with all the stormy clouds, we didn’t get to see any of the beautiful early morning light we’d hoped for. Fortunately as we got to the lake, the storm clouds raised up just a bit letting us get a glimpse of the rugged peaks up the valley above Lake Odessa and the capture shown above before closing back in. And while it doesn’t show any alpenglow, the image above seems to have some really cool winter mountain character on its own.

Once we finished our little photo session, we headed back up to the ridgeline on the return to Bear Lake. And while I don’t usually have to climb on my return trips to the parking lot, at least I was mentally prepared for it. As it turned out, this part of the climb was probably the toughest leg of the trip. Conditions got even more stormy so even our tracks from the route down to the lake had disappeared. This meant that Erik & Wayne had to break trail the whole way up through the deep untracked snow. Being the slower one in the group, I tended not to lead. Even as challenging as it was though, I’ll admit that this stretch was probably the prettiest part! It was actually in this spot where I decided that for me, snowshoeing in the backcountry is an awesome escape that I really enjoy – as much as any other I’ve tried. I’m really glad I’ve been able to try it.

Anyway, after getting a little lost near Lake Helene, we got back on track for the traverse around Flattop Mountain and the descent to Bear Lake. Thanks to Wayne Boland and Erik Page for having me join them and for showing so much patience. We saw some awesome terrain and even with all the challenges (or maybe because of them), it was a whole lot of fun!

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Wintry Logs At Lake Odessa

Lazy logs settle in for a cold winter at the downstream end of Lake Odessa in Rocky Mountain National Park. Little Matterhorn appears in the distance just before cloud covered Notchtop Mountain and other peaks.

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Date Captured:
Nov 21, 2010
Colorado, Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park
Photo Gear:
Nikon D300 with a Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 Lens
Vertical 3:2
Ice / Snow, Mountains
Dark, Warm