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It's pretty much a sure thing to run into crowds on the trail on any Saturday here in the National Park. I thought that I would surely be following others footprints up the Glacier Gorge Trail, especially since I was starting out at a little after 7:00. But luck was on my side and, while I wasn't the first one at the trail head, I was the first one on the trail, so I got to walk in the freshly fallen snow the entire 5 miles to Sky Pond.
The day started out very gray and I almost left the camera behind just so I wouldn't have to carry the extra weight. This was to be more of a getting back in shape day anyhow. But I figured that I would regret it if I didn't bring the camera along and I told myself that the extra weight would be good for me. So I got situated, had the camera on and the tripod strapped to my pack and was off.
It was great to be walking in the fresh powder with no sign of a trail. It had been a while since I have been in these conditions. Everything looks so pristine and freshly created. It is neat to me to think that there are still places in America that look the exact same way they did when people started settling these areas a few hundred years ago...still untouched.
The hike was pretty uneventful all the way to The Loch (a beautiful lake in Loch Vale). Then the sky started clearing and an absolutely breathtaking scene developed right before my eyes. I decided it would be a good time to play with my GND (Graduated Neutral Density) filter. But apparently the foreground was bright enough in the photos so I messed up all the pictures I took while using the filter. A couple turned out, but most looked pretty sad. Kind of discouraging, but at least I have a reason (as if I even need one) to get back out there again and give it another try. I took a few photos at The Loch, then started the ascent toward Timberline Falls.
I had always heard that the place where you must climb to get above the falls was very difficult while covered in snow and ice. I did it a few years ago, but couldn't remember anything about it. Plus, there was tons of snow on the slopes near the falls and I didn't want to get caught in a small slide or anything. With all of that in mind I decide to head to the eastern side of the valley, crossing Embryo Lake, and then try to find a more gentle slope in order to gain the shelf, above Timberline Falls, that contains Lake of Glass and Sky Pond. This would take me along the lower slopes on Thatchtop Mountain.
It was such a peaceful time. So quiet. So beautiful. I would stop at times just to listen to the nothing. Until a jet would fly over head, then I'd pick up the pace and focus on my destination. Once I made it to Embryo Lake, I started heading up the slopes to my left. It was simply boulder hopping, made tricky with snowshoes on, over small boulders up steep slopes until I gained a gentle "ridge" that led me up to a small boulder knoll that had awesome views into the upper reaches of the gorge and of Timberline Falls below me.
I stopped here to drink a bit of water and eat a little. It was a perfect day. I was enjoying the warmth of the sunshine, on an otherwise chilly morning, and noticed something moving just above the falls. It was a small herd of bighorn sheep! I snapped a few pics from where I was and then decided to try to get a bit closer to get a better look. I picked the best way over this boulder field and deep snowdrifts to where the sheep were. I guess they moved uphill a tad bit when they saw me coming, but otherwise they didn't seem to mind my being there. I took a few pictures and then let them get back to what they were doing.
At this point, I was only yards away from Lake of Glass. So I got some shots of the lake with Taylor Peak, Powell Peak and the Cathedral Spires towering two thousand feet above. As I was walking across the lake on my way to Sky Pond I herd this loud crack...almost like a gunshot, but more like the cracking of a big whip. I looked up to see an enormous avalanche coming off of the sheer face of Taylor Peak. I was in awe. It was like a giant wave of snow plummeting off the face. This mass of falling snow slammed into the valley floor with an unbelievable explosion of snow and ice. It made the entire valley rumble. I had never seen anything like it before. I don't know how this avalanche would rate with others...probably not very big...but it amazed me. Once I realized what was happening I tried to get my camera set up, but all I got was THIS shot. I zoomed in and cropped it and made some adjustments so that the snow cloud and the rest of the snow trickling off of the face could be more visible. I waited with my camera ready to see if there would be anymore, but there were just a few smaller ones that didn't turn out well.
I stopped a few times on the short walk to Sky Pond to keep my eye on Taylor Peak, but nothing as exciting happened. Once at Sky Pond I just sat there and enjoyed the scene. What a special place. This could be the most scenic lake in the park. Just incredible. I got up and was taking some pictures with the tripod when I thought I heard another slide. I turned around and realized it was a jet. But as I turned, I lost my balance and fell back toward my camera and broke one of the legs off of my tripod. Luckily I had my first aid kit so I was able to get a turnicate in my (now) bipod, and stop the bleeding. I did have to beat it unconscious with it's wayward appendage to get it to stop screaming. With this tragedy in play, I decide I should carry my old, trusty friend out on my pack rather than leave him there to go get help. So with my bipod in tow, I had a great trip back to the trail head.
I ended up glissading down just to the right of Timberline Falls (which would have been an easy ascent). The way down is always so much fun, especially when there is a good amount of fresh snow. There is usually a soft landing!
I hope you enjoying this little trip report...as I sure enjoyed the day out and about.
|until next time...|
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