Day 3: Near Death in RMNP

We hiked nearly ten miles today and when we finished we ran into a Ranger who asked what we had hiked. When we told him, he gasped, and said, “Isn’t it really dangerous?” Yes, sir. It was an unplanned risky hike. I’ll start at the beginning though.
We started at the Bear Lake area again and it was a perfect morning. A cool nip in the air and the trail began with a decent. We hiked to one of the most gorgeous waterfalls I have laid eyes on. At that point all the other hikers turned around and we forged on toward even more beautiful things like lakes and waterfalls and mountains and little cute critters scurrying about. The hike including all of that. It was breathtaking. The kind where you stop and keep etching the environment into your memory so you never forget it.
The other thing the trail had a lot of was snow. Like a whole lot of snow. It was in the 70s and lovely weather, so the snow crushed a bit below our feet with each step. If we didn’t have a good grip with our heels we’d slip and slide a bit. Super fun! I really felt like a kid.
It was somewhere between the boulders and snow mounds that we lost the trail. Several times. It wasn’t scary though. We just got out the GPS and followed the “red line” really closely. We also kept an eye out for any indication of the trail and would occasionally find evidence of where we were supposed to be. We did quickly learned​ not to trust the footprints of other hikers. They often strayed far from the actual path, indicating they didn’t​ have a GPS or they were looking for a way different adventure than us.
The hiking itself was pretty tough. The unexpected slipping messed with my muscles. They’d be prepared to land on a secure snow patch, but then would be dropped many inches and the area wasn’t in fact sturdy. The huge boulders that sprinkle the trail used their heat to melt nearby snow causing weak patches that always surprised me. We also had to cross several snow bridges, not ideal, but we made it work by making super safe choices. Our ultimate destination had been Lake Haiyaha and it was the most peaceful spot in the world. It was tricky to get to, but we did a great job and all had a lot of fun.
While at the lake we ran into the only other group of hikers we’d seen up to that point of the day and they said that the hike from Bear Lake (the way we were heading back) was similar to what we had just done. In fact, we warned them that what we had been though was probably worse.
We began the decent back down the mountain and were overwhelmed with the beauty. (That’s where we went live again on Facebook.) Very shortly after that video we encountered what was probably our second most terrifying portion of a hike ever. (The flash floods at Arches two years ago is the first.) The snow that we had been working our way across suddenly took the shape of the side of the mountain we were on. Other hikers had formed an extremely narrow ledge, it was no larger than a few inches across. The drop off that ledge was several hundred feet straight down. One by one, we ever so carefully made our way across. One tiny, brave step at a time. Once we crossed the ledge, about 30 feet long, we took the deepest breath imaginable. We had all made it. I muttered some very bad words to Zak that indicated my fear, frustration, and relief it was over. He nodded his head in agreement and uttered them back.
We thought we were in the clear, but within a few hundred yards we were confronted with the exact same situation. Again. You should of seen us. Except, for you mom. You would of been crying and then we would of gotten in a lot of trouble. Zak led, digging really good heal marks for the the rest of us. He was cautious and did a good job leading. Zoe followed and showed incredible strength. She just did exactly what Zak had done, literally following in his footsteps. Ellie cried before hand and claimed she wasn’t going to do it. I encouraged her and she did what she needed to. I was holding her and my hiking sticks, the camera, and all the rest of my crap. I was really scared, but I put that far enough in the back of my mind to continue to cheer Ellie on and get across myself. And then we had all completed it!
Then we were confronted two more before the end of the hike. I thought it would never stop and I was really upset with the other group for not mentioning a word to us. It was terrifyingly remarkable that we all survived. But we did. And now we are laughing about it.
Once we were off all the Death Ledges we were suddenly thrown into the crazy popular area. We did a few more miles of the crowded hikes that were uneventful enough. Just lots of slipping and sliding around.
After the hike, we found the car worked our way across on Trail Ridge Road and we disappointed to see that the Visitor’s Center had closed for the day. We’re leaving the park without stamps for our NP passports or postcards. Oh well.
We ended the day in Winter Park and found a great brewery that capped the crazy day off just right.

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2 thoughts on “Day 3: Near Death in RMNP

  1. And somehow I am thinking that this won’t be the MOST dangerous of your treks this summer!

  2. Day 3 and you’re already “near death”? I don’t need any more drop-off ledge stories. Seriously. Beautiful photos again.

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