Mohawk Lakes ~ Cut Short - Snowshoeing

May 3, 2019 · White River National Forest

The original plan for this snowshoeing trek was to go to at least Lower Mohawk Lake and at best to Upper Mohawk Lake. I have been to Mohawk Lakes in a previous summer hiking season, so I wasn't sure how far I could get. I do remember that the pitch to Lower Mohawk Lake is steep and that there is a steep incline along the side of Lower Mohawk Lake on the way to Upper Mohawk Lake.

The weather for the trek was perfect, a very light breeze and clear blue skies, making the snowshoe trek very warm. I did have to stop several times to remove layers as it was so warm. There were very few people on the trail and up until the pitch to Lower Mohawk Lake it was very easy as the trail had been groomed by a snow cat.

This is a shoulder season and there is a mix of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and people in snow boots along the trail. I didn't see many people along the trail on the way in but did see a few people on the way out. It's unusual to see the same people on different trails, though I do remember three women from DU on the way out. I remember them because I saw them on a different trail the next day.

This year was a big year for avalanches, and there were scars from avalanches from this season as well. What I found interesting about them was that they didn't look like they were large avalanches, given what I could tell as their source was, but the number of freshly downed and mangled trees was obvious; even a small avalanche carries a powerful punch.

There were very few clouds in the sky, making for a picture-perfect day on the trail. The Spring sun is beginning to do its work of melting the snow, and the snow has a hard crust and dry powder just below it, making for the feeling of walking on a frozen lake that could give out any moment. There are two abandoned cabins and a mine shaft just below the pitch to Lower Mohawk Lake, and in the summer this is a popular gathering point, but today, there was nobody there, I was the first person there in a day or two as there were no fresh tracks at the abandoned cabins.

When I was at the cabins, I looked at the map and knew this next part would be tricky, it was very steep and there were only two sets of old ski tracks coming down the side of the steep pitch. I started up the side of the mountain, trying to keep close to the ski tracks. It was very steep and with each step I would punch through the crusted surface of the snow and sink up to the knee in dry powder and slip back a bit.

Since this face was so steep and given there was powder just below the surface, I was concerned I might trigger an avalanche. I mistakenly started to try and run up the side of the mountain to try and cover as much ground as quickly as I could. This was the single most strenuous, not stressful, strenuous thing I have ever done on the trail. My heart rate has never been that high.

When I decided that the risk of triggering an avalanche was too great, I stopped and waited for my heart rate to come down. During this sprint up the side of the mountain I did hear two different cornices collapse, heightening the sense of what was going on. A collapsing cornice sounds likes like loud, heavy boom followed by the sound of rolling thunder.

Looking back down the side of the mountain at my tracks, it was obvious, I was making a fault-line in the snow for a slab to break away and start an avalanche. A number of scenarios went through my mind, from best to worst; I would not trigger an avalanche, to if it triggers, it triggers below me and nothing more, to if it triggers at the fault-line I made, it will suck me down with it, to if it triggers at the fault-line I made, the shelf just above it would be come unstable and come down over me and drag me down the mountain side.

That's when I decided that this was far enough, and it was time to make my way back down the fault-line I created and down just below the abandoned cabins. On my way back out, since it was still very early in the day, I decided to try for Crystal Lake, or at least to stay out on the trail for a few extra hours; the weather was beautiful; at this point I felt like a little kid in the summer, "I want to stay outside and play! Just a little longer!"

By the time I made my way back along Wheeler trail to Crystal Creek Trail, I came to a point on the Crystal Creek trail that indicated it was going to be the same thing as the pitch to Lower Mohawk Lake. So, I decided to turn back. By this time, the trek to Lower Mohawk Lake had turned into a circuit along parts of Wheeler Trail, Spruce Creek Trail, Burro Trail and Crystal Creek Trail.

All in all, about 7.7 miles of snowshoeing in perfect weather. Though I didn't make it to Lower Mohawk Lake, this odd circuit produced a lot of great memories.


SIMILAR TRAILS

Many Lakes ~ Small Loop - Snowshoeing

March 17, 2019 · The plan was to snowshoe to the many (frozen) lakes in the Bear Lake area of Rocky Mountain National Park. However, due to the number of social snowshoe trails, none of which looked convincing enough to continue past Dream Lake and Lake Haiyaha, after that the laid snowshoe trail...

Mills Lake - Snowshoeing

December 1, 2018 · Snowshoeing to Mills Lake in RMNP was marked by wind and a lot of it. The trek started out at a brisk 21 degrees and the warmest that I saw on my anemometer was 24 degrees. It was overcast for most of the trek with windblown snow. Mills Lake is one of the few easy access trails o...

Lily Lake - Snowshoeing

April 14, 2019 · The trail to Lily Lake is an offshoot of the Colorado Trail / Continental Divide Trail along Tennessee Pass in the San Isabel National Forest. It is not a difficult trail in snowshoes with a total out-and-back elevation gain of a little over 900 feet. Though for the first half of...

AREAS HIKED

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness10
Eagles Nest Wilderness10
Fossil Ridge Wilderness1
Fraser Experimental Forest1
Gunnison National Forest1
Holy Cross Wilderness12
Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness3
Indian Peaks Wilderness15
James Peak Wilderness4
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness2
Mount Evans Wilderness2
Mount Massive Wilderness2
Pike National Forest1
Raggeds Wilderness1
Rocky Mountain National Park41
San Isabel National Forest6
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness2
White River National Forest10
Zirkel Wilderness1

TRAILS BY MONTH

January3
February2
March2
April3
May5
June16
July26
August26
September28
October6
November5
December3

SEASONS ON THE TRAIL

2021

The 2021 Season has started. Though the pandemic created a challenging 2020 season, I am looking forward to building on the 2020 season to create an incredible 2021 season. The pandemic has taught me a few things about when and where to go hiking. As such planning for the 2021 se...

2020

The 2020 hiking season has been incredible, even in the face of adversity. The pandemic has made for a logistically challenging season. Somehow, I was still able to piece together an incredible 230+ miles on the trail this season and able to see some truly spectacular places. Enj...

2019

The 2019 hiking season was an interesting season, this was the first season that I started and ended the season snowshoeing and a full summer of hiking for a total of just under 225 miles on the trail. What this season has taught me is that it's winter in the mountains for a long...

2018

The 2018 Summer Hiking Season has come to an end. What a season, incredible views and just over 230 miles on the trail. Even with 230 miles, this season seems short to me, perhaps I'll add something to it during the winter season - snowshoeing perhaps. In the meantime, I hope you...

2017

The 2017 hiking season was interesting, I was able to explorer more of Colorado's National Forests and get in some camping, not as much camping as I would have liked, but hopefully next year I'll able to get in more multi-day hikes. This season came in just under 129 miles roundt...

2016

The 2016 hiking season was about spreading out and exploring more of Eagles Nest Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness and touching on White River National Forest - and of course a few trips into Rocky Mountain National Park. These are amazing National treasures. This season came i...

2015

The 2015 hiking season was a big hiking season, I decided to do a fundraiser for The Red Cross (I learned a lot about fundraising - it was very interesting) with my pledge to hike over 200 miles for this season, I came in at 217 miles for the season; what a great time out on the ...

2014

The 2014 hiking season was almost all about exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, it really is a beautiful park. What I learned during the course of this hiking season is, although people may roll their eyes when you say you're going on a hike in RMNP, it really is spectacular ...

2013

2013 is the year this all started. The hike to Pitkin Lake started it all. Although it was a difficult trail, I was hooked immediately. However, I didn't have the right gear and the seasons were changing quickly. So, even though this season only brought two hikes, I new this was ...