Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hiking - Shelf & Solitude Lakes

I thought I'd try to ease back into blogging a little bit, just in case anyone out there is still persistent enough to keep reading. Actually, if you're still reading I think we've gone past "persistent" into "stubborn".

So, let's look at a few of the photos I've been collected during my blogging hiatus. Today, a few from a hiking day trip up to Shelf and Solitude Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. This trip was back in August, so I'm only a few months late...

It's actually a pretty long hike, about 11 miles round trip and quite a bit of vertical. The first bit is plenty nice, though initially rather crowded as it's off the popular Glacier Gorge trailhead and goes past Alberta Falls. After a few miles you get to the lake pictured above, which is Mills Lake if I recall correctly.

Hey look, I was actually there! I figure you need at least one photo of me standing around, mostly because it makes the background look that much prettier by comparison.

The last couple miles of trail to Shelf and Solitude is actually an unofficial trail, and as such isn't marked nor very well traveled. Luckily a marmot appeared to block our path just as we got to the turnoff. He literally stopped us from going too far. So if you ever want to go there, remember to just hike until you see a marmot and that'll be the turnoff. Actually wait, instead just follow Debbie's directions, they're much more reliable than that damned unreliable wildlife.

So did I mention there's a lot of climbing on this trail? The unofficial part of the trail goes basically straight up the valley wall. It's probably steeper than your average staircase for about a half mile or more. Most of the bottom is in a pine forest, but then you break out into a bolder field. I took this photo looking back down that super-steep slope. Notice how you can't see any sky - that's not because I cropped it out. It's just that steep.

But here's the payoff! Shelf lake is just ridiculously pretty - big wide waterfalls into a placid alpine lake. After seeing 10 or 20 high altitude lakes you might start to think they're all the same, but this one is really something special.

And after a relatively short climb you get to the source of those waterfalls, Solitude Lake. Also a pretty one, though to be perfectly honest I like Shelf a little bit better.

Here's a panorama of Shelf Lake I took on the walk back down. Might be worth clicking through for the big version if you're into that kind of thing.


So that's pretty much it for Shelf and Solitude Lakes. I highly recommend them, but only if you can hack the 5 mile hike, followed by a climb/scramble 1000+ feet up a non-trail in about half a mile, and then going back down. Oh, the hike tops out around 12,000 or 13,000 feet. Even then, I'd take a buddy - it would be easy to slip and hurt yourself on the way down.