Chasm Lake

Chasm Lake (Boulder – Front Range)

  • TH: Long’s Peak TH off of highway 7.
  • Attempted 5/19/15
  • Apprx 8.4 miles round trip
  • Apprx 4-5 hr hike depending on snow depth
  • Moderate-Strenuous snowshoe trip
    • +2,450′ net gain (11,823′ at lake)
  • Snowshoes were required only after a mile or so into the hike.
  • Equipment:
    • sunblock (the reflection off the snow will burn you like you wouldn’t believe)
    • sunglasses
    • snowshoes (you’ll likely need these to reach the lake)
    • microspikes (it is hard packed at the bottom of the trail, but we didn’t use ours, might be dead weight)
    • hiking poles to balance along the waterfall
    • Gaiters (you’ll definitely want these)

A friend and I were going to go hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, but drove by chasm lake and decided to just hike this instead.  We arrived at the TH around 7:30a or so and there were only 2-3 other cars there too.  It was a very warm day so the snow in the trees was dripping down onto us the entirety of the hike until we broke treeline.

After treeline
After treeline

While it was pretty icy at the bottom from the freeze overnight, it wasn’t long before snowshoes were required in the trees to prevent post holing.  Once you climb through the treeline, which is a relatively rolling climb until the final part, you’ll reach an open section where you can view east down the valley to some other mountains.  Some mountains will come into view in front of you, it is part of the mountain connected to Long’s Peak.  Even though you can see the ridge, it takes awhile to reach it.  The snow here is relatively deep unless it has been walked through, so snowshoes are a must at this time of year.  Once you reach the ridge, you’ll see the final section required to get to the lake.  Below you is a smaller lake (I think, it was snow covered).

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I climbed a rock and jumped off it. Action shot!

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From here the trail ended, no more tracks actually led to the lake, everyone bailed here.  We decided to trek on, as we only had been hiking for a little while.  While we could have hiked down the valley and back up to the lake (which Natalee thought was the correct summer route), we decided to take a line along the “waterfall” that would save us the elevation gain.  It was pretty soft snow under us and the water ran along the rocks to under our snow (but was iced on top).  We figured it wouldn’t remain safe enough to cross within two weeks.

We made a friend along the ridge.  He was kind of an ass and dropped some rocks from above...
We made a friend along the ridge. He was kind of an ass and dropped some rocks from above…
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This shows the steepness of the ridge we hiked along. We eventually had to hike down a little bit and back up because it got too steep to continue climbing. Keep it safe and don’t climb something too high or too steep. Hike down to get to a less steep section.

Once we negotiated around the ridge and all of its rocks, we climbed back up a short hill and a short distance to the lake.  The lake was beautiful, especially with snow covered all over it!  It was so steep that we thought glissading down some sections would make for an easier time, but that wasn’t necessarily the case.

Thanks to Natalee, the world can see of my wipeout glissading
Thanks to Natalee, the world can see of my wipeout glissading

There is a video to accompany that picture, but I didn’t dare post that.  I wish I took pictures of the lake, but it was pretty windy and chilly, then the fog rolled in over the mountains encircling the lake – so I didn’t take any pictures.  I would, however, highly suggest this hike for anyone looking for a more strenuous snowshoeing trip to a beautiful destination!  Apparently you can even get to Long’s Peak from here in the summertime!

Overall, I would definitely suggest this as a snowshoeing trip and I think I will do it again in future winters!  I would, however, not advise people to tackle this trip unless they know how to read avalanche terrain.  From the ridge to the lake, which I labeled as us walking along the “waterfall,” is the right steepness for prime avalanche terrain (30-60 degree slope).  We even saw a few sections that had avalanched from the time we hiked to the lake to the time we did a return trip – we figured they were either triggered by the group that tried to follow us or, more likely, the mountain goat from above.  They were small, so we didn’t fret, but we took it cautious on our ascent and especially our descent.  Know how to feel the snow under you to feel if it is solid or feels like a shelf is under you (if the snow feels like it has multiple densities, there are layers; if you just stick your hiking pole through at one pretty continuous speed, it is one solid layer without shelves).  While this doesn’t guarantee avalanche-free, it is a useful way to detect if a section is too dangerous to trek across.  You don’t always have to summit/reach your destination if it proves to be too dangerous that day or too dangerous for your skills.  I would also advise people to look at avi videos about what to do if you are caught in one and about how to most effectively get your friend out if they get caught in a slide.

Don’t let that discourage you, just be prepared is all 🙂  Definitely a beautiful hike!!

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