Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ice Lake Basin

Ice Lake or Ice Lakes Basin is believed by many to be the most beautiful place in Colorado, visited by a lot of people despite how remote and hard it is to get to.  It took us about an hour and a half after we left Telluride and drove over Ophir Pass to get to the trailhead at South Mineral Campground not far from Silverton.

The trailhead is at 9,810 feet above elevation.  We had a long hike of going up.

Jay helped Maralee get across the main water crossing.

We were at about 12,275 feet here.  Ice Lake is an eye popping shade of blue.  The explanation of the blue color is best at, "Upper Ice Lake is a glacial tarn—a lake carved and fed by glaciers—that gets its near-fluorescent blue color from rock flour. When a glacier moves, it grinds the bedrock below, creating a crushed-rock powder that suspends in the water and absorbs the sun’s light spectrum in a way that creates a beautiful cerulean appearance. There are only a handful of similarly colored glacial lakes in the state."

The wildflowers in the basin are stunning. I've never seen so many Indian Paintbrush in one place. I cut off Vermillion Peak here for the view of the wildflowers, but Vermillion is the highest peak in San Juan County at 13,894 feet. I also mentioned this peak in my photos of our hike to Hope Lake, which is in a basin just on the other side.

I started up the trail to Fuller Lake, and this was looking down at the large unnamed lake with Ice Lake and Ulysses S. Grant Peak (13,767 feet) behind.
After some more elevation gain, I reached the end of the trail and Fuller Lake at 12,609 feet. That pointy mountain is Fuller Peak, 13,761 feet.  Jay and I did enough walking and back tracking in the basin that our total elevation gain for this hike was almost 3,000 feet and total walking distance about 9 miles. Maralee only missed the last stretch up to Fuller Lake, too tired to keep going up, so Jay and I took turns sitting with her.

There is a pretty big miners' cabin at Fuller Lake.  Just when I felt good about hiking up there, seeing that someone had built a house and hauled all kinds of stuff up there for mining was pretty amazing.

I saw at least three metal bed frames up there.

Maralee took a picture of me.

One more similar shot of Ice Lake. Can't get enough of looking at this.

This was definitely the roughest and hardest section of the trail.  There is a pretty good drop off on the right here.

This last shot is of the lower Ice Lake Basin as we headed down.  I regret not having the time or energy to get up to the next basin to see Island Lake.  Also my photos of waterfalls in the area didn't turn out the way I wanted them to. I definitely plan to get back up there sometime.


Lois said...

That water is gorgeous! I love the wildflowers too. Looks like you had a wonderful day!

Sedona Hiking Guide said...

Ice Lake is simply beautiful. The blue is stunning in contrast to the green surroundings. Thanks for sharing.

Pierre BOYER said...

Great walk !
It remember me french Alps...


Barb said...

Maralee is really a hiker! So great that she loves the out of doors as much as you and Jay. Your pics show an incredibly beautiful landscape, Lisa. That was quite a trek! PS I talked to someone this week who had helped as a medic for the 100 mile race - I thought of you when he mentioned Telluride.

EcoRover said...

Miners. (Audible sigh) Beautiful place, though. I like the tarns.