AllTrails lists the Ypsilon Trail hike as 9.2 miles, 2,496 feet of elevation gain, and a Medium difficulty rating.
I concur with the length and elevation, but I think that snowshoeing through fresh deep powder jacks the difficulty up to a Hard rating.
Yesterday’s snow only brought a dusting to the house, but mountain weather is mountain weather. I should have known that the higher mountains got hammered when I drove into the Fall River entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park and the roads weren’t plowed. I was also surprised to be the first person on the trail since the snow, providing it’s own extra bit of fun.
The Lawn Lake trailhead is deceiving with 4-6 inches over nice solid ground – you don’t need traction until you leave the Lawn Lake Trail and cross the Roaring River on the Ypsilon Lake Trail. Even then, you can make it about a half mile or so up the trail before traction becomes necessary.
I’m Not Alone
It’s not too far past this where you have to switch from traction to floatation. As the elevation increases, so does the snow depth. When I started tromping snow to my knees, I pulled out the snowshoes and proceeded.
Colorado mountain powder is far different from Midwest heavy snow. Light and fluffy, it packs down quickly when you step on it, even with snowshoes on. I added the floatation tails to my snowshoes for more surface area and still ended up sinking a foot or so with every step. In the Chipmunk Lake area I sank up to my waist – with 25" snowshoes and the floation tails on. That’s crazy powder.
The other fun part of fresh deep powder is complete lack of visual guides to the trail. In some spots the trail could have split three different ways, and I’m glad I loaded the trail gpx on my eTrex as well as on my Fenix watch. I only made a few floudering off-trail excursions where it could have been much worse.
At Ypsilon Lake, I decided to pull off my snowshoes and walk across the lake to find a sheltered spot among some boulders for lunch. The minute I stepped past the sign I sunk up to my armpits and had an "Oh crap I’m falling into the lake" moment. Luckily this physically isn’t possible with the feet of ice on the lake, but it made me do a quick assessment of being miles from nowhere in a snowstorm. Lunch was a quick affair as I was concerned about getting out of the mountains before dark – campfire couscous in a hollow dug out next to a boulder. Unfortunately the snow was blowing hard enough that I was concerned about the camera, so only a few photos.
On the way back down, mountain weather turned to regular weather and the sun even broke through for photos. It’s amazing what a difference a mile or two and some elevation loss really makes in the mountains.
Home in time for dinner, and fast asleep by 9pm – this is why we live without all the city creature comforts!