1/15/15 WARNING -- ICE ON MANY LAKES HAS BECOME THIN OVER THE LAST WEEK!
The Loch has hard snow packed conditions with several open water holes along Icy Brook. At the entrance to The Loch someone has dug a nice snow cave. We used snow shoes and poles because of reported open water, but traction devices would have worked.
Bear Lake to Lake Haiyaha via summer trail
Trail to Haiyaha junction just below Dream Lake is very well packed. At the junction the Haiyaha summer trail is well tracked. The drifts at the start near the east end of Dream are no problem and track is easy to follow. This first section of this route which is often difficult due to large drifts has been well traveled and presents none of the usual problems. The trail is excellent all the way down to the Chaos drainage and easy to follow. The few exposed places present no problems at this time. When the track reaches the Chaos drainage there is a well-defined track that approaches Lake Haiyaha from the east and drops down onto the lake. (The summer route around to the south side of the lake had no obvious tracks.) Following the route up the long drift and down to the lake is excellent.
Boots with traction devices can be used the entire trip--and/or
Snowshoes (they become very useful the last half mile to the lake as the snow is soft)
Wind resistant clothing is important as the Chaos Canyon area can be very windy
Deep snow, particularly last mile.Excellent for snow shoeing and cross country skiing.Trail was icy.Traction devices on lower part of trail, but last mile definitely need snow shoes or skis.
Trail was packed enough from Glacier Gorge to Jewel Lake that spikes and poles were ok.Beyond Jewel Lake, snow shoes were needed.
Trail was icy and packed to The Pool, then knee-deep snow toward the top. Snowshoes recommended. Boots alone okay, but some postholing. Moose sighted on trail.
Storm Pass toward Estes Cone
Very good cross-country ski conditions
Bear, Nymph, Dream, & Emerald Lakes
The trail is well packed all the way from Bear Lake Trailhead to Emerald. It is easy to follow however there are a number of solo snowshoe tracks that lead off the main route. Nymph Lake's surface is completely packed and the hiker should stay to the left side of lake to connect with trail to Dream Lake. Visitors need to be careful to follow the most packed trail. From Dream to Emerald the track is a bit softer but creates no real problem. Wind can be a factor at times along this route with Dream being windy most often. Emerald can be windy but often not as much as Dream. This route offers the visitor a great introduction to winter travel in the mountains and outstanding scenery.
Sturdy boots with traction devices
Trekking poles are extremely helpful
Snowshoes are useful for stability more than flotation
Fern Lake Trailhead to The Pool
Snow packed from the Winter Parking area.Trail is well defined and was ok with boots, traction devices and poles if you stay on the trail
Hollowell Park (from trailhead and 2 miles up)
Starts out easy but snow gets deeper further on.Trail was slightly icy.Snowshoes recommended but could make it in boots.
Glacier Gorge to Black Lake
Snowshoes needed beyond Mills Lake and trail-finding skills useful.The snow depth was about 40 inches.A male big horn sheep was spotted below Black Lake.Ice was "amazing" on east of Black Lake.
Park &Ride to Bierstadt Lake
Took trail from Glacier Basin Park &ride to Bierstadt Lake and beyond to high point on trail to Bear Lake.Very good snowshoeing/ski conditions.This trail is out of the wind.
Bear Lake to Lake Helene
The trail from Bear to about 1/2 mile from Helene is well packed. There has been a number of snowshoers and skiers on this trail and is very easy to follow. The winter route over Two Rivers Lake and down to Helene is not obvious and drifting does cover most tracks that might exist. The last 1/2 mile is the most challenging with a mix of wind pack and soft drifts to arrive at Two Rivers Lake and then on to Lake Helene. This line is moderately difficult and does require some knowledge of the terrain. There were no tracks on the summer trail line but it could be followed if desired. Going beyond Helene down to Odessa has some serious route problems with steep snow across the summer trail. Best to make Helene the final destination.
Snowshoes or skis for the majority of the trip
Sturdy boots and traction devices could be used as far as the last 1/2 mile of the trip, then snowshoes or skis needed
Trekking Poles will be very helpful
Wind will be a factor for last part of this trip so appropriate clothing is very necessary