October 7, 2011 in North
Left Booth Lake TH at 4:55am. Dark and a light rain. The rain intensified within the 1st 30 minutes. I put on my Gore-tex pants and found myself quite cozy. Somewhere between the falls and the turn for Druid and West Booth Passes rain turned to snow and dawn brightened things up-just a little. The first snows do a great job of highlighting trails, even the ones that are barely there. The wildflowers were fighting to hold their ground. Purple Bellflowers looked strong and healthy. Sedges and grasses were also striking with the blanket of fresh snow. I had a day ahead of me so Booth Lake was brief. The tarn below E.Booth Pass held my attention for a few minutes. As did West Partner and Outpost Pk. Looking forward to the ski season. The grassy ramp to the pass was slick. I kept close to the rock on climber’s left. The trekking pole was proving its worth already. After 4h15m I reached last winter’s snow meeting this winter’s snow on E.Booth Pass. As I switched to my mountaineering boots, I reminisced about July’s Peak H trip and the thieving marmots in the valley below.
The descent to Upper Piney Lake was slow, but enjoyable. Lots of loose rock and dirt and snow. I followed what appeared to be goat tracks down the steep chute. I appreciated the line that the previous descender had chosen. It was about 10:15am when I reached the shores of Upper Piney Lake. Lunch time. Bagel, pepperoni, and string cheese. I had decided before leaving the house to pack my big thermos with lemon ginger tea-a favorite with chocolate-as I do on most of my ski tours. Good call. I guess I sat for 45 minutes or so. The clouds played on the ridges and peaks as the snow lightly drifted down from above. I contemplated Spider and Web for a good while. The sitting didn’t keep me warm, but the tea helped me to linger. Anticipation of Crater Lake and that side of Druid Pass finally motivated me to head out.
Rounding Spider was simple enough. Once I got passed all the ponds the trail was visible. Its a familiar area and I’ve been on the wrong side of a pond or two before. I did catch myself a little high on the traverse at one point, but I quickly climbed down out of a boulder field just before the trail showed up. Once things opened up in the marshy area, I headed east at about 11k’. I have seen Crater Lake many times, but this was to be my first up close and personal. The weather started ramping up. The trees leading up to the bench and lake provided nice shelter. Druid Pass looked inviting as I made my way to the lake. I looked back at Spider and the summit was gone. By the time I finished making water, all the summits were gone, as was the pass. Interesting situation. Fortunately, I had a good enough look at the terrain leading to the pass. It was still a bit concerning to be climbing steeply towards a pass I only believed to be there. I couldn’t see shit. I looked back after about 10 minutes of climbing and the lake was gone.
I nailed it. Split the uprights. Somehow there was more snow on the south side of the pass. I felt like I was home-at night with the lights out. I knew where I was, but I needed to take my time. It was still steep enough to slip and bust my ass. It took about an hour or so to get to the “west booth ck” trail. It was so easy to follow with the snow highlighting it through the timbers and numerous dead falls. I finally stopped for another lunch-about time.
When I hit Booth Creek and the Booth Lake Trail I was struck by the idea that, when I passed by this point earlier, I hadn’t thought much about the fact that this was where the loop part would start and end. Just above the falls, I stopped to get back into my comfy trail runners. The colors that weren’t visible during the early morning darkness were now going off. The clouds finally made way for some of that famous Colorado blue sky. A perfect ending to a perfect fall day in the mighty Gore Range.