Sunday, February 16, 2020

Hartenstein Lake Snowshoeing

Can you spot the lake?
Brown's Pass Trail to Hartenstein Lake Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 9,925 ft.
Distance: 6.18 mi. (my Forerunner 230)
Elevation Gain: 1724 ft. (my Forerunner 230)
Start Time: 1:29pm
End Time: 6:01pm

Trip Report:
We were looking for good snowshoe routes to attempt near Buena Vista and Hartenstein Lake worked its way to the top of the list. It pretty much avoids avalanche danger throughout the route. The first 2/3 of the route are likely to have a well-packed trench from other users. Its worth noting the first mile and a quarter of this route is also a part of the Mt. Yale route which sees good traffic year round.

The weather wasn't ideal for us, but was do-able. Temps at the trailhead and above hovered around the upper 20's. Sky was completely cloud-covered and light snow was falling most of the time we were on the trail. All of this meant we had little in the way of views of nearby mountain peaks.

We weren't sure if we would wear snowshoes from the trailhead and so came prepared for anything. We opted to start with them on and this worked out just fine. One could likely have gone without snowshoes the first mile or two. Snow on the sides of the trail was easily 2-3 feet deep and so one would not want to stray from the established trench, especially without snowshoes.
Junction with the Mt. Yale trail

The first mile plus was on the joint Yale-Brown's Pass trail. At the trail junction we could see established trenches going both directions. The Brown's Pass trail held a good trench up until about a half mile from the Hartenstein Lake trail junction. Several sections in here were getting to be wind-blown and filled in. Still, we had little trouble finding our way to this second junction.

The Hartenstein Lake trail had a basic trench for the first quarter mile or so. Once the trail left the trees into an open area any semblance of previous tracks disappeared. We went into full route-finding mode at this point. We continued an ascending traverse until our looks at the GPS map said we really did not need to gain anymore. We looked to contour towards the lake at the current elevation except the tree cover proved to be too thick. We carefully worked to find a route through the trees with only a little bit of backtracking necessary.
Hartenstein Lake trail junction

When we finally popped out of the thick trees it was a clear snow covered meadow separating us from the lake. We made a bee-line straight across into blowing snow and a chilling wind chill. When we thought we had come up to the shores of the lake we verified it with the GPS. We didn't wish to step out onto the lake itself and risk any sort of issue.

We sent but a couple of minutes by the lake grabbing photos and a snack. We then made our way back to the trailhead. We had no trouble until back on the Brown's Pass trail. We were surprised to see our tracks completely wind-blown. It had only been a little over an hour perhaps. Thankfully we still knew where to go. The rest of the hike out went uneventful. The only lingering question was whether we'd make it out by dark. Sunset came and went but we still had enough light about 20 minutes later to make the trailhead without breaking out the headlamps.

We made note this would be an absolutely beautiful place to backpack into during the summer months. We hope to make this a reality soon.

We suspect this was damage from an avalanche last year

Creek crossing, some water free-flowing


I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).  

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