Hiking harder this summer | VailDaily.com

Hiking harder this summer

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Courtesy Jill YargerHikers on the Fryingpan Lakes trail in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness will find the stream crossing tricky. The bridge was damaged by winter's snows.

ASPEN, Colorado ” High water, collapsed bridges and lingering snow are making for challenging hiking this summer in the mountains surrounding Aspen.

But that’s not to say hikers are staying at home on their sofas.

Conundrum Hot Springs, a popular destination south of Aspen, saw crowds for the July 4 weekend even though two bridges on the trail out of Aspen have succumbed to high water and heavy snow loads, according to Tim Lamb, a ranger with the U.S. Forest Service’s Aspen district.

The two bridges are among at least four in the area that were wiped out last winter.

“We may be able to salvage one of them. The water’s still over it, so we don’t know yet,” he said.

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Forest Service personnel planned to check the state of a bridge on the Fryingpan Lakes trail, in the upper Fryingpan Valley above Basalt, on Monday. The status of a bridge on the Woody Creek trail out of Lenado, northeast of Aspen, is also in question, he said.

However, the footbridge at the base of the road heading up Pearl Pass, south of Aspen, is intact, according to Lamb. Backcountry skiers reported the bridge wiped out by a large avalanche last winter, but it was apparently merely buried, he said.

Damaged bridges will be repaired or replaced ” “the biggest priorities will be the Conundrum ones,” Lamb said.

The agency depends largely on reports from the public to find out which bridges are gone and stay apprised other hurdles to travel within the vast White River National Forest surrounding Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, he added.

Lamb, however, was busy hiking in the area backcountry throughout the holiday weekend.

At Conundrum, he found a couple of hikers who’d crossed over East Maroon Pass from the Crested Butte side ” “they’d wished they hadn’t, I think,” he said. Apparently no one had crossed over from the Crested Butte side via Copper Lake.

Snow and high water are making high-country hiking difficult, if not treacherous.

An upper stream crossing for those heading up West Maroon Pass from the Aspen side is “not advisable right now,” Lamb said.

West Maroon Pass isn’t yet hikeable (by most people’s definition). Nor would the average hiker want to tackle Lost Man Loop on upper Independence Pass east of Aspen, according to Lamb.

“People have done it ” they’ve been very wet and fatigued when they’re done,” he said.

Four-wheelers will likely find high-mountain routes still closed by snow in the upper reaches. Count Pearl Pass among them.

“I don’t think Pearl Pass will be open until August,” Lamb said.

Snow remaining from avalanche activity is blocking Forest Road 315 into Lead King Basin, east of Marble, and a creek crossing before motorists reach the snow is also giving travelers a hard time, according to Lamb.

The route out of Crystal into Lead King Basin is missing a bridge ” the Forest Service took out the old one last year and plans to rebuild it in August ” and the water’s too high to ford the creek, according to Lamb.

Hikers can’t yet reach the Geneva Lake trailhead out of Lead King Basin as a result.

“Stream crossings are a little bit hairy,” Lamb said, urging hikers to judge carefully whether or not to cross swift water.

Brace for icy-cold water, face upstream and wear hiking boots or some other footwear for stream crossings, he advised.

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