Lake Helene

I didn't actually go to Lake Helene; I went to an overlook just above Lake Helene, which gives you an incredible view of the upper Fern Creak Basin.  The evening before the hike, the upper elevations received about two inches of fresh snow.  That plus the fact that the upper parts of this trail aren't hiked nearly as much as other trails in the Bear Lake area, meant that the trail was almost completely hidden.  There was one hiker on skies however who started the hike earlier than me.  His path kept going in the general direction that I needed to go so I mostly followed his tracks.

Be sure to click on these thumbnail photos for larger versions.

1. Shortly after leaving trailhead, this view of Longs Peak and the Glacier Gorge area opens up with Bear Lake visible through the trees.

2. Nearing Two Rivers Lake, this is the view of Flattop and Notchtop Mountains.

3. This is a telephoto of a huge mass of ice that is just below Notchtop Mountain where a waterfall flows during the summer.  You can see it in the panorama below.

4. The view from here is incredible and just can't be captured with a couple images.  I took a whole series and assembled them into a panorama. Within this panorama you can see Flattop Mountain, Ptarmigan Point, Notchtop Mountain, Knobtop Mountain, Little Matterhorn, Gabletop Mountain, Odessa Lake and The Gable.

I sat here for over an hour soaking it all in.  And occasionally, I could hear noises in the distance.  Just an occasional knock at first made me wonder if there was someone somewhere in the expanse before me.  Then I thought I heard voices so I scanned the whole area for tracks in the snow.  If there was someone down there somewhere, surely they left tracks that I could see.  But I could see none.  Super Size It!  (226kB).

5. Then finally I spotted what looked like a line of tracks in the snow.  Using the long lens on my camera, I followed it to that huge ice flow.  There was a climber on that ice flow!  His buddy was on belay below him.

6. On the way back down, I looked back and took this shot of tracks in the snow and Notchtop.

7. That's me on the trail with Notchtop Mountain behind.