One of our favorite training runs last year was close to our
campground at Mineral Creek: the 4.4-mile trek up FSR 815 to Clear Creek, a beautiful alpine lake nestled in a basin
among three 13ers. With more snow this year, we were very curious to see what
it looked like up there.
Jim decided to run 1.4 miles on Mineral Creek Road from the
camper to the little dirt road that goes up to the lake. I don't like running on
Mineral Creek Road because it's hot and dusty, with lots of vehicle traffic. I
put the dogs in the truck and drove to a pull-off near the junction of
the road to the lake. Jim was just running up when Cody, Tater, and I
had on our packs and were ready to climb.
And it's a climb -- about 2,100 feet up from that point to the lake's
elevation of almost 12,000 feet. Even if we were acclimated to these
heights, we'd be walking up most of an ascent like that.
[In the photo above we are also facing the Kamm Traverse, or KT in
Hardrock parlance. I forget how to draw an arrow on photos or I'd show
you where the race course goes -- it's a tan line above the lower red
rock strip. This
year runners will come down that traverse to the KT aid station, which
is about eleven miles from the finish.]
Off we went. Both dogs carried water, but neither needed any from
their packs because of the copious run-off along the road from melting snow;
it's been very dry here. The trees shaded us until we got to
about 11,000 feet. Then it was quite warm in the direct sun.
There were some flowers on the way up to the lake, but different ones
and not as many as last year when spring came early. I'm guessing there
is a two- to three-week difference in bloom time because this trek is
week earlier than last year's.
The marsh marigolds and other alpine flowers were profuse along the
creek and lake up at 12,000 feet, however.
Some of the photos I took this year look very similar to ones I took
during the two
trips we made up to the lake in 2006, so I won't repeat them. This entry
might be more interesting if you first look at the July 3 and July 6
entries in the 2006 journal so you can compare the levels of snow.
That's one thing I'll emphasize in this year's photos -- more snow.
I'll also point out where you can see parts of the Hardrock course
from the road up to Clear Lake.
The next photo, for example, is a view toward Ice Lake Basin, which
is surrounded by several almost-14ers: L to R, Fuller Peak,
Vermillion Peak, Golden Horn, Pilot Knob, and US Grant Peak. Hardrock
runners follow a trail up through this basin from KT to reach
Grant-Swamp Pass (see more photos of that trail in the July 8 and July
14 entries from the 2006 journal). There is noticeably more snow on
those mountains now than there was last year:
We ran into snow along our road about a mile from the top, right at
the old mine shaft, but the road was drivable up to the lake. It's hard to beat this scenery:
'Way more snow along the roadway this year:
No, this isn't Clear Lake, below. It is snowmelt forming another
This was just getting more and more interesting. I couldn't wait to
see the lake itself.
And there it is, in all its glory! The next photo is from the lower
end where Clear Creek begins:
I was immediately aware that there was more snow on the slope of US
Grant Peak (on the left in the photo above), but Jim was the first to
notice that most of the lake was still covered in ice! There was no ice
I am impressed by how stoic this little Marsh Marigold is, growing in
the icy water:
Pretty short growing season up here, I'd guess! I mean, it's almost
July and the lake is still frozen.
Labs are pretty stoic, too. Here Tater enjoys a little swim in the
ice-cold lake. That probably felt good after our hot ascent in
the bright sunshine:
The wind was blowing enough on top to cool us down. Jim found a
grassy hill above the lake for a little nap and I walked around with the
dogs, taking more photos of the snow, creek, and flowers:
I was pretty fascinated by how the creek kept going underneath the snow
and emerging farther downstream. Why doesn't the snow cave in?
There are numerous kinds of wildflowers up here, and the lichen-covered
rocks are just about as colorful as the flowers:
On the way back down the mountain I took more shots of Ice Lake Basin,
the Mineral Creek Valley, and the Hardrock course.
Both photos below were originally 20.3 megabytes before I
downsized them considerably for the web site. The first photo is one of
several I took from various places along the road that show
Ice Lake Basin with Grant-Swamp Pass in the background:
I took the second photo with a 5X optical zoom, honing in on the pass.
Before cropping and downsizing it, I magnified it with Photoshop
software. In all these photos, we could see the trail up to the pass,
although you can't see it here and we couldn't see it with our "naked"
eyes from the road. I believe runners pass behind that little knob about
one-third of the way from the left in the photo below. It appears there is a snow cornice
covering the trail right now. It'll be interesting to see what the
trail-marking crew finds up there in a few days.
This is another view of the pass that I like from farther down the Clear
[ADDENDUM: When I hiked up to Grant-Swamp Pass on July 5 I
realized it is NOT visible in the photos I took from the Clear Lake
road. It's farther to the right. The low spot with the snow cornice was
farther to the left. Oops! The good news for runners is that Grant-Swamp
Pass is totally snow-free on the south side. There is some remaining
snow below the pass on the north side, but it will be mostly a climb up
through the scree.]
Twin Peaks are prominent in the photo below, with Bear Mountain to the
far left (you can't see its peak). Those three mountains are all over
13,000 feet. You can see the South Fork of Mineral Creek and Mineral
Creek Rd. coming toward you from South Park. Kamm Traverse is on the
mountain to the right, although I don't see the trail in this photo.
This year runners will come down from Ice Lake Basin (far right, out of
the photo), run down KT, visit the aid station at the road, cross the
creek, and ascend about 2,000 feet in two miles to the
Porcupine-Cataract Saddle, the pass shown at the top left in the photo
I needed all those photo stops to catch my breath as I ran back down to
the truck. It's amazing how much energy it takes to run down hill at
10,000 to 12,000 feet! Jim was ready to be done when we reached the
truck, choosing not to run back to the campground. We had a very
interesting but tiring run today.
Next entry: an update on our gear and nutrition plan.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil