Day Hike – Solitude Lake – Glacier Gorge TH

Clare at Mills Lake (9,955') Dennis at Solitude Lake  (11,400') Long's Peak, Keyboard of Winds, Pagoda, Spearhead, & Chief's Head
On Sunday, Dennis & I did a hike up to Solitude Lake (11, 400′), in an effort to climb Thatchtop Peak (12,668′).

We started at the Glacier Gorge TH (9,240′) right around 9am.

Clare & Dennis at Mills Lake (9,955')

Dennis walks the plank

The hiking to Jewel Lake went fast, as it is a veritable sidewalk. The elevation only climbs a couple hundred feet a mile, so it’s ever so gently up hill. We didn’t see that many animals, but we did see a lot of elderly folks armed with fancy cameras! They all stopped at Mills Lake, but a few pressed on to Jewel.

Can you see the Faint Trail?

Just after Jewel Lake, we were looking for the “faint trail” mentioned on SummitPost. We didn’t find it, but about 300 feet past the faint trail, we figured we missed it, so we angled over to the creek. We followed the curve of the creek, back in the direction we came from (North-East) and eventually we came to the creek crossing.

Dennis just after Creek Crossing

It is the presence of two HUGE boulders that marked the crossing. Once on the boulders we looked back to the main trail, and from that direction we located the “Faint Trail”. We also were able to see the avalanche debris, as we hadn’t noticed it whilest hiking. It’s pretty obvious, now that we know!

After crossing the creek, we saw a wet human footprint on the ground. So, we would not have complete Solitude at Solitude Lake. Big surprise-I do not think there is such a thing as “Solitude” in RMNP. Or at least I haven’t found it yet!

The next part of the hike, is a 1000ft scramble, over half a mile, up a very steep embankment complete with cascading waterfall…

Dennis Climbing Steep Terrain

Alas!, we took a different way up than this mystery person, because by the time we got up to Shelf Lake, I was covered in spider webs. It felt disgusting. It is also quite sticky & muggy, due to the waterfall right next to the ascent trail.

Dennis at Shelf Lake (11,300') Waterfalls on Edge of Shelf Lake

There were quite a few Mosquitos, but it wasn’t bad as long as we kept moving. At Shelf Lake, they were pretty swarmy, but by the time we got to Solitude Lake, they had thinned out.

We finally ran into the mystery man-which turned out to be a two 20ish males. It didn’t look like they had been to the top, but who knows? We nodded in acknowledgement, but didn’t say anything. I imagined that the type of hiker who wants to experience Solitude Lake, probably doesn’t want to chat!

In any event, we made it to Solitude around 12:15pm. Time for lunch. We took a quick break, and stared at the beauty. Clouds were gathering, and some were the nasty dark grey variety. I was apprehensive about making a summit bid, by myself, let alone in bad weather.

Solitude Lake, Longs Looming in Gloom

I talked Dennis into walking over to the base of the rock scramble, but he definitely was not interested in the summit. When rain started pouring down, he wasn’t even interested in scouting around…but he was kind enough to endulge me. We hiked up about 400 feet above the lake, and then the rain worsened. Retreat.

After a quick bout of rain, it got hot again!

By the time we were back at the lake, the clouds had disappeared and it was brilliant blue sky! It was *JUST* like the time we retreated in north western Ireland, trying to summit a Ben. I felt duped and cheated. With the rocks all wet, Dennis anxious to get down, and my own emotions at the weather, we figured the best thing was to call it a day.

Dennis descending

We got back to the TH around 3pm. What a beautiful hike, the Glacier Gorge, with it’s wide open vistas of Long’s Peak, Pagoda, Keyboard of the Winds, Spearhead Peak, and Chief’s Head is a beautiful place to explore (even with the crowds). If I ever attempt Thatchtop again, I might try going up the other way (from the North) as it might be more enjoyable than the steep & muggy/buggy approach we took.

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