West Elk

In January 2003, after hiking around Mt Sneffels, we ended up driving up to the West Elk Wilderness.  We decided to try our hand at snow camping out there.  We hiked in a couple of miles, and then tried to dig a camp out of the 5 feet of snow.  On the way in, I almost drowned in snow before we got to camp.  I was looking for a good camp site, and I snowshoed about 100 yards off the trail towards a frozen creek as Tracy waited for me by the road.  I was in the middle of some willows, and I took a step, and my snow shoes sunk 4 feet into the snow.  And I thought snow shoes didn’t sink.  Unfortunately, I was pretty much in an open field, and there was nothing to grab hold of to pull myself out of the snow.  Not only that, it had warmed up, so I didn’t have on my jacket or gloves.  Moreover, the willows near me kept Tracy from being able to see I was having problems.  Because of all the weight of the snow on my snow shoes, I couldn’t lift them out of the snow, so I couldn’t get my feet up.  I finally just plunged my arm down into the snow until I found a snow shoe, and then yanked it up.  That was fun.  Well, it took me about 20 minutes to work myself out of the snow, and even then I still don’t know how I managed.  But, needless to say, I was really cold by then.  But then we found a campsite, and tried to dig it out, and that didn’t work too well.  But we still set up the camp and went to bed at around 5 pm.  Well, eventually, the condensation from our breathing made it snow on us inside the tent.  That was cool.  And then it was about 10 pm… we had already been in the tent for 5 hours, and it wasn’t going to be light for 9 more hours.  So we decided it had been enough, and we packed up and headed out.  But that was the best part of the trip.  We got down to the trail, and there was a full moon.  And the moon light on the snow covered rocky peaks was just amazing.  It was one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen on the trail.  The mountains looked larger than life, and it was just really amazing.  Snow camping wasn’t very much fun, but the view that night as we hiked out was easily one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen.

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West Elk

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West Elk 38.785030, -107.075970 West Elk Winter Report (Directions)

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