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459 Spectacle Lakes 2011-08-17

Mount Ypsilon from Spectacle Lake

Spectacle Lakes below Mount Ypsilon

trip continued from ... Upper Chipmunk

We woke early from our camp at Upper Chipmunk. The wind had blown all night; but, thank goodness, no beetle stricken trees fell on us. After a few camp chores that morning we left our site and headed toward Ypsilon Lake.


Ypsilon Lake

Ypsilon Lake

Our cairned trail led us to the shore and then we hiked to the west end of the lake. A damaged footbridge led across the inlet creek. We turned and followed the north side of the creek as it cascaded down a valley. It was a short walk to a side creek coming from Spectacle Lakes, our destination.

(Years ago I had visited the lakes; but Amy had never been there. On my previous trip, I had carried a big pack to spend the night, bivouac, on a rock bench before climbing a nearby technical route the next day. My partner and I spent a miserable night as the wind howled, flapped, and shook us until morning.)


slabs on the  side of the drainage

Slabs to the side of the Drainage

Amy and I started up the drainage that led to Spectacle Lakes; but snow blocked easy passage. Climbing through bushes we continued to the slabs above. A couple of hundred feet of climbing the slabs put us at the lake's shore. Spectacle Lakes are quite a destination as it combines the rock, snow, and water into an unforgettable panorama. The water in the lakes was very high.

After a brief stop just to stare up at at Mount Ypsilon, I took Amy to the bench where I had spent the night on my previous trip to the area. It was very windy. In fact, the wind seemed to funnel into the area over the bench. No wonder I had spent such a terrible night there years ago. At least there weren't any skeeters with all the wind.


View from the bench

View from the Bench, Longs Peak in the Distance

To make a tour of the area, we did not return by the same route. Instead we traversed to Blitzen Ridge, Ypsilon's south-east ridge, and descended to Ypsilon Lake on the Ridge. It was a fun adventure picking our way across the ridge and down to the lake. We crossed the lake's outlet and returned to our camp.

We left the are wanting to make plans to return.

A few trail notes ...

The route to Spectacle Lakes is not a trail. There were a lot of downed trees along the creek which slowed progress. A few faint paths could at times be followed but you would have to walk it several times to decide on the best one. Going up the drainage to the Spectacles requires some third class scrambling. If you fell it would not be good. On the route we took, the slabs probably should have been rated as fourth class, because if you fell, you would not have been able to stop yourself without a roped belay. Be careful!

The bench was indeed windy but had excellent views of Longs Peak and Estes Valley to the south and east and of course Mount Ypsilon which hovered above us.

The area is not traveled by many people. An emergency of any kind would be a big event.

On the traverse to Blitzen Ridge, it is trailless and crosses scree and talus.

High above Ypsilon Lake, we could see our tent in the Upper Chipmunk site!

On the descent, remember that cliffs line the lake on the north side. You must follow the ridge until you see a clear path to the lake. It is further east than you might think.

Traversing to the Ridge was fun; but descending the drainage by climbing down the slabs might have been better.

On our hike back to the trailhead we met lots of folks. I did not know Ypsilon Lake was that popular.

Our trip to Upper Chipmunk, Ypsilon Lake and Spectacle Lakes was a great adventure and a worthy ending to our summer trip.

Happy Spectacle trails


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