The Art of Exploration · a diary of day trips, natural places, and miscellaneous adventures

Emerald Lake Overlook

Monday, October 22nd, 2018 in Colorado
Emerald Lake Overlook

For some reason, I get it in my head to hike the Flattop Mountain Trail today. The forecast boasts an ideal mix of mild temperatures, calm breezes, and plenty of sunshine. So bright-eyed, I begin my hike by eight in the morning. After hiking a quarter-mile, I realize I have too much weight in my pack. I turn around and go back to the car. There I dump some unnecessary gear (my outer shell jacket and a spare flask of water) and grabbed my sunhat. Then I restart my hike. I make it two-thirds of the way up to the summit for a total of 1929 feet in elevation gain before turning around (abandoning the remaining 1000 feet to the summit for another day).

Above the treeline, the conditions went all Everest on me. Wild gusts of wind made it difficult to breathe and scoured everything with tiny, sharp ice crystals. Hikers I passed on their way down from the summit warned of even stronger winds ahead. Not far past the Emerald Lake Overlook, I decided to turn around.

On the way down—legs tired, wind gusts still pushing and shoving, and with about 2 miles of down-hiking to go—I tripped. I went flying face-first down the slope. Fortunately (?) I landed such that my upper left quad took most of the impact on the rounded knob of a bad-tempered boulder. It hurt but I was very lucky that it wasn’t more serious. I ended up with just a painful, swollen knot in the muscle. The hike down from that point was pretty entertaining (not).

All that drama aside, the views were other-worldly and I’m glad to have made it up so high (and back down again) in what turned out to be rather wintry conditions. Back at the trailhead, it was calm and summery. Colorado weather never ceases to surprise!

My hike stats

Trail mileage: 5.8 miles
Elevation gain / maximum: 1900 feet
Maximum elevation: 11,360 feet
Classification: Strenuous B

I use these statistics to gain a better understanding of my fitness and abilities over time. I use the Colorado Mountain Club classification system when describing my hikes. The statistics I log always reflect the hike I actually did and might not always match standard routes and destinations.

Topographic map

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