Trip Reports: Snowy Ice Lakes, Colorado - October 2018

With fresh snow in the San Juan Mountains and dreams of winter I couldn't resist heading up high for a quick early season winter camp at Ice Lakes Basin near Silverton. I got a little more than I bargained for with two feet of fresh powder and knee-deep postholing through a snowstorm up there! In the morning I was treated to some fiery light for a few moments at sunrise, for a different kind of autumn color.

Colorado, Ice Lakes, San Juan Mountains, sunrise, snowy, photo

Snowy Sunstream

Sunrise at Ice Lakes after an October snowstorm dumped two feet of snow in the high mountains.

Just for a fun comparison, check out this same creek in the summertime:

Ice Lakes Basin, sunset, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, photo

Stream Sunset

Sunset at a high alpine stream in Ice Lakes Basin.

Colorado, Ice Lakes, San Juan Mountains, tent, photo

My tent and campsite at Ice Lakes below Pilot Knob.

This was the third time I've early-season winter camped up at Ice Lakes, but by far the snowiest! (See previous trip reports from November 2009 and October 2012). Normally in the summertime I'd consider it disrespectful to camp in the upper Ice Lakes Basin due to the fragility of the tundra meadows and extreme popularity of the place (not to mention summer thunderstorm danger above treeline) but with two feet of fresh snow on the ground the crowds are nowhere to be found and any camping impact is negligible.