Late last week i had the opportunity to head up to Chasm Lake at the base of 14,259 ft Longs Peak and its iconic northeast face the ‘Diamond’. As some of you know Chasm Lake is probably my favorite location in all of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Typically, I try to hike up to Chasm Lake at least once during the summer season but with so many amazing places in Rocky Mountain National Park to photograph and only so many opportunities and beautiful sunrises it doesn’t always work out. Travel, weather and leading photography tours and workshops in RMNP can make the logistics difficult some years.
I’ve had a photography workshop/tour client that has wanted to visit Chasm Lake for the past few seasons. He’s been preparing for the physical and difficult 4.2 mile hike and the nearly 2400 ft vertical gain required to reach Chasm Lake for the past few years. I’ve been able to lead him to a few other similar and difficult hikes in Rocky so I felt confident enough to take this particular person up to Chasm Lake when it looked like conditions may be optimal for photography.
With a few aborted attempts late last season due to poor weather, Chasm Lake has been on my clients ‘must do’ list for awhile. This client lives in the Denver metro area so when I have openings in my schedule available and the weather looks good I’ll contact him and let him know it might be a good day to attempt this particular location.
As it turned out, I had another client cancel their photography tour at the last minute. With a promising weather forecast for the potential of low winds and good light, I gave him the heads up that this might be one of our best chances to give Chasm Lake a shot this season.
Chasm Lake sits just below 12,000 ft above sea level. So getting a calm morning at that elevation with little wind, some clouds over Longs Peak and some nice sunrise light can be much more challenging than it appears.
We took off from the Longs Peak trailhead just after 3:00 AM. There was the usual gaggle of fellow hikers departing the trailhead at the same time headed for the summit of Longs Peak. As is the case with the Longs Peak trailhead in the middle of summer, it’s both busy and full of excitement even at 3:00 AM as visitors to RMNP head off to challenge themselves and attempt to make it to the summit of Longs Peak long before the afternoon thunderstorms begin to build.
We made it up to Chasm Lake a little before 5:30 AM. The last scramble up to Chasm and the long up hill hike had challenged my client. While he was bemoaning the long, steep uphill trek from the Longs Peak trailhead, he ignored his cramping legs once Chasm Lake came into sight and he started straight up at Longs Peak and The Diamond.
The early morning pre-dawn light was just starting to cause The Diamond, Longs Peak and the Ships Prow to take on a beautiful orange and red glow. Most of the surface of Chasm Lake was placid and there were some beautiful clouds hanging over Longs Peak this morning.
We quickly setup our tripods, set or compositions and starting photographing the spectacular light unfolding right in front of us. The Rocky ‘trifecta’ was in full effect this morning as we had sunlight, a reflection and clouds making for near perfect conditions.
I spent the rest of the morning above timberline showing my client some of the other tremendous spots in this awesome portion of RMNP. Being able to share the experience of visiting Chasm Lake for sunrise was awesome as was the ability to guide my client up to a location I dont often get to visit with other clients. Either way you cut it, it’s hard to beat a beautiful morning up at Chasm Lake.