Peak(s):  Three Needles  -  13,481 feet
Date Posted:  09/27/2009
Date Climbed:   09/11/2009
Author:  MtnHermit
 Blue Lake - Over the Top   

Blue Lake is in East Basin above Telluride. Normally one gets there by driving to Bridal Veil Falls and then hike the old road to the lake. My trip started in Porphyry Basin from the high trailhead for Bullion King Lake, crossed over the ridge into Mill Creek Basin, then over a 13K pass into East Basin, hence the "over the top". The Three Needles are on the ridge separating Porphyry and East Basins.

The route is mostly trail less or having climbers trails. Since you're above timberline, seeing possible paths is relatively easy. In any case substantial boots are needed for off camber slopes and steep scree.

When to Go:
Because my hike was in September, snow was a non-issue. Porphyry Basin is inaccessible by vehicle until the snow melts off the 4WD road, mid-July? Also, getting to Blue Lake from the 13K pass would be an issue until the snow melts out of the north facing descent gully.

Which Trailhead:
I've never done the Bridal Veil Falls route, so I have no information. Porphyry Basin is accessed via a 4WD road about 1-mile south of Red Mountain Pass off of US 550. Theirs a new cabin between the 4WD road and 550, it's visible at the turnoff. You'll know your on the correct road if after a mile you see a sign saying "Travel past this point Not Recommended". Just past the sign you'll encounter a 100-yard section which is only 1-foot wider than your vehicle . . . tense. The road continues to and past the Porphyry Basin Mine to above 12,000 feet.

My Trip
I went September 11 after an overnight storm deposited light snow on several of the nearby summits, very pretty.

The Three Needles reflected off of Bullion King Lake.

A primitive trail in Mill Creek Basin going to the 13K ridge/pass.

Blue Lake from the pass with the Sneffels Range as a backdrop.

East Basin is a series of benches connected by cliffs. The only trail is an old miners trail from the pass descending 200-feet to the first bench. Then a steep scree/talus slope drops another 400-feet to a very large bench with tarns and streams. Finally, a 500-foot drop via a north-facing gulley takes you to the lake. This gully would have substantial snow until late-July?

The Three Needles seen from East Basin. The gully descent begins between the two small snow patches.

Blue Lake from the large bench.

Blue Lake is so large I had to get out my 10X monocular to see several people on the opposite (north) side. My initial plan was to not descend to the lake, but the cabin changed my mind.

The descent of the north-facing gulley.

The cabin and mine can be seen in the shadows near the lake.

I had to wait for the shadows to clear the cabin for this panorama.

The view from inside the cabin.

From inside the mine shaft.

The mine and cabin, note the ore cart at the base of the tailings.

This upside down ore cart is loaded with vegetation, yet nothing is growing around the cart.
Perhaps the scurrying pika I saw nearby is responsible?

A pond on the large bench.

The steep scree between the large and high benches.

360 View from the 13K Pass

The above link is a 3MB Quicktime file. Simply place your cursor on the image and click and move. Use the + - buttons to zoom.

If you don't have Quicktime already, I recommend the Apple download, it works. Here's a Free Download Link. The installer will allow it to work as a tab in your browser, painless.

The Photographs
All photos were taken with a Canon A710is. The wide images are all stitched panoramas, usually 4-6 images. The 710 allows manual focus, aperture and shutter speed, along with an optical viewfinder, essential for stitching. Otherwise I used program for the single images.

That's all folks!!!

If you have a general interest question, use the comment section, I'll get an email and update the trip report.

Comments or Questions
awesome views
09/28/2009 02:04
Love the picture looking over the lake with Sneffels & Co in the distance!
I‘ll have to check this place out sometime.
Thanks for posting...

09/28/2009 16:18
Gorgeous photos of a rarely-seen area. Makes me want to go there!

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