Loche Vale / The Gash / Andrew’s Glacier, RMNP
Loche Vale (‘The Loche’) is situated in Rocky Mountain National Park. Loche Vale is situated at the drainage junction of two gorges; Taylor Glacier, and Andrew’s Glacier. The upper Loche leads to Sky Pond and Glass Lake. The Loche Vale is a launching point to several routes. Andrew’s Glacier can be ascended via The Gash (a gorge known for it’s spires and gendarmes). This route can be tricky in winter. Extra care and evaluation should be taken just below the apron of Anrdrew’s Tarn. This area is usually windloaded and has a history of sliding.
To the north is Otis Peak. Otis Chutes can be dropped which will take you in to the Chaos Canyon drainage with Lake Haiyaha.
Fun facts: Loche Vale translates in to ‘Lake Valley’.
There are two routes to The Loch in winter. Both share their initial portion with the summer route, following the trail to Alberta Falls. I wouldn’t advice this route for a winter access to the Loche Vale. Instead, follow the route that branches off to the right (south) of the Alberta Falls Trail at the second wooden bridge from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead (GPS Coordinates N40.3066, W105.6414). The route ascends more directly than the summer trail – but is steeper in places and through trees. The trail eventually joins the junction of the trails leading to Lake Haiyaha, Mills Lake, The Loch and Alberta Falls (GPS Coordinates N40.2976, W105.6455).
Depending on the time year you will choose on of two routes from the trail junction. In early and late season you will proceed on the standard route. In winter, you will want to stay off the south slopes of the standard route. Some of these areas are avalanche prone when loaded and the evidence of slide paths is pretty obvious.
For the winter route, continue towards Mills Lake, and near the triangular hitching rail, the trail splits, the left-hand route going on to Mills Lake, and the right-hand route to The Loch. From here, the trail enters the streambed of Icy Brook, the frozen stream itself becoming the trail.Be vigilant as Icy Brook will be open in places. The incline gradually increases, until a final, steep ascent near the lake, surrounded by rocky walls of the canyon on either side. At the top of the ascent, you leave the canyon, and arrive at the northeast corner of Loche Vale.