Local Diving: Turquoise Lake

By OceanFirst on 8/31/16

Report from Roger:

During a mid-August weekend a small group of adventurous divers gathered at a lake at close to 10,000 ft altitude to immerse themselves in 51 degree water to experience Colorado diving at its most extreme.  Most were outfitted in dry suits, hoods, and gloves however, a couple of divers were wearing 7 mm wet suits. The group gathered at the Printer Boy Group Campground a couple of miles from Leadville and adjacent to Turquoise Lake. We were prepared for roughing it, equipped with a 30 foot fifth-wheel stocked with diving equipment including extra cylinders, Oxygen, First Aid Kit, and enough food to feed a platoon of soldiers. P1000449.JPG

The drive Turquoise Lake was an uneventful 2 hours 45 minutes, and upon arrival basecamp was prepared, including a shade awning, outdoor carpet to cushion our feet from the hard pavement, a dinner table, multiple folding chairs, a folding recliner, and of course a free standing hammock with attached pillow. Remember: we were roughing it.  

On Friday a small group of us suited up in our dry suits and prepared to begin our first dive at 9,850 feet altitude.  Our plan was to dive to 30 feet and follow the contour of the lake using natural navigation with compass headings. The surface temp was 68 degrees and the temp at depth was 51 degrees. The visibility was about 20 feet and the bottom topography dropped off in a stair step profile dropping 6 to 10 feet from one tier to the next. There was enough ambient light to provide 20 feet visibility so we did not need lights.  The lake bottom is sandy silt so frog kicks were best suited to keep from stirring up the bottom and reducing the visibility to 5 feet.  There were no fish to see and no much of anything else for that matter.  However, just the experience of diving in 51 degree water, practicing drysuit skills, and building cairns underwater to mark out location was still fun.P1000473.JPG

That night we hit a minor setback in our luxury camping plan: I had forgotten my grill! A trip into the shopping mecca that is Leadville and a few stops later we had a grill ready to assemble. Question: how many SSI Instructors does it take to assemble a barbecue grill?  The answer is, it takes 3 but it also takes 3 attempts. We had to approach it like diver Stress and Rescue: Stop, Breath, Think, and Act.  So three times we looked at our handy work and found it did not look like the picture, so let's take it apart and try again.  Finally we had a working grill, a fire was started, and eventually people were fed.

The next day we started with breakfast at Base Camp and then leisurely gathered our dive gear and once more, we were off to the lake. With more divers in the water it was difficult to keep everyone together and the visibility decreased with the additional activity.  But even with the new challenges, we were able to execute the dive with everyone staying together and returning to our exit point as planned.  Once out of the water, most of us began disassembling equipment but Gary and Michael Magan decided it was time for a Dry Suit Sumo match. They each inflated their dry suits to the limit and began charging each other and bouncing apart when they collide. They enjoyed the fun but not near as much as some of the stunned and entertained by standers.P1000487.JPG

That afternoon, one of our divers offered to teach us how to fly fish and took us on a fly fishing adventure in the headwaters of the Arkansas river.  We first drove to Leadville to pick up the required fishing licenses and get directions to an appropriate spot.  The area was about 10 miles from Leadville near a zip line operation. Gary and Katie both caught a fish and released it back to the river while Scott and I had lots of practice casting.  I found that I have a talent for catching branches so, as a result, I got a lot of good practice in tying new flies to my leader.

The next day after a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes we all collected our things, said our farewells and head off our our journeys home.  All in all in was a good time, with good friends, good food, and yes good diving.


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