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Strange Spring below Hell for Sure Pass

Posted: Thu May 21, 2020 1:52 am
by CarlRaillard
Hello! Here’s an unaccustomed thought for you guys to chew on: Frozen water is a type of rock. It’s a mineral with a very low melting point. I’m not accustomed to thinking of water in this way, but an unusual encounter, in the High Sierra, dramatized this point for me.

I came across a strange spring on the east side of Hell for Sure Pass. I believe it was around here, somewhere in this neighborhood:
HST Map
At first glance it appeared to be a mineral-rich evaporate spring. It had a terraced structure, wide at the bottom, and narrower towards the top. It looked like a miniature version of Mammoth Hot Springs at Yellowstone.

My analysis is that cold water, close to the freezing point, had come bubbling out of the ground, pooled outwards a little, and then froze under the influence of the frigid night air; in this manner, the water created a pan-shaped levee for itself. The source of the spring remained unfrozen, however, and so more water came gushing out, puddled against the edge of the levee, and froze. In this manner the pan of ice was widened and deepened. This procedure must’ve been going on all night, because when I came upon it, shortly after dawn, I found a table-sized mound of terraced levees. My recollection is that the entire structure was about chest-high, or perhaps a little higher. In form and appearance it looked like a travertine spring. Initially that’s what I thought it was. However, a closer look revealed the whole thing was composed of ice.

The natural conditions that conspired to make this phenomenon must be pretty rare. I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since. As the water gushed out of the ground, it must’ve remained consistently above the freezing point, in order to provide plenty of building material for the structure. The night air had to be below freezing, in order to prevent the water from sluicing away too quickly. The air couldn’t have been too cold, however, or else the spring’s source would freeze tight, and that would’ve stopped the structure’s growth, too. A delicate balance, rarely met.

Frozen water, like calcium carbonate, is a flow-stone. I’m not used to thinking of water in this way. I really shouldn't be so surprised, though. In its petrified form, water can make stalactites. We call them icicles.

Sincerely,
Carl Raillard

Re: Strange Spring below Hell for Sure Pass

Posted: Thu May 21, 2020 11:54 am
by oldranger
Pic?

Re: Strange Spring below Hell for Sure Pass

Posted: Fri May 22, 2020 12:32 am
by CarlRaillard
oldranger wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 11:54 am
Pic?
Sorry, no pics.

I'm an artist. When I see something interesting, I stop and draw it.

This weird spring certainly deserved a sketch, but the morning was cold, my fingers were stiff, and the skies looked iffy.

But you wanted a picture! Well, I'll toss you a bone. Here's a sketch of a bear skull I found in Yosemite.

Sincerely,
Carl Raillard