Photos from this trip can be found here.
Be prepared to add an extra four miles to the climb. I parked at the 6200/6220 road junction along with cars from another group, in fear of getting stuck as we did two years ago en route to Tonga Ridge trailhead. I had met three of the other group’s four members below the summit a year ago, small world!
Two miles on the road wasn’t too eventful. The dogs had caught up with the other group since new faces were obviously more exciting than mine. They would periodically come back to check on me, thanks dogs!
I was not prepared to see the extra snow this year compared to exactly a year ago. The initial part of the climber’s path took some real work to get up, so I could only imagine what it was like up ahead on the steep slopes. The extra snow was fresh and not packed enough so we each had our fair share of plunging into tree wells. There were plenty of them on the slopes!
Lots of trail breaking to be done, and thanks in part to the two guys of the Meetup group. It was a lot of work and I’m glad they enjoyed breaking trail…I think. The first mile of the scramble was the crux of this trip, a lot of oops and uh-ohs trying to negotiate the tree wells. Once we got into the forest things started to look promising, and it was just a matter of plowing through more snow and route finding.
Once we got into the basin, the way to the summit became more apparent and straightforward. I wonder what this place is like in the summer sans the snow, I guess the only way to find out is to come back then. There was even more snow from the basin all the way to the top, with plenty of photo ops for anyone who wants to stop and savor the views. This was the first time I met a group where everyone actually took photos. It’s not often that I get to see the trip through other people’s eyes, so that was nice.
It wasn’t as windy as last year on the summit when we first arrived, but it gradually became somewhat unbearable and we took refuge behind frozen trees for the most part. Photos can’t do the space justice, but the last 100 feet or so up to the top looked like an ice sculpture park. The clouds were up high so the views were all ours to take in. We must have stayed on top for half hour before slowly making our way down the mountain. I stayed behind with the dogs for a bit longer for more photos, then caught up with the group later.
While getting down the steep slopes, the aforementioned crux of the trip, my left snowshoe decided that it was time to call it quit and left me with a broken binding. Minutes later, the right one decided it was also time to retire. Needless to say, getting down the rest of the way without snowshoes was not very fun and I plunged into plenty of tree wells.
After getting back on the service road, we decided to take a shortcut down a snow chute about 200 feet from the climber’s path entry point to save time. The sun was just beginning to set then and the sunset was astonishingly beautiful. Taking the shortcut bought us some time in getting back to our cars before complete darkness slowly crept its way in.
Another amazing day with amazing folks in the backcountry! Thanks to the group for adopting me and the dogs on their trip. It would have otherwise been a strenuous climb without their company.