All photos from this trip can be found here.
Due to considerable to high avalanche danger in last couple of months, I put off my New Year’s Day Granite Mountain hiking tradition until now. The nearly bluebird weather was too good to pass up albeit a super late morning start. Unable to find recent photos on Instagram or on Flickr made me even more curious to find out about the trail conditions.
Even for a weekday, I was surprised to see only two cars at the trailhead. Trail wasn’t terribly icy to start off, but I put on microspikes in case there was more ice ahead. Just past the first stream not far from the trailhead were rows of sawed up down trees for about 100 feet on both sides of the trail. A couple more down trees beyond that but easily to get around. Since my last visit, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness sign that used to be much farther up on the trail before one of the clearings by the snow chute had been relocated to the big tree about 500 feet before the Granite Mountain/Pratt Lake trail junction.
After arriving at the switchback by the second clearing, the old snow track split into two faint snowshoe/boot tracks heading up opposite sides of the snow chute. Pups and I followed the track on the left, which stayed in the trees on the south rib, in semi-slushy snow. Once we got to the elevation where the summer trail normally would be, I looked across the chute and it was evident that the trail hadn’t been broken. This was about where I started to posthole a lot more, so I switched to snowshoes and continued up the slope. Slush was constantly weighing down the snowshoes and it made breaking trail that much more fun.
Once we got out of the tree line, there was less than a foot of snow and it hardened a bit which made for a much faster ascent while we aimed for the nearly bare, steep southwest ridge. We then boulder hopped our way to a couple hundred feet below the lookout tower. There the slope became more gradual and I got back on snow and kicked steps all the way to the lookout.
The weather was much warmer than I expected, and the wind practically died down once we got to the top. Since we didn’t notice anyone coming down on our way up, I assumed hikers in the other two vehicles had gone elsewhere. But what a beautiful day to enjoy complete solitude atop the summit on this potentially last sunny day of the week.