2017/1/14 – Granite Mountain XIV / 花崗岩山之十四

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Lookout tower

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Continuing our New Year’s tradition after having waited two weeks for ideal snow and weather conditions. Moderate avalanche danger this weekend plus mostly sunny forecast today. My main concern was wind speed forecasted at 15 mph the night before, but got updated to 30 mph in the morning, crazy.

A dozen or so vehicles in the lot, later I realized most had gone on to other destinations via Pratt Lake Trail. Using microspikes for traction, pups and I followed old tracks on Granite Mountain Trail to 3,600′, where summer trail normally started making its way northeastward through first snow chute then due east. We stayed in the forest and followed old snowshoe tracks northward to 3,800′ before putting on snowshoes. Two hikers showed up below us and did the same as well. Pups and I continued to move northward, a while later caught up to a solo hiker below the treeline.

Wind immediately picked up the minute we were in the open, and slopes got a bit icy yet manageable with snowshoe traction. It wasn’t unbearable as much as it was uncomfortable. Goal was to attain southwest ridge to be on exposed granite rocks, and hopefully to stay somewhat out of the wind. Extremely glad the sun was out to offset some of the wind chill factor. Temperature reading on the GPS was 13 °F on windward slopes.

Staying just below southwest ridge crest on the west kept us out of colder temperatures and saved us from constantly getting blasted by the snow. Slopes on the west were mostly icy, so we carefully weaved through ice and looked for more snow-covered areas to walk on. Temperature reading was 23 °F through the ridge.

Wind blew nonstop on the summit, so the entire time we sought refuge behind big trees in back of the lookout tower. Sun felt incredibly nice and warm on the leeward side of summit, so I took advantage of the nice weather and stayed couple hours on top. Solo hiker we passed earlier made it to the top a while later, while the two who came after us turned around due to wind gusts.

Views were beautiful as always on this clear sunny day, with just two humans and two dogs on the summit.

On the descent I kept snowshoes on until slopes got steep and icy again, then switched to ice ax and without the snowshoes. More foot traffic heading up the slopes above the treeline, but mostly turned around before getting up to the ridge. I also packed crampons but didn’t have the need for them.

Access: Granite Mountain Trailhead
Gear: snowshoes, ice axe

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