The weather report was
excellent – we were in the midst of a large high pressure system, so the
weather would be stable if a bit warm.
We redeemed our reservation at the new
This was a big snow year
in the Sierra, but the early warm spell is melting the snow quickly. Our permit said “Winter Conditions”, and I’d
been up to
As we proceeded up the first rock outcrop above Mirror Lake (about Trailside Meadow were it visible) it became obvious a large fracture in the snow field would have to be navigated if we stayed on the summer trail, so at this point we dropped onto the well-consolidated snow pack to our left, and proceeded up the last 1.5 miles to Trail Camp on the snow, which was faster and easier on our knees, if a bit steeper. I watched another group navigate their way on the summer trail, and was a bit concerned for their safety as the snow fracture presented a major obstacle, with serious consequences in the event of a fall. Fortunately, they spotted us and decided our route presented a bit less excitement (and pucker factor).
I was glad to see that
The plan was to be on the trail at 4AM Saturday morning, but … with a rather large group, most of whom had traveled 3,000 miles + the day before, some had not been to altitude before, much less a 14-er … we were hiking by 4:45AM which was quite good all things being equal. The climb continued on firm snow, with the switchbacks buried
and only the cable posts sticking out of the snow high on the edge. Even with warm weather it’s likely to be another 2-3 weeks before this section of the summer route is open. We trudged slowly up the drainage to the large snowfield, and made 3 or 4 large traverses, the final one bringing us just north of Trail Crest (13,777’). At Trail Crest itself there was a bit of a steep cornice, so it made more sense to avoid it and clamber over the rock rumble on the other side to regain the trail. We stopped here for a brief rest and snack, and began the final two miles around .
The ‘backside’ of the
The views from the summit were terrific, and after lunch some dozed as others melted/filtered water for the return to Trail Camp. The summit marmot put in his usual appearance and looked quite svelte - by late summer he’s so fat from hiker-treats he needs to be fitted for wheels. We made our way back slowly, conserving our strength, knowing we still had many miles with big packs once we got back to Trail Camp. From Trail Crest we navigated a few hundred yards out to the middle of snow field to avoid the boulder field below and glissaded down, proving once again it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
The snow was a bit soft
as we made the balance of the way to Trail Camp. We packed up and were at
Pictures of the hike can be seen at Webshots here: http://community.webshots.com/album/551180923ILRmrY/0