RT Length: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3662’
I made it to the trailhead at 4am and was the only vehicle in the lot. There was room for about 10 cars, but I’m sure when there isn’t snow there’s room for many, many more.
It was much colder than anticipated when I left my truck for the trail, but I figured it was due to the elevation and unexpected wind. I quickly put on my balaclava and hat. I was the only one at the trailhead when I arrived, and about a quarter mile up the trail couldn’t remember if I’d left the lights on inside my truck. I looked behind me and couldn’t see them glowing in the dark, so I crossed my fingers and kept on hiking. If it were light out I would have been able to clearly see the route before me up to point 12,915, but since it was dark I just kept heading straight up the ridge.
After about half a mile I reluctantly put on my snowshoes. They weren’t absolutely necessary, but I was getting tired of surprise postholing. The terrain went from snow covered to ice covered to bare over and over again.
After a mile I made it to the top of Point 12,915 and decided to summit Cupid and Grizzly first, so I turned right and headed over to Cupid.
This was a fairly easy walk that would have been even easier without all the wind.
The last bit up Cupid was covered in crusty snow
From Cupid I could just see the route I’d taken and Sniktau in the dark
And Torreys, Grays, and Grizzly Peak D
Now it was time to head over to Grizzly Peak by continuing southeast down and along a ridge.
Right about now the sun started to rise, but that wind just wouldn’t let up!
Check out those cornices!
The cornices had me a little worried, so when I hit the rock outcropping I did some class 3 moves in my snowshoes while downclimbing the rocks (not my brightest idea). Once I was past them and turned around I realized it would have been safer to just have gone over the what I thought had been cornices but was actually just snow (so that’s what I did on my way back).
Dotted line is the route I took on my way down, solid is the way back up
From the saddle between Cupid and Grizzly is where the wind really started picking up and the clouds started rolling in. I was a bit upset, I mean it was supposed to be a sunny day with little wind, and at this point it was neither. This is also where the cornices looked dangerous. This one looks ready to drop!
I stayed to the right of the cornices. The clouds suddenly began to clear and I could now see the route up Grizzly.
I started up Grizzly and turned to look back at those cornices one more time
All of the sudden I heard what sounded like a gunshot and just about jumped out of my skin! It took me a second, but I soon realized the sound was an explosive for avalanche mitigation. I heard about 10 more of them throughout the morning, and while I looked for the resulting avalanches I never saw them. Yes, the sound surprised me every time.
At this point in the hike I should have taken off my snowshoes, but I really didn’t want to carry them so I just kept them on. There is a bit of a false summit to this peak
And in the end I was glad I’d kept the snowshoes on because there was snow to contend with towards the summit that required snowshoes and my ice axe as well.
I summited right at 7am. I know this because my phone alarm went off and I called my daughter to wake her up for school. So yes, there’s reception on top of this peak.
Here’s a look back on the route to get here
Now that the wind had driven the clouds away the views were amazing!
OK, time to head back down.
These cornices are much bigger and steeper than they look.
I was once again glad I had my ice axe as I just went up and over the snow on the rock outcropping, no longer worried I’d be in trouble if I fell.
OK, so back on Cupid I could see the route up Sniktau
This route had cornices too, but they were very easily avoidable and none looked in danger of falling anytime soon.
There’s a false summit on this one, but I’d known that from seeing it from the other peaks earlier this morning. The snow cover here ranged from nonexistent to about 2 feet deep. I didn’t really need my snowshoes, but once again I was glad to have them on. I traded my ice axe in for my trekking pole and trekked to the summit. The slope was nice and gentle. I didn’t even need to stop to catch my breath.
I summited at about 9:30am
Here’s a look back on the route from Grizzly to Sniktau
I made my way back to Point 12,915 and headed back to the trailhead.
Now I started seeing people: Groups and groups of people, all hiking up the slope. Everyone had on microspikes, and no one was wearing snowshoes. Oh well, their loss. I guess some people like postholing 6 inches a step for miles at a time. Personally, I’d rather float. This had been a pretty easy hiking day for me, and I wasn’t even tired.
I made it back to the trailhead at 10:30am, making this an 8 mile hike in 6 hours. Oh, and no, I hadn’t left my lights on (whew!)
I was really, really glad the wind had stopped sometime while I was headed up Sniktau, and now I was quite warm but still bundled up. I talked with a few skiers at the trailhead who asked me why I was still covered from head to toe and I gave them the honest answer: I didn’t want to have to put on sunscreen.