The walk along Gothics' western summit ridgeline was quite pleasant at first: there's a continued stretch of totally open terrain and then the track dips into a stretch of thick fir trees. At first the track appeared to follow the actual summer trail but then got off-line, and soon it was pretty clear we were winding semi-randomly through the trees in the general direction of the western sub-summit. There was enough snowpack to make this a fairly easy thing (as opposed to what it would be like trying to do this in the summer, where it would be horrible bushwhacking).
Descending to summit forest
Soon we emerged back out of the thick dwarf forest and onto the open tip of the small western sub-summit of Gothics. This is a fine viewpoint from which to look back at the main summit, and also westward where the ground drops quite steeply to the Saddleback-Gothics col.
Andrew descending from summit
Arriving western sub-summit
The Range Trail descends this quite steeply sloping ridgeline - far steeper, in fact, than the moderately-angled open northeastern ridgeline we had ascended earlier. The first part of this steep and mostly open descent actually had some exposure below it, as well as a section where the snowpack was only thinly over bedrock and a veneer of ice. This gave us pause - in fact, we decided it would be better to switch to microspikes and get out our ice axes.
With the security of microspikes and an ice ax, we easily heel-stepped down and around the exposed area. The trail then continued its very steep direct descent down to the col, but now without exposure. Often there was a glissade track, and sometimes we indulged in it. It wasn't long before we were down out of the open and into the trees, where we soon re-affixed our snowshoes. Minutes after that we were at the Saddleback-Gothics col and trail junction (which was strangely un-signed). I casually mentioned to Brian that we could pop up to the nearby summit of Saddleback and make it Winter 46R number 30! He said no, however.
Heel-plunging down the steeps
Descent towards Orebed Brook Trail
From the Saddleback-Gothics col, we began our descent down into Johns Brook Valley, on a trail known as the Orebed Brook trail. This trail has been modified dramatically in recent years, and it now descends - in its upper part - a wide and steep open slide. Today in winter conditions it was perfect for a bit more glissading.
The upper slide on the Orebed Brook Trail marked the last bit of truly steep terrain. The grade lessened dramatically and a well-formed footpath provided easy and straightforward (if a bit boring) hiking all the way down the Orebed Brook Valley to the Johns Brook Lodge area.
Lower part of upper slide