I was hoping that this hike would be another in the help-Brian-complete-his-winter-46 series, but unfortunately Brian's feet had been bothering him, and he felt it was best if he stayed away from mountain hiking for a bit. It was still time for our next hike, though, so we gathered up enough folks and decided to undertake a classic little hike - the Porter-Cascade traverse, between Marcy Field and the Cascade Mountain Trailhead.

In order to mix things up a bit, we decided to do it in the "downhill" direction. I say "downhill" because there is a large difference in the start and end elevations; the Cascade Trailhead at Route 73 is quite high at about 2200 feet, and the Marcy Field trailhead is quite low, at about 950 feet. For some reason I generally tend towards doing hikes in the uphill direction, and so this was a variation of this hike I'd never done before.
Cascade Trailhed
Key check
After positioning our two cars at either end of the route, we did the all-important key-check (where you verify that the keys to the vehicle at the far end are in fact being carried by one of the group - a must before any traverse hike). We were then off, climbing in microspikes on the hard-pack trail.

It was a fairly chilly day, but quite calm, so it wasn't too long before we delayered. The trail stayed firm and hard-packed all the way up to about the 3500-foot level, where recent accumulations of snow had been higher, and we switched to snowshoes here.
Up the ridgeline
The first lookout
Taking in the view
The first lookout on the way up to Cascade is one of the very best - giving the unsuspecting hiker a sudden and expansive view of a huge swath of the Central High Peaks. Although we weren't unsuspecting hikers, it was still a great treat.
First lookout crew shot
Branch-off to Cascade
Continuing on from the first lookout, we re-entered the thick upper-altitude forest -- beautifully coated in fresh white snow. We soon reached the junction with the side branch to the summit of Cascade (and the other branch leading to Porter). We turned and headed towards a quick summit of Cascade.

Just before reaching the open terrain on Cascade's summit, we stopped for a snack break at a sheltered forest clearing, where conditions were quite pleasant and warm, and the air still. We then threw on a few extra layers in preparation for the exposed walk to the top.
Pre-summit clearing
Reaching treeline
Reaching treeline
A few yards beyond the forest clearing, we reached the sharp boundary with Cascade's summit terrain. There was a mild breeze here, and combined with the fairly cold -15C/5F temperature, created a noticeable chill. Alana took stock of the conditions and decided to skip the summit. The rest of us continued.

Although most of the summit terrain was bare rock, there were enough fingers of snow that we could choose to keep the snowshoes on without having to cross much bare rock.
Threading the snow
Gino and Algonquin
Cascade Summit
We reached the chilly summit of Cascade shortly before 12 noon. The 360-degree view was completely clear in all directions. Also arriving at the summit the same time we did were a group of four ice climbers, presumably having just completed an ice climb directly up from Upper Cascade Lake.

After a short stop at the summit, we headed back down, eager to continue on our "downhill" traverse. We walked back to the branch junction and turned left, starting the walk over to Porter Mountain.
Over to Porter
Algonquin through the trees
We were glad to see that the trail over to Porter was nicely broken out, and also in quite good shape, with minimal exposed ice or other obstacles. We dropped to the low point between the two peaks (which is just a shade over 300 feet lower in elevation than Porter's 4059-foot high summit), and then began climbing back up.
courtesy JInnes
Nice lookout
The Smiling Amigos
Arriving Porter Summit
The climb up to Porter on today's excellent snowshoe track was quite pleasant, and helped by a very nice lookout point and prominent bedrock prominence partway up. Porter's summit is not nearly as grand as Cascade's, but it is techincally still open and it does have quite a nice view.

With Porter summited, it was time to begin the meat of the traverse: the hike along the long ridgeline trail east of Porter, which gradually descends for several kilometres. We had been a bit worried that this lesser-travelled trail would not be broken out, but in fact it was, by at least two recent hikers.
Porter Mountain
Continuing Traverse
Excellent ridge lookout
Apart from needing to knock some fresh snow from the boughs of trees, the hike eastward from Porter's summit was quite easy. Snow conditions were excellent, both for ease of travel and also for pretty snowy scenery.

After about one and a quarter hours of easy eastward hiking, we reached the end of the ridgeline, and the trail begins a steep descent towards the bump of Blueberry Mountain. The conditions were such that we decided to butt-slide in several places, rather than tedious tramp down the steep grade. It wasn't too long after the sliding fun that we climbed up a short grade and arrived at the largest of the open lookouts on Blueberry Mountain. We stopped here for our final break.
Blueberry clearing
Starting blueberry descent
Gino waits
Although we were close to 9/10ths of the way along our traverse, we still had a lot of elevation to lose - more than 2,000 feet - before we reached the trailhead at Marcy Field. With the relatively low snowpack, I was slightly concerned that there might be tricky and icy sections to navigate, but it turned out that trail conditions weren't too bad. Partway down the steep descent from Blueberry, at a point which was actually lower than our start elevation, we switched back to microspikes. There was barely any snowpack here - perhaps an inch or two, and it made no sense to keep them on.
Low-altitude forest
Marcy Field TH
The final bit of our traverse descended through open forest, with only a dusting of snow on the ground. Without any substantial snowpack, we had to contend with rather rough trail tread through this section. This is why thick snowpacks are so great - the cover up all of this stuff!

We arrived at the Marcy Field trailhead shortly thereafter, for a total hike time of six hours and forty-five minutes. Not especially fast, but more than a sufficient speed for a reasonable finish time. Thanks to everyone for coming along today!
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Cascade-Porter Traverse Downhill - click map to view
Cascade-Porter Traverse (Downhill) - Hike Data
Start Time: 9:26a.m.
End Time: 4:12p.m.
Duration: 6h45m
Distance: 11.69 km (7.26 mi)
Average Speed: 1.7 km/hr (1.1 mph)
Start Elevation: 2200ft (671m) *
Max Elevation: 4147ft (1264m) *
Min Elevation: 924ft (282m) *
End Elevation: 926ft (282m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 2448ft (746m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 3701ft (1128m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
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