Today's hike was the first of the official 'winter season'. I wanted to kick it off with a couple of winter 46ers that I had not done, and that would also make a couple of winter AND regular 46ers for Jenn.
Initially I had thought about a loop that would summit the Wolfjaws, but, as we arrived near the trailhead, I saw how wonderful idea it was looking to be (as in, clear beautiful skies). I decided that perhaps we should switch to an outing that had more views. I thought perhaps Dial and Nippletop might be a good choice. Similar in distance to my original plans, and with a good view from Nippletop, and from the 1999 burn area, which I had heard about but not yet seen. I suggested the idea to Jenn, and she was agreeable.
Early Morning at the AMR golf course
Waning Crescent above Noonmark
The day was indeed turning out to be great - it wasn't too cold and it was clearing up nicely. Still, we had a couple of issues to deal with: first was that the previous week had seen a lot of soggy and wet days, and there was potential for tiring crust-of-ice trail conditions, and secondly, Jenn had pulled a groin muscle recently and it was acting up on her. She insisted we go on and give the peak a try.
Only a little snow down here
Progress up the Leigh trail to the burn area was rapid, even with Jenn's pulled muscle. The first glimpses of the Burn area were quite interesting, especially in how almost all of the existing forest had been razed by the fire and was replaced by millions of young saplings of some sort.
Jenn and peek-a-boo ridge
Clouds recede over Great Range
Higher up, we reached the point where the trail crosses the main section of the burn area. Wow - very scenic, especially in the low-angle crystal clear light of our winter day. The clouds on the lower great range were starting to recede, and the views were stunning. Trail conditions weren't too bad, as there had been someone up here a few days before and there was an old, partially-filled-in, but still useful set of tracks to follow.
Early morning winter light
Up and through the scenic burn area we went, and then down into a deep 300-foot dip between the shoulder of Noonmark (which we were on) and Bear Den Mountain, the sub-summit below Dial. The descent portion was very open and in the burn area, whereas the ascent of Bear Den was out of the burn area and in thick coniferous forest. Blowdown (which I had been a bit worried about) started to rear its ugly, snow-laden, messy head.
Eventually we got to a point where the ATIS trail markers stopped, and we reached an area along the ridge between Bear Den and Dial (about halfway, I'd say) where there was either the mother of all blowdowns, or we got ourselves slightly off-trail (can't be too off trail when you are following a ridge-trail!). We traipsed around for a good 20 minutes and could find no sign of further ATIS markers or the faint snowshoe tracks. Given that, Jenn's muscle thing, the time, and just the sheer annoyance of it all, we decided to call it quits (we were about 1.1 straight-line kilometres from the summit of Dial).
Frustrated but realizing that this was probably a good thing, and not looking forward to re-doing some of the blowdown we already crossed, we headed back. As it turns out, the return journey wasn't too bad.
Andrew observes the Great Range