abject failure on Dial could not be left to stand. It was time to take a deep breath and try it again. This time, though, we had several more cards stacked in our favour: 1) Jenn's pulled muscle was feeling much better; 2) We did not have any return time constraints, and 3) We knew that the infamous 'pin-pin' (of viewsfromthetop.com fame) had done the entire nippletop-dial traverse just the day before, and so a followable and distinct track would exist.
We arrived at a good and early time (just before 7am) at St. Hubert's. We were slightly delayed helping several fellow hikers with lighting issues with their cars, and then we were off. I tried my new yaktrax for the first time on the icy Lake Road - hey, they work quite well! Very useful as a bridge between no crampons at all and full crampons.
We decided to attempt the loop counterclockwise this time. In other words, we'd head up the Lake Road to the Gill Brook trail, take that to the summit of Nippletop, then work our way down the ridge to Dial and then return to the Lake Road. This would allow us to face any horrible blowdown problems in the downhill direction, should they arise.
We walked very briskly up the Lake Road and reached the turnoff to the Gill Brook trail in no time. The route up Gill Brook was scenic, with lots of frozen and semi-frozen cascades and other water features along the way. We passed junction after junction all the way up to Elk Pass (there are a lot of very sign-intensive junctions along this trail!).
Blowdown on the Gill Brook trail was not too bad - a few here and there but nothing to really get super annoyed at. Elk Lake Pass was very peaceful and scenic - it is pleasant to wander around on the open areas of the bogs and ponds.
After Elk Lake pass came the steep 1300-foot push to Nippletop's summit ridge. Jenn and I got into an animated talk about the perils and pitfalls of dealing with the personel at car dealerships (no offense to any salesmen or mechanics reading this!), and this helped pass the time on the ascent. Again, blowdown did not seem too bad, and it seemed like we reached the summit ridge in no time! Excellent views north to the Great Range and central high peaks opened up near the top.
Upon reaching the summit ridge, we hung a sharp right and walked the easy few hundred undulating metres to the summit of Nippletop. I had only ever been to Nippletop once before, and it was totally socked in with clouds and rain, so this was my first time here in the clear. Wow - what an excellent view north. The summit, while treed, has a completely unfettered view north and a relatively clear view south. The view north is fantastic, with viewing angle for all of the central high peaks and great range. The light, too, was great. An approaching weather system added some scenic detail to the sky overhead.