Down in the col between Gothics and Armstrong we went, and sure enough, there was absolutely no track. Even though we were on a marked trail, routefinding becomes non-trivial, because the fresh snow makes every little open alleyway look like a potential path. A bit later on, I decided to try on my MSR snowshoes' extender panels (I was breaking the trail at this point) to see if it made breaking trail in fresh, soft snow any easier.
Junction with descent trail
Soon we arrive at the junction between the range trail (which we are on) and the side trail that leads down to the Lake Road in the Ausable River valley. This will be our descent route - but not quite yet. Jenn and I both want to summit Armstrong, which is only a short distance away and a short height above us. Colin and Lawrence decide to skip Armstrong and rest it out at the junction. After all, the sun is now fully out and the junction is in the sun.
So, Roland, myself and Jenn headed off to Armstrong. Again there is no track, and trail breaking is tiring and difficult (Jenn does most of this section - thanks muchly). After an exhausting 25 minutes of breaking trail and routefinding (it felt much longer than that), we reached the nice summit ledge of the treed summit of Armstrong. It was 4pm when we reached the summit, and we were clearly behind where we wanted to be at this time. Looks like it's going to be another long hike that ends in the dark!
Roland on Armstrong summit
Jenn surveys accomplishment
We turned around and backtracked to the junction, where Lawrence and Colin were waiting. We now had one final (and important) objective: get down into the valley and to the road before dark). We immediately started off on the trail, with Colin breaking. Many thanks go to him, because he broke a particularly difficult bit of trail that traversed horizontally along a very steep grade, and this made for particularly tough snowshoeing. As I followed him, I was dreading the inevitable point where the next in line (me) would be up for the next stint of trailbreaking!
Not too much longer after this, the trail started to descend more normally (i.e. not traversing). It was a challenge to stay on the trail with all of the recent heavy snow. Normally, a descent trail like this would be a piece of cake, but with all of the deep snow it was a chore even going downhill. We did a bicycle-team like rotation to spread the effort of breaking trail throughout our group.
Eventually, and gratefully, we intersected the relatively-recent track of an aborted uphill attempt on this trail, and that picked up our pace significantly. We no longer needed to routefind, and there was something more stable to hike on. We put our heads down and trudged down the trail, reaching the bridge across the Ausable river by the time it got fully dark.
From here, we still had about half a kilometre of at-times very tiring trail to break to the road. I was quite glad when that was over. I'd had quite enough tough trail-breaking, and I was very happy to see the snowmobile-packed surface of the Lake Road. Roland, myself and Jenn offered to go on ahead at an extra-brisk pace and bring the car up to the trail register (thereby saving Lawrence and Colin almost a kilometre of walking), which we did. We power-walked down the road to the gate and on to the car, and arrived back at the gate just after Colin and Lawrence arrived, at about 7:30pm.
This hike was, in my opinion, the most strenuous so far this winter season. Trailbreaking through the very deep snow for so long was what did it! Hopefully someone would soon take advantage of all of the work we just did!
Interactive Trackmap & Photo Points - Gothics & Armstrong - Click map to expand
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet