November Reconnaissance

Winter 2011-12

Every season it’s the same.  Big things happen in the summer.  By the time fall rolls around, I’m tired and do some nesting and suddenly, BAM!  It’s winter… ish.  I look up at the mountains all cloaked in white and wonder, “Gosh, I haven’t been up in the mountains in ages.  What’s it like up there?  Is it too early to ski?”  I head to the garage and stare blankly at all the gear wondering which stuff do I usually take, which boots go with which skis, didn’t I come up with some system last season for optimal packing?  After an evening of feeling baffled and unprepared, I just throw everything into the car and sort it out at the trailhead.

First tracks!

This year was no different.  Two pairs of skis, three pairs of boots, two packs, and enough clothing to equip two of me for an arctic expedition arrived at the Brainard Lake winter trailhead. The weather wasn’t auspicious, but it was the only weather available: strong winds, blowing snow.  The only other people there were Gary Neptune and his wife.

Gary suggested I try the Little Raven trail, so off I went, up the road toward the Lefthand Reservoir and thence to Little Raven.  And it was lovely, for mid-November, at least!  From Brainard, I headed up the Niwot Cutoff to Long Lake, then on the summer trail on the north side half way to Lake Isabelle.  Beautiful in every way!

Normally the view would be really fantastic from right here, but I'm smiling anyway.

On the way back, I took the CMC south trail and found it pretty bony in most places.  Apparently the snow is a highly altitude-dependent thing; above 10k, it’s decent, but below that it’s very thin and wet.  It was with great relief that I made it back to the car.  The weather had improved a bit on the way back with bits of sun here and there.  But the snow started up again in earnest and there was half an inch on the car just in the time it took me to change back into my civvies.

While the skiing wasn’t that good, all in all, it is only November and I definitely needed some head-rethreading mountain time.  Let the 2011-12 winter season begin!

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