Michele and I got out today for a crystal clear, very crisp jaunt on Longs Peak. We’d planned to snowshoe to Chasm Lake but prudence got the better of us. There were no entries in the register from Thursday (when twelve inches of fresh powder fell), but one set of boot prints from an entry a few hours earlier marked the trail. Though the temperature was quite cold, we warmed quickly and stripped off most of our many layers in the first mile of trail. Shortly before the bridge, we met the trail-breaker on the way back down (“too hard to break trail up above treeline!”) and followed his track to shortly after the bridge.
From there on, we got first tracks (too bad it was snowshoes, not skis). Breaking trail wasn’t all that difficult, but it was still heavy work even with switching off leads. Snow covered rocks and bushes equally and we often plunged knee-deep in spruce traps. Mills Moraine is always farther away than it looks when you first bust out above the trees and we were quite pleased to finally make it to Chasm Junction.
The wind had been in our teeth the whole way up, but it was sunny and we were laboring hard in wind shells and not too many layers underneath. At Sky-Potty Junction, we stopped for a brief lunch in the sun and quickly realized how cold it was. Probably single digits with a decent breeze to cool things down. Some of my six layers went back on.
I haven’t been on the Chasm Lake traverse in the daylight in a very long time and forgot how steeply it drops off to the left. There was a decent wind-slab hiding rocks and well-consolidated older snow. Despite being careful, I nearly took a ride down a steep gully, but managed to self-arrest with a ski pole. We switched to ice axes and traversed around the corner. The untracked expanse of the Peacock Pool traverse was beautiful, but, given what we’d found on the small snowfields so far, it was more risk than we were happy about. We’d already had a nice hike and it was determined that shivering at Chasm Lake for five minutes wouldn’t add much additional value to the day.
The way down was easy and fun as we galumphed across toward Jim’s Grove, then cut a meandering line down through the trees to intersect our ascent track just above the bridge. Quick work was made of the packed main trail and just as it became tedious, we reached the trailhead.
It was a gorgeous day in a snow-laden forest and some of the clearest conditions I’ve ever encountered. The view out to the Plains was unobscured by the usual haze and the towering walls of Longs and Meeker were so crisp I could make out individual details of the Loft and Dreamweaver. Definitely a nice way to ring out 2011 and start my Christmas break.