Bagged and Flagged the real Bandera
Conditions: Fairly clear up to the false summit with one area of snow in the forest however the route from the false summit to the true summit was covered in snow about 60%; Should clear out by 7/10.
Bandera was a mountain that I have wanted to go up for a long time. I seen a number of people write about this peak over the year and the mountain has become a goal of mine for a while. Now I did not want to settle for the hikers peak of Bandera (or Little Bandera as it is named by some) but the real mountain a half mile to the east. On a sunny day this peak is known to have great views. Unfortunately today was one of those other day s that impacts these mountains about 70% of the time. Though it did not really rain on this mountain, both the false summit and the true summit were really socked in by clouds. So pictures on this trip are good to be pretty minimal.
Me and Curtis got a late start on this mountain in order to give us the best chance to have a good view. We got to the trailhead around 10 am and started up the trail. The first part of trail is a very simple walkup and we made up about 2 miles up the Mason Lake Trail to the T intersection in a little under an hour. There we took the steep food path up to the Little Bandera summit, or false summit of Bandera and we made it to that section in around an hour and forty minutes (11:40 pm). To be honest, this was very uneventful and even with the second section of the trail being very steep the footpath was in good condition. In fact we encountered very little snow until after the steep section and this section of snow in the woods, though was slippery, was nothing really to worry about. We were greeted by at least fifteen other hikers on the summit.
Most of these other hikers had no idea that they were not on the true summit of Bandera. Not even the person I was hiking with believed me. With the socked in views it was tempting just to enjoy the false summit and head on down. Well after a little convincing from both me another hiker who did know about the true summit of Bandera, it was time to set off for it. On the way up we were the only one to bring axes and within just a little bit they came out. We began down a footpath but after a little while hanging on the south side it quickly maneuvered to the north side and we had a large and very long cornice that was fairly and traversed the ridge perfectly we decided to take this snow bed and lead us easily to the base of the true summit. Though the views were still socked in the this impressive snow structure true made this trip worthwhile.
Once of the snow we saw the footpath on the south side again and took to yet another false tree covered summit that had only partial views off to the north . We lost the path and had to deal with a lot of tree well obstacles on this part of the path. The snow here was especially pack and places it was downright slippery. Though the views were clouded in we could see enough to realize this is a false summit and the real summit of Bandera was still a little ways away. Time to keep moving to the true summit.
While traversing along the south side of this snow-covered ridge we noticed a whole bunch of glissade paths. We did not take them back because we didn’t know where they went but boy were they mighty tempting. We press on and then finally made the true summit of Bandera at about 1:00 pm (after restarting at 12:30 from the break and the negotiations on Little Bandera) where on a normal day you have great views north and south. Unfortunately all we saw were clouds!!! Still unlikely the false summit we were the only ones on the true summit for an hour until the next group of two hikers came by.
The first part of the way back was especially slow going. It was very hard at time to spot our footprint and the fog on the mountain as well as the slippery snow didn’t make travel very easy. It was tough around the false summit but once we got past the false summit the conditions got a little better. At times it felt as if we going from one mini trap to another. Man that glissade was really looking good if only I knew where it went. However we can’t reflect on the glissade but on the trip back to the car.
We took the snow cornice/ structure back and picked up the trail heading down from the false summit or “Little Bandera”. On the way down I was shocked to Mason Lake about 1100 feet below still frozen. It is June and lake that low being frozen absolutely shocks me. According to others we passed on the trail this was actually early to mid May conditions for this mountain. On the way back some views south towards McClellan’s Butte did open up through the otherwise foggy summit of Bandera. I took a couple pics and pressed on. We took a little slow on the steep section but finally put it all together and headed down the rest of the trail. We both made it down to the bottom of the trail at 4:30 and then headed on back.
The snow will probably stay on this mountain well into July. If you plan on doing it beforehand make sure you are aware of the snow. An ice axe is highly advisable especially if you can get more information about that glissade. I definite plan on going up this mountain again.