Trip StatisticsJoe and Frédérique Grim, Paul Weber, Jeff Eisele, Terri Gerard, Tom Stuve, Ward Whicker, Yongli Zhou, Stephen Gest, Vicki Harbert, and Suzanne Wibby
7.0 miles round trip
1478 feet gain (8% avg. grade)
5 hours, 10 minutes
The TripWe started the hike from the Blue Lake TH (N40.57958 W105.85535, WGS84) at 14°F with partly sunny skies and ~10 mph winds. We gathered up our gear, crossed the highway, and put on our snowshoes at the entrance to Long Draw Road. The first part of the hike up the road was quite easy, as we were able to follow snowmobile tracks under only an inch of new snow. When we came to the turn off to the Long Draw Ski Trail (N40.57448 W105.85061), we were fortunate to follow old tracks up the trail under only three inches of new snow, so the “trail breaking” was quite easy! After a little while longer, we turned onto the Meadows Ski Trail (N40.57234 W105.84975), where we were able to follow the same set of old tracks. The hike along the trails was quite nice, as we were in the sun much of the time and out of the wind. The snow-covered pine trees on either side of us truly made this a winter wonderland. We also had occasional glimpses of the peaks in the Medicine Bow Range to the west, as well as our imposing destination above, Bald Mountain, with its incredibly steep rocky sides.
After hiking up the Meadows Trail for a ways, we reached a long narrow meadow. At the far side (N40.56026 W105.85068), we cut off trail toward the southeast. The trail breaking was still pretty easy, although now we were sinking in about six to twelve inches. The forest in this area is pretty open, so we had no trouble negotiating our way through the forest as we pretty much headed toward the direction of the sun. We also passed through a couple long meadows along the way (I had waypointed them beforehand using Google Earth.)
Eventually, we reached timberline on the south side of the mountain (N40.55289 W105.83580), where we took cover just into the trees to bundle up for the strong winds above. Taking this route around to the south side of the mountain allowed us to avoid the very steep, rocky cliffs and slopes on every other side. There is another non-technical, but very steep and rocky route up the north side, but “considerable” avalanche danger this day kept us from taking that route. As we hiked up the south side of the mountain, the southwest wind kept getting stronger and stronger. The views in every direction were absolutely awesome, even though snow was obscuring our views of some of the peaks. After finally reaching the top, we were hit with the hardest winds of the day, gusting to 40 mph! I’ve definitely experienced stronger winds before, but considering that it was only 13 degrees, the wind chill was dipping as low as -11! We took time to take a few photos and look around, before quickly heading back down. My hands were warm inside my thick mittens, but after having pulled my hand out for only 30 seconds to take three photos, it was starting to go numb from the cold!
Upon reaching the trees again, we stopped to enjoy a nice lunch in the sun and out of the wind. From there, we followed our tracks back, until we reached a drainage (N40.55442 W105.84119). Paul had suggested we take a different way back. We all agreed it would be nice to track through more fresh snow, so we followed the drainage all the way back to the Meadows Trail. The drainage was a nice place, down in a narrow valley that was surprisingly void of fallen timber, as so many drainages are. Upon reaching the trail (N40.56507 W105.84756), we retraced our earlier steps back to the trailhead.
To celebrate a great hike, we stopped at Glen Echo on the way back for hot drinks. It was a great day with a great group! For photos from this trip and a previous one, click here.