After going through the season of eating and gaining some weight this month it was great to start blasting away and get out to do some great adventures. Today I had some time before I came in work so me, Jimbopo, Charydis, Josh, Mark, Gabe and I decided to have a quick winter snowshoe adventure. With the weather looking rather iffy with snow and wind we decided to head to the Crystal Mountain Ski Area where we checked in with the Lodge and were on our way to Bullion Basin and Bullion Peak. We picked this particular destination because we knew the roads would be relatively well maintained, the area is very popular yet the summit does not see a high level of traffic in the winter months.
We got a bit of a late start (9:00 am) but made great time heading the route. When we pulled up to the ski area it was clear. Unfortunately those first 15 minutes were the last fifteen minutes of clearing for us as the snow quickly moved in. By the time we started our trip it was snowing steadily. The first part of the route was on a snow-covered ski patrol road. The road itself was actually very well groomed and made for very easy travel. Gabe kicked in some very high speed and we were racing just to catch up with him. We made very good time and quickly we were at the Bullion Basin trailhead. From there we took the trail up the mountain. Many sections of the trail were very well kicked in from cross country skiers and snowshoe travelers in the earlier part. The trail was very easy to follow and Gabe again was kicking serious tailbone on these earlier sections. However once the trail started to side traverse the trip became a little more interesting. It was at the side traverse where we got our first site of Bullion Peak. The section that side traverse had a possibility of being avalanche prone. Luckily the avalanche danger here was low but we had to take our time kick in trail in order to cross this section. If traveling this section make sure to look up at the slope above and check avalanche danger before heading on this trail.
After the sloping section the trail went back into the trees and trail was well kicked in again. We followed the well traveled trail all the way to Bullion Basin where the trail quick died out into a bunch of small ski runs. From there we took one of the ski runs and followed it up towards the summit of Bullion Peak. At this point we had to kick in the trail with our snowshoes in order to make the summit. As we neared the summit we noticed a very nice bowl on the north side of Bullion Peak. Though the avalanche danger was not high we decided to go to the left side of the bowl and attain the ridge and from there traverse on over to the summit of Bullion Peak. The wind at the top of the ridge was absolutely brutal and for a couple seconds a ground blizzard kicked up and nearly blinded me with my glass.
One on the ridge though it was decision time. The summit of very close and we could easily reach it in less than 15 minutes. But would the weather be too brutal. We decided to go for with Charydis leading the charge for the summit. Slowly but surely we made our way traversing the ridge. We stayed away from the cornice and headed up the best path we could see to the summit. We had a quick clearing on the way but quickly the clouds moved in. Then just as the wind started to really kick in we attained the summit.
Hitting the Summit
The views from the summit were mostly fogged in from the snow but we really did not care about too much. We made it to the summit and very good time and we were happy to be there. Unfortunately though it was very cold and we could not spend long on the summit. With five minutes of us being up there we had to turn back. The wind became extremely cold and all of us really needed to move off from the high winds and the blowing snow. I have some picture of the very limited views but I am very sure this view is sensational on a better day.
Time to Descend
Most of the group decided to head back the they came but Josh and I decided to take a glissade down the bowl. Both of us checked for cracks in the snow and any other hints of avalanche danger but luckily there was not any so we decided to give it a ride. The glissade was not extremely fast but very effective in saving time and energy down the mountain. In going down we also were able hit an area with less wind and a place where we could be more comfortable on the bottom.
About ten minutes later the rest of the group joined us at the bottom of the bowl. From there we decided to head on back from our old route. As long as the route was in the trees we in good shape to spot our route. But in the open areas the heavy wind quickly filled our track to the point that we had to go by GPS and memory in order to get down the mountain. We though took our time heading down the mountain and listened in for the road below and the lifts from the ski area. Soon they picked up and our snowshoe got into much better condition.
Once we hi the road we were all set. The only thing was by now the snow was coming down at about an inch an hour and the roads were getting quickly filled with snow. Luckily though we picked a ski area today and the ski resort did a great job plowing the road back down the mountain. I know if anyone was coming down Crystal Mountain a 1:30 pm they were probably a little upset but I decided to put my gear in second and cruise down the road at 30 mph (normally 60 mph) until the snow was not much of an issue. Sorry to drivers above but I drive the same way I climb; safety first!
I want to thank everyone for coming out on this trip. I especially want to thank Charydis who was not feeling so well before the trip but ended up actually kicking trail on the home stretch. I thought that was very symbolic. And want to thank all the others as well. It was great getting out today, even if the weather was windy, snowy and at times like a blizzard.