The Trip Report
I never knew by climbing this mountain last weekend that I was predicting the outcome for Atlanta and some parts of Florida the week after, but I guess I was. It just goes to show you that you ascend peaks for a specific reason, even if that reason isn’t obvious to you at that time. I am sure now that most people in the south are hoping I don't head back to this peak an time soon. I will give you advance notice if I do.
In the previous weeks I was planning on climbing Mount Hood. But the weather on New Years Day was horrible and I didn’t want to be another statistic on that mountain so I had to cancel out. I was a little bummed on New Years Day and even more bummed the day after when my wife got sick the night before we were to go on a hike together. So that Sunday I was pressed to do at least something to start off the New Year. With a couple quick calls a trip was on.
It was the weekend and my friends Josh, Mike, Joanna, Mark and I decided to do something that was very close and I was very familiar with. From all the winter storm warnings the day before we were expecting a ton of snow on summit of Dixie and neighboring peaks. I figured Dixie Peak would be a safe bet because the avalanche danger would be lower here than on other peaks. I also heard the weather was going to be at best questionable. So Dixie Mountain it was.
The Trip Up
We took the Teneriffe Mountain Road on the way up to the gap. As some of you know this six-mile long road is a true slog but there are views especially above 3500 feet. The snowline was very high though and started at 3800 feet. Most of this snow was old snow. The new snow/ice started at 4200 feet. The snow was compact and though I wore snowshoes when the snow looked to be getting deeper, there really was no need for them while on the road. We took the road all the way to gap where Joanna and Mark had to turn around out of concern for their dogs.
Josh, Mike and I continued to the summit of Dixie Peak. At first we travelling through some very short trees and shrubs. It didn't help that the ground was covered in ice and not snow. Actually under the thick tree canopy in spots there was actually no snow. This was annoying because now we had to deal with logs and thick ground cover, which slowed us down. Once past the short trees and shrub we broke out into open forest and headed up over a sub summit where we then headed north to the true summit.
The Verdict From the Summit; This is Going to Be a Cold Week In Dixie
We noticed though that the snow here was not fresh but old and there was a strange freezing rain coating on top of it. This was especially apparent once we began hitting the open fields near the summit. A couple of time while heading up the summit ridge we actually had to descend fifty feet and side traverse the slope to the summit. An ice axe and micro spikes were useful here. We hit the summit in good time and spent a little time to enjoy the views. Then we headed off north to check out the better views on the north side. All of us were remarking how there was no use for snowshoes here. I think Josh and Mike agree that the north summit has better views than the true summit of Dixie Peak (though the true summit is not much of a slacker in that department)
Heading back Down
We took more pictures from the north summit than headed on back. While heading back we stopped back at the true summit where were greeted with flurries. Mike decided to climb an ice-covered tree real quick to see if he could get the ultimate view. Both Josh and I just sat there and looked at him like he was crazy. Luckily he made up and down the ice-covered tree with no incident. After enjoying the tree and its views all of us decided to head down toward Blowdown Mountain to avoid the very thick brushy trees heading to gap.
At first this looked like a great decision. We had a wide-open ridge and a lot of space between the full growth trees. But as we continued further on down the ridge it became narrower and the footing a little trickier until we hit a 40-degree scree/talus field. At this point we had to traverse the scree/talus field slowly because the rock were icy. This was the crux of the trip. Despite the icy rocks the footing though was quite good here and we traversed across with no real issues other than we were cautiously slow here. Once past here we took a couple of open slopes back down to the Teneriffe Auto Road where the rest of the trip was gravy back to the car.
Overall this was a great trip. I enjoyed everyone's company very much and truly enjoyed knocking off 13 miles and roughly 4000 feet of elevation gain. Though it was shocking to see how little snow was up on the mountain, it was still a great day in the mountains. And other than the flurries on the summit of Dixie Peak and the small shower we encountered on the way down the weather held very well. This trip has set off like a great beginning to 2010!