Saturday, February 24, 2007 in Medford, Oregon the weather cleared a little this morning. Earlier this week we had a rare snow storm leave 4-6” of snow in Medford and 8-16” in nearby Ashland. I was excited to hike my local “hill” this morning because it was covered with snow. I do this hike quite often, so any time the conditions change, it helps relieve the boredom.
I wanted to use this as a training hike also, so I got out my Denali Pro and loaded it up with about 40lbs of stuff. I can fantasize that this hike is like the West Buttress on Denali because of the snow. I drove the 4 miles from my house to the trailhead at the corner of Hillcrest and Roxy Ann Road, and quickly headed up the road. I was dressed in light clothes because it was 48 degrees and patches of blue could be seen overhead through the clouds. The road had been cleared of snow and I made good progress up the road to Roxy Ann Loop Road. The wind was blowing 25-30 mph in some exposed areas along the road, so I knew the weather was changing for the worse. It seems like the wind never blows in good weather only bad.
I made my way to the Ponderosa Trail trailhead and started up to the summit. There were footprints in the snow from another hiker from the previous day, so the trail was easy to follow. In spots the snow was at least 8 inches deep, it was soft and not icy at all, so the going was easy. There were still some chunks of snow coming off the trees and one of these snow bombs managed to hit me right square on the head. Several tree branches had broken off from the snow load and they were laying across the trail in spots. These were easily crossed and I made my way up to the summit. I was a little slower than usual because of the snow, but it was a fun hike. The wind was blowing pretty good on the summit, so I buttoned up my shirt and headed back down the Ponderosa Trail.
By the time I got back to the Roxy Ann Loop Road, the blue sky had completely disappeared and I could see the weather closing in on me from the north. I headed around the loop to the summit access road and I got sprinkled on a few times before heading up the access road.
The access road had about 6 inches of snow at the bottom and 10 inches near the summit. It was fun pushing up this steep road. I saw a couple of deer near the road and one of them was a 3 point buck. This time on the summit there were snow flurries and it was quite a bit colder than before. I dug into my pack, found my gloves, wind shirt, and neck gaiter along with my lunch. I quickly ate my small lunch and headed back down.
By the time I got to the Roxy Ann Loop Road it started to rain. I was 5 miles from my truck and it looked like I was going to get wet. Well it rained all the way back down to my truck and I got wet and cold. Since I knew it was just a short drive home and then a hot shower, I didn’t bother putting on any more clothing. I just toughed it out and by the time I got to my truck the temperature had dropped to 40 degrees, I was pretty wet, and I was getting cold.
The hot shower really felt good at home. I think it qualifies as a winter ascent because there was snow, it was cold, and it is still winter. The hike was 11 miles, gained a little over 2,000 feet, and took just under 4 hours.