My initial plan for this day was to take a shot at top 100 California in the Sangres before the heavy snows dumped down there, but a less than promising forecast and uncertainty about access issues made us change our minds. We settled on trying Almagre Mountain, a prominent 12er in the C. Springs area that is the highest peak next to Pikes for miles. I look at this mountain everyday from town, as its long summit ridge has two ranked 12ers!
I peered out the window at 6am and was surprised to see 2 or 3 inches of snow in town already! This could be an interesting day. Pat picked me up at 6:15 and we met up with Doug Hatfield at McDonalds close to I-25. We were not sure if Old Stage/Gold Camp Rd would have many tracks this early in the morning, but Pat did a stellar job getting his new 4Runner up there. There were tracks for all but the last 4 miles or so on the road. The road was very slick and was even worse on the way down.
We set off from Gold Camp Rd and Forest Road 379 at 8:27am at an elevation of 9800'. An effort in the magnitude of 15 miles and around 3500' vertical would be required to collect both summits of Almagre, so we knew from the start this could just be a long snowshoe day with no summits. The road as expected was untracked with about 3-4" of fresh powder, so we started out with snowshoes and kept them on all the way up. We came across some campers whose site was deserted just a few minutes up, although there fire was still smoldering. It look like the sports car they drove up had been in a wreck. Not sure where they went.
Doug broke trail most of the way and it was slow going up the gentle road. The road does not take a very efficient line to the summit ridge as there are numerous switchbacks that quite often go the wrong direction. The conversation soon turned into when does everyone want to turn around and we settled on 11500', still over 2 miles in direct distance from the northern summit. We thought there was no way to get down before dark and the road would be hairy to drive down after dark. We ate lunch at our highpoint at noon and headed down at 12:30.
We cutoff quite a bit of distance by cutting a couple long switchbacks. The bobsled run down the slopes felt almost like you were skiing, with fresh powder on top of a hard layer. We joined the road again at 10900', cut another switchback, making excellent time down. A big group of diehard 4-wheelers were bombing up the road, which we were grateful for as we now could hike faster! Much to our surprise we were back at the car at 2:05, a much easier descent. The snow came down pretty hard most of the way down and had now piled up to 6-8". We didn't come close to summitting, but any day in the mountains is better than work regardless of the weather!