April 23, 2005
Eight climbers met at SEHS parking lot at 5:45 a.m. The weather forecast was not promising: chance of showers and thunderstorms. The climbers were told there was only a slim chance the weather would allow a summit, and a better chance we’d get up a ways and have to turn around. The group decision was, since we were all there and ready to go, we’d take the slim chance. So off we went.
We drove up Pioneer Gulch to find the road clear of snow right up to the trailhead, and began hiking at about 8:30 a.m. After only about a mile in, we found the ground covered with enough soft snow to require snowshoes. These stayed on for the rest of the climb. After about one hour of climbing, it started to snow, and this, too, continued for the rest of the climb—sometimes light flakes, sometimes larger, wetter ones, and as we gained altitude, relentless little pellets.
Climbing was slow going. We took turns leading the group with the hard work of cutting kick steps with snowshoes. Despite gaining altitude, the soft snow condition persisted. Our steps would commonly blow out from under us (causing unintentional short glissades) and everyone was occasionally post-holing—even with snowshoes on.
The peak was never visible to us due to cloud cover, and as we gained altitude on the SE ridge, we began to lose more and more visibility due to the falling snow. We relied on a very nice GPS unit (thanks to Roy McCormick) to keep us on route toward the south summit.
With the decreasing visibility, and one climber struggling unexpectedly with altitude, keeping the group together required increasingly slow going and frequent stops. Finally, after a number of group decisions to press onward, and over six hours of climbing, we cleared the last trees below the south summit at 8,000 feet elevation. Our visibility was down to about 20 feet (i.e., shadows in the mist), and the majority of the group decided it was unsafe to attempt to summit. So begrudgingly and gratefully we turned back.
Although still snowing, we were able to follow our own tracks down. The struggling climber felt better as we descended, and after about another 2½ hours, we all safely returned to the cars. The consensus was that although we did not summit this was a true mountain experience for which we were all glad.
The brave and hearty climbers were: Jacob Shaw, Martin Holland-Bak, Jenny Hehnke, Ryan Smith, Larry Huff, Todd Harbin, Roy McCormick, and Steve Still (leader). Many thanks to all for a positive group experience.