With scenery like this, it's a prime snowshoe destination.
Unfortunately, you're never guaranteed that Mother Nature will cooperate with your grand plans to WOW your snowshoe partners.
That was the case when I met up with Andrea, Beau and Kevin last Saturday.
We met up in the far corner of the Heather Meadows parking lot where it was snowing lightly.
Despite the lack of potential for views, all four of us were excited to make the snowshoe trek.
We skirted the ski area boundaries, tromped through an avalanche class search-practice area and began ascending the first of two sizable hills. After a few rest breaks to adjust clothing layers and catch our breath we gradually climbed above Austin Pass where we could look down to the Bagley Lakes valley.
Avalanche risk was 'moderate' at the time of our visit.
After a brief explanation about why we should tackle Assburn hill instead of taking the longer and more gradual road route (to avoid more avalanche prone areas if you didn't know) we started the ascent.
Here is a view looking up Assburn hill as other snowshoers traverse their way upward:
After a little huffing and puffing (and a lot of sweating) we finally approached the top - although it was hard to tell due to the flat lighting. Very difficult to tell where the ground ended and the sky began - as evident in the first picture of this post.
Despite the burning
Due to our early start from the parking lot, we were the first snowshoers up the mountain this day. For the most part, we simply followed a preexisting snowshoe track up the mountain and all the way to the buried Artist Point parking lot.
Since we literally couldn't see anything except the single track we were following it was mutually decided that we'd turn around at that point instead of trying to navigate our way through a white out to Huntoon Point... only to have the same view of nothing.
It's not uncommon to hear about winter visitors getting turned around in such conditions - and Artist Point is a prime location of where that could happen. We felt lucky that there was only one snowshoe track that we had been following and were glad there weren't snowshoe prints heading in every direction.
As we began our descent of Assburn hill, a large group of snowshoers were beginning their ascent (the group in the 2nd picture above). Rather than waiting for them to clear off the existing path, we made a new path a short distance down the hill from them and then enjoyed a short glissade down the 'chute'.
We observed how the wind painted the right half of this tree trunk white. What a great winter snowshoe scene!
As we approached Austin Pass, we decided to take a diversion around the Austin Pass lodge. We found a group of snowshoers enjoying the covered patio as we passed by.
We found ourselves back at the parking lot just before noon. Andrea and Beau departed to have lunch in the lodge and then head out snowboarding for the afternoon.
Kevin and I opted for a Starbucks visit instead.
While the views didn't offer much, it was still a great (half) day on the mountain.
Our route for the day:
Trip Stats and picture downloads available here: Trip 133
If you are interested, here is a link to my trip report from a snowshoe to Artist Point when Mother Nature was in a better mood: Trip #106 from March 10, 2010
Next outing is scheduled for February 19th.