Friday, October 7, 2011

First snow of the season on Norse Peak

Location: Crystal Mountain area

Distance: 10.6 miles

Elevation gain: 2,800 feet

I wasn’t expecting snow but that’s what I found atop Norse Peak. I set out from the base of the ski resort with basic gear, anticipating a steep climb to the 6,858-foot summit in the rain. It was drizzly when we started up the switchbacks but we held out hope that we could gain enough elevation to rise above the clouds and be treated to majestic views of the mighty mountain rising behind the resort. No such luck.

The clouds stayed with us as we trudged through the rocky meadows, moving slightly slower than usual because we’d had to add extra layers and didn’t want to sweat more than necessary and risk freezing. It wasn’t long before patches of snow sprouted among the undergrowth. We were initially excited to see our first snow this season … but then my shins disappeared into the snow and my excitement turned to uncertainty. I was, after all, in thin hiking pants.

We began traversing along a snowy ridge and that’s where the winds hit. My attention was temporarily directed toward the drop-off to our left and carefully picking my way over fallen trees on the narrow sloped path but it wasn’t long before my fingers turned white and my nose felt numb. I tried staying directly behind my partner to use him as a shield but the gusts kept knocking us both over. Needless to say, the last push to the summit was rather miserable and we hightailed it back to the drizzle as quick as our frozen feet would carry us.

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