RT Length – 14.5 miles
Elevation Gain – 5920’
Sometimes hiking in the Spring is similar to hiking in the summer, in that you still need to be off the mountain before noon to avoid encountering storms, but spring storms tend to include snow. Today’s forecast called for 70% chance of snow after 12pm so I decided to get an early start. I arrived to what I thought was the trailhead around 3:30am only to discover I was not in fact at the trailhead. You see Google couldn’t find the Deer Creek trailhead so I just set it for Deer Creek Campground and figured I’d find the trailhead from there. I made it to the campground, drove through, and took a dirt road .8 miles only to arrive at a locked gate. I figured this was the trailhead so I found a place to park, got out my gear, and walked to the gate, only to discover this was instead private property, I was being filmed, and there was no public access. OK, so I went back to my truck and tried again. It seems you don’t actually enter the campground, but at this sign turn right and follow the road to the end to find the Deer Creek Trailhead.
This is listed as a 4wd trailhead and I agree, much of the year it’s probably a 4wd TH, but today it was navigable by most 2wd vehicles. There was only one short area where it would give me pause if it was raining, but I’m confident most 2wd vehicles can make it to the trailhead today. It’s located on a well maintained road with several overflow spaces for parking along the road itself.
I made it to the new (actual) trailhead and in the dark couldn’t tell if I was seeing snow or mud or rocks so I just parked as near the entrance as possible for easy exit. I was the only car in the lot when I arrived and when I left, despite this being a Friday (oh, and the parking lot was dry, so I could have parked anywhere).
The trail begins at the west end of the parking lot. I knew I was at the right area immediately because I saw this sign
And within a quarter of a mile I saw this bridge. I hadn’t been expecting a bridge, but I crossed it and continued following the dry trail
This is a well maintained class 1 approach, but in the dark I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up navigating around a bunch of downed trees. I discovered on my way back I was taking an old trail that was closed due to said downed trees, but in the dark the obvious trail wasn’t so obvious. So, if you’re hiking in the dark note: If you come to an area that’s not passable in the dark stick to the creek. There is an easy trail to follow, (as long as you don’t lose it…)
I crossed another log bridge in the dark
And came to a junction. Here you go right and take the Tanglewood Trail (not the Rosalie trail, even though you’re going to Rosalie).
Shortly after this junction there’s a trail register. A permit is required to hike here. It’s free and you just fill out the information. It just lets you know what Leave no Trace is and asks you follow basic trail etiquette. You let them know how many people are in your party and leave the top half in the box. There were plenty of permits and pencils. I filled one out and continued on my way.
I lost the trail once again for a short while when I encountered old avalanche debris, but turned towards the creek and found the trail again. Once again, this was a “my bad in the dark” kind of situation. In daylight there was no issue.
I was now about 2 miles in and the snow began to cover the trail.
Due to the warm temperatures last night I immediately began postholing. What’s funny is I started seeing tracks that looked like moose or elk tracks. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to decide if they were Elk or Moose, but they looked like both? In the beginning they were confined to just an inch or two of postholing, but eventually the animal(s) were postholing knee deep or more as well. I bet they’re looking forward to the snow being gone.
There were tons of tracks and I was confused because some looked like elk and some looked like moose. I figured the area was more conducive to moose as the willows and creek provide their food source, but I was seeing mixed evidence of both. And then I came upon scat. Tons and tons of scat, and it became evident there are both moose and elk in the area, and probably some babies as well.
The snow didn’t stop until treeline, and if anything the postholing got worse. I was stubborn and didn’t put on my shnoshoes until I made it to the willows, where they were absolutely necessary.
Here I again lost the trail but knew I just needed to gain the saddle so I headed west up and through the willows, only sinking to my waist a handful of times. Oh, and did I mention the elk and moose scat? It was covering the floor of the willows; piles and piles at a time. And those buggers make their own trails through the willows, which stop when they look like they go (and vice versa). This is definitely an area they bed down in.
Just heading towards the saddle…
Here’s where I was headed
There hadn’t been much of a sunrise (no alpenglow) but I was pleasantly surprised there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! This was great news, as there were many peaks I was interested in summiting today and it looked like the weather was cooperating. I gained the saddle and turned left to follow the ridge
This ridge was mostly a gentle ridge. I was lazy and didn’t want to take off my snowshoes so I kept to the snow even though it was avoidable.
This ridge is longer than it looks, and the snow towards the middle gets steep (but nothing too dramatic, snowshoes were fine). I just kept aiming towards the next landmark (rock) and hiked on.
I made it to what I thought was the summit only to be greeted with the true summit in the background
I kept going another quarter mile or so to the summit of Rosalie
The summit was rocky and dry. I summited at about 7:50am
Rosalie Summit: Rosalie
I had some great views of a couple of 14ers, but I was headed towards another 13er: “Epaulie”. I could see some clouds gathering in the background and the wind was picking up, but I wasn’t too worried about the weather; I had until noon for snow, right?
Hiking down to the saddle of Rosalie/”Epaulie” I took off my snowshoes and navigated the rocky slope. At least the rocks were stable.
The entire hike to the saddle I kept my eye on “Epaulie” and tried to decide on the route I wanted to take to the summit
Looking at “Epaulie” from here I thought taking the right side would be a good choice since there was continuous snow, but as I got closer I realized just how steep that snow was and decided to head left instead. This ended up being a good choice. Snowshoes and an ice axe were a good choice as well, as the snow was very consolidated, smooth but rock hard, and steep. Here’s the route I took
Towards the top the snow gets very steep and I was thankful for my ice axe the last 50-75 feet or so. And btw, those are very large rocks encases in ice/snow, not dirt.
The summit made for some fun bouldering
I’m not sure when I summited because it was quite windy and I was keeping an eye on those clouds, which were moving in fast! I took a summit selfie with my DSLR and kept my cell phone in my pocket.
I looked over at Epaulet Mountain. I’d wanted to summit this unranked 13er also today, and the weather was looking pretty good towards Epaulet, but those clouds back over Rosalie were worrying me.
I gave it a quick thought and remembered there was a ranked 12er close to the saddle on my way back down. In the end I decided not to summit the unranked Epaulet and to instead head back and attempt the ranked 12er (if the weather held out). I figured it was better to be closer to a bail out point if the weather turned. It looked like the weather was anxious to get started early this afternoon.
I exchanged my snowshoes for crampons for the way down. Again, another excellent choice.
I turned around and re-summited the rocky Rosalie (taking off my crampons for this part)
And looked at my intended route towards 12er West Pegmatite Points.
This looked easy enough, and in front of me the path seemed clear of weather (but clouds were increasing behind me). I headed down towards the saddle and about halfway down felt my backpack give a quick pull, but didn’t think anything of it until about 200 feet later where I decided I should probably check it out. I took off my pack and it was open! Drat! I rummaged around to see if I’d lost anything and only counted one crampon. Ugh… I needed that crampon for Sunday’s hike. I looked back up the slope and saw something blue and shiny up above. That was my crampon all right. I was going to have to backtrack and trudge up to get it!
I made my way back up the slope and quickly discovered the snow was getting quite slushy. It couldn’t have been past 10:30am, yet the snow was melting fast! I needed to get down to that saddle.
I slogged my way to the saddle and was feeling great so I decided to head over to West Pegmatite Points. There is no route, so I followed the ridge up and over as far as it went
Here’s the path I took, right at these rocks
And around them
Up a small slope to gain the ridge
And then across the ridge to the summit. There was a lot of fun rock scrambling but I’d still keep this at a class 2
I took a quick summit photo and the wind told me my half of hair had come undone sometime on the hike. I was getting strands hitting me in the face, so I quickly re-braided it and without another hair tie just used one to secure both braids. I’m sure I looked amazing…
A storm was coming in from the west, and while the above picture doesn’t suggest a storm, right about now is when it actually started snowing. Just little bits that flew in my face, but I knew more was to come, so I quickly gathered my gear and headed back towards the saddle, aiming for the rock outcropping.
From the saddle I put on my snowshoes and just headed down through the bristlecone pines and willows towards the creek I knew flowed in the trees.
When I made it to the willows I actually found the intended trail and was able to easily follow it all the way back down. It’s amazing how much easier route finding is in the daylight!
I kept looking for those elk/moose, but feared I was making too much noise in my snowshoes and was probably frightening them all away. The snow picked up and felt absolutely amazing on my face! I was flushed and seriously considered putting my face in the creek just to cool off (but didn’t…). Yes, the trail was much easier to follow in the daylight, and I never came upon those downed trees that stumped me before and actually crossed a stream I hadn’t on my way in…
I made it back to my truck at 1:30pm and checked my stats. Whoa! I’d been expecting a 10 mile hike with about 4700’ in elevation gain, yet I’d done 14.5 miles with 5920’ in elevation gain In 9 hours! The best part was I wasn’t even that tired (which I attributed to the relatively “lower” elevation of these 13ers and 12er when compared to the other 13ers and 14ers I’ve been doing lately: breathing at altitude goes up exponentially and tires you out!)
Here’s the Relive: Relive
Oh, and there was a small snowbridge to cross just after the snow begins, which was questionable. It doesn’t look stable and didn’t feel stable either. I crossed it in snowshoes so if it broke I’d have stability in the water, but be careful with the rising temperatures crossing these things!
Also, I was glad I had microspikes, snowshoes, crampons, and an ice axe for this hike. I kept changing them out (and at times didn’t wear any of them) but felt good having them all. Oh, and postholing is never fun!