Saturday 29 March 2014 – Four weeks since my last foray into the winter wilderness, I took to solo snowshoeing and hiking along Broads Fork trail for 3.75 hours from 4:30-8:15am from the 6,181’ Mill B trailhead to about 8,600′ at the base of the bowl where the trail normally ends at the 3 mile mark, ascending a steep 2,400′ in 2.5 hours for 800-feet per mile and descending quickly in 1.25 hours with time invested in dawn picture taking and removing snowshoes, and covering a total of 6 miles.
Packing the night before and arising refreshed at 3:30am, I was on the road at 4:05am and on the trail by 4:30am with a headlamp and snowshoes on a trail that was initially sparse of snow with frequent dry stretches. Using the MSR snowshoe extensions for the first time, they definitely helped climb deep powder, and made floating down on steep descents a new experience requiring additional vigilance, balance, and braking.
Reaching the end of the trail in the vale before the glacier, still covered in snow as a solid bowl, there were no avalanches apparent, nor ski tracks in the smooth bowl that received a fresh dusting a few days earlier (and again on the next day). I waited 5 minutes as the dawn ensued in a blustery wind, ate and drank a little, then descended quickly to the lip of the basin and paused again for the full alpenglow and pastel sky light show that lasted about 5 minutes.
Only two 70-ish hikers and a solo young backcountry skier ascended during my descent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the wilderness, singing improvised prayerful lyrics to the tune of Les Miserables’ God on High, and feeling so alive. I had to doff my hats and shirts down to thermal top on the way up, but when I reached the upper vale a bitter wind caused me to don them all again, including the windbreaker. I doffed the snowshoes for the last ¾ mile of sparse snowy trail, and had a speedy overall descent.
As usual, I came away supremely grateful that I made the effort and was so richly rewarded. I will be returning in August to climb the additional 2,700’ to the summit of Twin Peaks. Although I could easily see the ridge ascents to the Robinson Couloir on the Robinson Variation route of the north ridge of Twin, and the glacier was a smooth bowl, I would not want to trust those steep slopes without avalanche training. However, were I to camp in the vale at night, I would be tempted to ascend higher, and possibly crest the ridge and continue down behind Storm Mountain to Ferguson, but that is a lot of high country with no broken trails and I was grateful for the path I was able to break as far as I went without incident or risk, followed by a full and productive Saturday working outdoors in the garden in town.
Enjoy these rewards earned by arising before the dawn.