Distance: 14 km
Elevation gain: 900 m View map Download GPS track
Before leaving for our vacation on Saturday the forecast models had suggested that midday Tuesday there would be an unusual and brief drop in the extreme winds pummeling the mountains. The absence of the roar from the wind when we got up that morning seemed to support this forecast, so we decided to tackle Coliseum Mountain, one of our bigger, but still easy, objectives for this trip.
There are several trails up this popular mountain, but we decided to follow the signed and official one that started very near the cabin in which we were staying. From the parking area we followed the packed trail east along the base of the mountain, gaining just 80 m over this initial 1.4 km section, before the trail started climbing the mountain in earnest. Twenty-eight switchbacks and 550 m of ascent later we reached the lower eastern summit of the mountain, only to be greeted by a very cold and moderately strong wind. With an air temperature of -15 C the windchill was certainly below -25 C and after a few very quick photos we dropped back down to the treed ridge to bundle up before heading for the true summit 2 km further west.
Travel along the ridge between the two summits could have been the highlight of the day, but the wind was so cold at each open area along the ridge that we couldn’t even look at the view without our eyes watering and crusted drifts made the going quite frustrating in spots. Thankfully most of the trail we followed was in the forest and small windless and sunny patches helped warm us back up a bit.
As we emerged from the trees just below the summit block an obvious break in the cliffs guarding it was revealed and we easily made our way up the snow-filled track to the summit plateau. The cold wind blew in earnest at this point and it was nearly impossible to hold the camera for photos; half the time I didn’t even know what I was photographing since my eyes were watering so much! We clearly couldn’t endure this for long and soon retreated to the forest for a quick snack before continuing our retreat back down the mountain. The gently graded switchbacks made for a very rapid descent and we were back at the truck just 5.25 hours after having started out.