Distance: 13 km
Elevation gain: 810 mView mapDownload GPS track
I've always found this time of year a bit awkward when it comes to getting outdoors. The snow cover in the main ranges is still a bit low for snowshoeing (there is 50-60 cm down right now, but snowshoes would sink right to the bottom of it) and the front ranges are either inaccessible due to road closures or have a bit too much snow for hiking. Short days and end of semester tiredness also conspire to make getting out difficult, but with a job that keeps me sedentary 5 days per week I'm in desperate need of exercise come the weekend. With big plans
for this summer and even bigger ones
in the pipeline I can't afford to get out of shape either!
I eventually decided on Cox Hill, an easy ascent in the front ranges that I figured wouldn't have much snow cover and would probably already be trail broken. We've done it twice
before and while most of it is in the trees, the summit views are very nice. We arrived in the parking lot around 9 am and, hearing the wind blowing a gale, decided to leave our usual wide-brimmed hats in the car as they'd just get blown off anyway. I didn't notice at the time, but Sandra decided to replace hers with a tiara
, the weight of which and my ignorance of it cumulatively causing the ascent to take over 3 hours.
In any event, the princess and I eventually made it to the summit. While the trail had been broken this past week by someone on snowshoes, the uneven surface and minimal traction from our microspikes on the sugary snow gave us a good workout. The snowshoes we left in the car might have made things easier, but we'd forgotten the straps we use to attach them to our packs and we knew we wouldn't need them the entire way. Other than the usual nice summit views, we saw three snow-white ptarmigan on the upper slope. They're hard to see, but their footprints and diggings often give them away.
One cautionary note: After breaking out of the trees on the final ascent the trail and obvious route move below an area where windslabs develop and slide. The slides are small, but could be quite dangerous. See this photo
for a bigger slide; the blocks today were more cubic and didn't slide nearly as far. The danger zone can be avoided to the left, provided the slopes are as windswept as they were today, although nearer the top you'll want to be careful as well, depending on snow conditions.