Distance: 3.5 km
Elevation gain: 450 m View map Download GPS track
I've been saving Limestone Mountain for a day when I didn't feel like hiking for more than a half day. It's short (4.5 km return) and less than 90 minutes from my house. With a tiring week last week, energy-sucking fog seemingly everywhere, and another work week about to start I figured today was the day and set out early, arriving at the base of the mountain at 8:15.
Unfortunately, glimpses of the mountain through low cloud as I drove towards it revealed that I had likely chosen a very poor destination for today. I had thought that the mountain, or at least the ascent ridge, would be nearly entirely snow free, but it was clear from the road that large amounts of snow still clung to the scramble section near the top. Worse, the easier scrambling I'm capable of lies on the north side of the upper ridge and this was exactly where the large amounts of snow were. With nothing better to do, however, I decided to give it a go and hope that it was much better than it looked from below.
I started hiking just north of the Galatea Creek parking lot at the point where the northwestern ridge of Limestone Mountain intersects the road. The hike was steep with moderate bushwhacking and there were several small slabs and boulders I needed to detour around, but overall the first 1.7 km of ridge was straightforward. Bob Spirko
noted that going right whenever he was faced with an obstacle worked well and it seemed to work well for me too. The ridge eventually ended, at which point the summit of Limestone Mountain was clearly visible to the north. I headed towards it, gaining the ridge just before some large steep slabs. Today this was an interesting section to traverse as the snow was very deep and only occasionally supportive. On several occasions I found myself waist deep in snow, once I sunk up to my chest, and countless times I struggled out of knee deep holes!
The ridge at this point was very steep. The easiest route up appeared to be to the left (north) of the ridgecrest and so I started up a small snow-filled gully. It wasn't too steep to begin with, but within meters I found myself clinging to the side of the ridge in very deep snow. I suspect that without the snow an obvious route exists, but today the snow basically filled everything in to make a wall of snow that was nearly vertical. After poking around the area a bit looking for a way up common sense prevailed and I retreated. I did consider trying to ascend the dry slabs to the south, but a short exploratory excursion revealed how foolish this would be for me.
I'll be back another day, but whenever that is I'll be sure there is no snow!