Distance: 8 km
Elevation gain: 750 mView mapDownload GPS track
With a fresh dusting of snow and a rare forecast of sun, light winds, and the perfect snowshoeing temperature of -7 I was looking for something with big views to climb today. The one unknown was the condition of the snowpack: Was it supportive enough to make something big possible or was it the bottomless sugar so common in the Rockies? Rather than chance it and spend the day wallowing in sugar snow below treeline while inventing new swear phrases, I decided to head up the south end of Mount Lawson, a trail I knew had been broken this past week and which had defeated me a few years ago
On that previous trip we were turned back within 600 m or so of the summit due to the extreme cold and a lack of experience negotiating steep slopes on snowshoes. Today I was solo, the weather was perfect, and I'd come prepared with microspikes should the ridge get too narrow or rocky for snowshoes, which it did near the summit. It's a slow process, but I'm also getting much more comfortable on terrain that I once perceived as too dangerous for me.
While steep and close to a precipitous drop in several areas, the ascent is reasonably straightforward all the way to a sub-summit sporting a cairn in the shape of a chair. Immediately after this the ridge narrows significantly, dropping vertically to the east and at a very steep angle to the west. The only logical route I could perceive (other than backtracking and traversing well below the ridge) was to head carefully along the steep side. This was complicated today by 10 cm of fresh fluffy snow covering everything, making it difficult to know the nature and stability of the rock underneath. I made the stupid mistake of trying to continue on snowshoes, but after nearly losing my balance on a very precarious perch just steps from the cairn I launched myself back to the cairn and replaced my snowshoes with microspikes. This made the going much easier as I could find much better footholds and within 5 m I was back on easier terrain. Less than 100 m of intermittent post-holing later, I was on the summit admiring the gorgeous views to the north.
After retracing my steps to the sub-summit I had lunch - the thermometer on my pack even reading above zero in the sun - and then retraced my steps back down. And while going solo has a mix of advantages and disadvantages, one advantage today was the sheppard's pie and chocolate cake waiting for me when I got home!
As a cautionary note to those heading to this area, later in the season the final portion of the ascent might be quite dangerous due to cornices and, if the upper slopes are snowcovered, avalanches as well.