Deer Mountain Winter Hike (Feb 8, 2015)

Susan and I had been talking for awhile about going up to Deer Mountain in the winter, so when this Sunday morning began with clear skies, we decided to grab our gear and head for the trailhead.

We didn't expect a lot of snow on the trail, and figured what there was would be well-packed by other hikers.

As we began the hike at 10:30am, we found the first part of the trail was patchy with snow and ice, and soon we both had our MicroSpikes on.

Horseshoe Park with Chapin, Chiquita and Ypsilon summits

The trail was pretty much what we expected until we got to the top of the all the switchbacks on the northwest side of the mountain. Then the "social" trail veered off the normal summer trail and for some reason took us more to the north. We decided to correct and had to bushwhack through the snow to head back to the normal summer trail leading to the summit.

Susan on the trail

The going got a lot harder, as there was 12-18" of snow on the unblazed trail, and we were not only post-holing a lot, but finding it hard to spot the actual unmarked trail.

As the snow got deeper we began to talk about whether we should just turn around. As we stopped to discuss, another couple about our age caught up with us by following our tracks, and they seemed to be confident of being able to reach the summit.

Susan decided that if they could do it, so could we, so we took a bearing on the summit and headed mostly towards it, tromping through the deep snow and weaving around trees and rocks.

Us, apparently happy with our decision to go on to the summit :-)

We leap-frogged with the other couple for maybe a quarter mile until they decided they'd had enough and they turned around to head down. We decided to keep going, as we were only about a thousand feet from the summit.

But with no trail, almost 2 feet of snow, steep terrain, and no snowshoes (or gaiters), we were post-holing on almost every step and were getting a lot of snow in our boots.

Finally, we reached the summit just before 2pm, and had it completely to ourselves!

Pano from the summit

We took off our boots and socks to try to dry them out a little, but the damage was done, and we'd be hiking down with wet feet. Not a big deal, as it was a very warm day, but a good lesson about always having gaiters -- and maybe snowshoes -- when we do a winter summit hike!

Mike on the "trail"

The hike down was somewhat easier, as we could avoid post-holing a little by walking in our tracks, and we got back down to the trailhead about 4:15pm.

Susan on the trail on the way down

Along the trail

Here's a hike map and elevation/speed profile.

The red line shows how much we slowed down as we approached the summit!

All the snow and post-holing, especially near the summit took a lot out of us, but we were very happy we summitted. As you may know, Deer Mountain is very special to us, as we got married on the summit in 2005. We have a new goal of hiking Deer Mountain in every month of the year, and this wonderful February winter hike takes care of one of those months!

We've now done the hike in February, April, May, June, July, and August. We'd better get busy on those other months! :-)

Morning panorama from Deer Mountain summit (Aug 2011)

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