On Tuesday when I came home to the huge box with our snowshoes, I kinda wanted to go out right then and to try them out. Unfortunately there is no real snow here on the Front Range so I had to wait until the weekend to get my fix in.
I had hiked Butler Gulch( Hike Details here) in September of 2012 and had read that it was actually a more popular snowshoe than hiking trail. This is the trail I knew I wanted to do as our first solo snowshoe. It was one we had done before, the nature of the bowl we were hiking into made it safer from avalanche danger than most and it meant we could hit Tommyknockers on the way home.
When we pulled up to the parking lot, we were impressed with how many cars were already there and more were pulling in constantly. Fortunately it was not all for Butler Gulch, but also for Jones Pass which is open to motorized vehicles(Butler Gulch is not), lots of snow mobiles were over that way.
We put on our snowshoes at the car and started up the road to the trail head, I don’t think we needed to do this as the trail was pretty stable and our boots would have been fine. It was so cool walking over the gate to the trail, knowing it meant we were on 4 feet of snow, but again, I think we could have walked this all in our boots it was packed so hard.
We moved out at a nice pace and then as we climbed in elevation we definitely slowed down, I guess it had been longer than I thought since we were last at 10,000+feet. Despite the struggle with the altitude I was so happy to be out there. The weather was pretty good, just a little snow falling and occasionally we would hear big wind up above.
It took us longer than we expected to go just 2 ish miles, around 2 – 2.5 hours, and I think it took this long for 2 reasons. First, the altitude kicked my butt the whole way up while I practically flew down the gulch in the return trip. Second, it was just interesting to get used to the snow shoes, we got mountaineering ones and went with men 30’s . They are bigger and heavier than what we used 2 weeks before, but it was right for our weight combined with our backpacks. It was like walking with those ankle weights on but we did float better.
The path itself wasn’t too steep until it was crazy steep, the last climb up was very challenging so when I fell heading up, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get up and it took me a couple of minutes to sort of wiggling around to get to a standing position. Conversely when I fell coming down at the same point… I couldn’t get up so I just scooted on my butt down to the tree line.
It flattened out above that steep section and we could see the whole bowl in front of us with all the mountains north of us, it was beautiful! I am so glad we stopped here to capture it because not 5 minutes after we snapped a few pictures the wind picked up in a wicked way and didn’t stop. This is the challenge of being at 11,000ft, when the weather changes it is dramatic. I got a few pictures of the snow blowing like crazy and then we hightailed it out of there. The wind was coming hard enough that our path up was already being covered.
The trip down took maybe an hour and let me tell you the traffic going up was heavy, I think we easily passed a 100 people or more heading up. Most were going up to do some back country skiing, with a couple of groups of snowshoers as well. We passed one couple that had done almost the whole thing in just their micro spikes, they were so friendly, they had snowshoes attached to their packs and were holding out til the last-minute to put them on. It was interesting to see that we could have done the same trail in our micro spikes without postholing… next time. I think the only hard part is knowing when to switch it up. I am not sure where the right spot to put on the snowshoes is at. I think I did know where it wasn’t …. I am sure once I get more comfortable I will be able to figure out when I need to switch.
The day itself was pretty amazing, I never imagined I would be able to climb up to 11,000+ft this time of year and the snowshoes made it so easy! I was surprised by the level of traffic on the trail but it is pretty close to Winter Park and likely a good break for skiers on a crowded Saturday.
I hope if you find yourself out this way, that you get a chance to check this one out!
Just as an FYI… I will not be posting for a bit, my nieces are coming out for spring break at the end of the week and we have a crazy schedule set up. We are hiking, snowshoeing, seeing the ice castle in Breckenridge, doing a sunrise hike( their request) and lots of shopping and laughing. I think my evil plan to make them love Colorado enough to want to live here is working! I will catch up as soon as I can!
In the meantime get out there and hike!