Gray, Skylight, Marcy
Submitted By Michael Virdone
The Mountains & Stats
People On The Trip
This winter has been so amazing both weather and trail condition wise it was fitting that the our last hike of the season would be on such a great day. Nate is working on finishing his 46 and prior to this hike had 4 peaks remaining (Dix is all that is left now) so he suggested doing Gray, Skylight, and Marcy. I felt this was an ambitious day hike but knowing that we probably wouldn't have such good weather for some time Nicole and I agreed to go along.|
We were definitely concerned about how the recent warmth was going to affect trail conditions. Nicole and I had taken a miserable hike in April a few years ago where there was a thin crust with rotten snow beneath. I punched through every few steps and was exhausted by the time we were done. We all agreed that it the trails got too miserable we'd just turn back or find something easier to do.
We left the LOJ at 6:30 and took a slow and steady pace past Marcy Dam all the way up to Lake Arnold. The trails were in great condition with the exception of a few postholes on the trail to Lake Arnold. I was concerned with making good time and I thought we were going slow but we continued on. From Lake Arnold we began the descent and the trail got a little tougher, the snow had a bit of a crust but we were still moving at a good pace we kept going. I was amazed by how much loss there is on the other side of Lake Arnold!
We got down to the base of the Colden SE slide pretty quickly, I never knew that came out so far down the other side of the pass. Eventually we reached the leanto and the trail junction. From here it was slow and steady with the televators up. We plodded along step by step and we soon reached the height of land. We traversed up to the Gray herd path and were pleased to see a set of boot prints going up ahead of us.
Before we headed up the herd path we had a snack and that's when we saw Ike and his friend Kevin. They took off up the herd path ahead of us, after the bump they had a little route finding trouble so we passed but soon they caught up with us again. We followed the snowshoe tracks (Thanks Cory D.) pretty much all the way to the summit. The track currently stays mostly on the summer herd path with a few detours here and there. We took pictures at the summit (it is always fun to have a summer/winter picture of the same summit with the sign at different heights) and then started to head down.
Over the MacEntyre range was a set of really nasty looking clouds that wanted to threaten our great day. We agreed that if the weather turned for the worst we would just head back down instead of over Marcy. Back down at the Gray junction we met a few other people before walking across lake tear to get to 4 corners. After another snack and rest we began our ascent of Skylight.
Ike and Kevin took off ahead of us and we took a nice slow and steady pace to the summit. Ike topped out and was congratulated for his 46 finish with the 46r pale ale he carried to the top (and gracefully shared with the rest of us). We took a few pictures and then bombed back down the trail back to 4 corners.
From there we prepared for long slog up the backside of Marcy. We took the same approach as on Skylight, nice and slow and steady and we very quickly reached treeline. We took a look around and enjoyed the views before continuing the climb. Above treeline it got a little windy and my pace slowed considerably. Nicole and Nate pushed ahead to the summit and I arrived a few minutes later. The summit cone was mostly bare rock (on the 4 corners side) but we didn't bother removing snowshoes.
After a quick summit break we began our descent (mostly to get out of the wind). After 10 minutes we were to a calm spot in a depression so we took a nice long break with a snack and some boot adjustments. Our descent off Marcy was incredibly fast and after no-time we were back at Indian Falls. We took in some of the views before continuing down.
When we got to the Phelps junction I was still feeling great so I tried to get Nicole and Nate to go up Phelps. They politely (or not so politely) declined (I think the word moron was used). Considering the 1st time I Phelps (and tabletop) I felt much much worse than I did yesterday I decided to push and try for it. It took me 1.5 hrs round trip to get up to the summit, layer up, and head back down. At this point in the day the climb was slow but the descent was fast because the snow was soft and clinging to my snowshoes, turning them into skis.
Back down at the VanHo trail I put on cruise control and got back out to the LOJ as quickly as possible. Nicole and Nate took 10.5 hrs car to car, I took 12 car to car with Phelps.
I was really happy to push the limits of what I thought I could do on a hike but I'm also humble in knowing that I wouldn't have been able to do such an incredible hike if it weren't for the great weather and conditions.
The Good and The Bad
Good views on the trip
Scary black clouds blowing in over the MacEntyres (luckily didn't amount to anything)
|Up 3, stayed at cascade, back 3|