W46 Finish on Big Slide
Submitted By Michael Virdone
The Mountains & Stats
People On The Trip
We met up at the Garden for an 8 am start, it was weird getting such a late start (nearly an hour and a half later than any other hike this year). The parking lot was a treacherous sheet of ice (I almost fell on the way to the trail register). We had amassed a group of friends for our W finale hike and soon enough we were on our way. At the beginning the entire group was in microspikes.|
The climb up to the brothers was un-eventful until up the steep rocky section (the one that requires climbing up a little ledge/notch under a overhanging rock) where I got 2' up the trail and had both feet slip out from underneath me. Luckily I managed to not knock Nicole off the ledge (despite my attempts) and she was able to step over me so I could get my feet under me on solid rock instead of ice. Unfortunately the views were cut short by the snow that fell all day, so our farthest view was usually to the previous/next bump of the brothers.
We carefully made our way over all the bumps and scrambles (with me taking the most falls of the group) until we started our descent into the big slide/brothers valley. Here the trail became a little snowier, but still microspikes were appropriate for the icy spots underneath. At the junction for the push to the summit there was a lot of yelling from members of our group who were in the front, so we opted for crampons for the final climb. After a short climb with some exciting icy pitches mixed in we were finally at the top, finishing our winter 46.
Overall it has been an incredible journey. When we were finishing our first round there were numerous mountains where I said to myself (and sometimes aloud) "This mountain is one of the reason I'm never getting my W46". After we bagged a lot of the easy peaks during our first 46, we realized we enjoyed hiking in winter, but we really lacked the drive and confidence to push for some of the more difficult hikes. Nicole go bit by the W bug a lot earlier than I did, but eventually I came aboard to the plan to actually make the W our goal.
Winter 46ing has been much easier due to the help we received from our friends. Winter hiking is a sport where appropriate mentoring can make a world of difference. Hiking with friends who were experienced allowed us to learn the tricks of the trade while helping us become comfortable on more difficult hikes. Also working on the W was helped by having great friends who enjoy hiking as much as we do, going into the woods with a larger group typically makes for a more enjoyable trip (not to mention it helps having more snowshoes on the ground when it takes 3 hours to break out Cliff from the leanto).
At the summit we celebrated with our friends who could accompany us on this special day. Our request for our finish was that everyone wear a costume with a "W", we had the following:
Wonder Bread <- The winner of the costume contest!
Someone with Wings
Our friends presented us with some gifts which were totally unexpected and were all incredibly thoughtful and touching. We celebrated with some single malt and champagne while Nicole distributed goody bags with the following contents:
Wisconsin Cheddar (actually Wegmans cheddar)
The descent back to the parking lot was much tougher than the ascent (with the footing being tougher) many in the group opted to stay in crampons just to deal with the boilerplate ice. Eventually we were back at the car and heading back to pine place (www.pineplacelp.com) to take our showers before heading to the pub.
At the pub we enjoyed (many) beers and dinner before eating our celebratory cookie cake. We were able to share some of our cookie cake with others in the pub (famous Internet hikers who will remain unamed) before stumbling our way back to the apartment.
Some of the major lessons I have learned winter hiking over the past few seasons:
Fitness only gets you so far (not that I have hit the limit of fitness by any means), there is actually some skill to winter hiking
Staying organized and always packing your backpack the same way adds a lot of efficiency to trips
Bring food you want to eat, no matter how unhealthy it is for you. Carrying a pound of food you have no interest in eating sucks
Sometimes a nice hot thermos of soup or tea is all you need for a boost when it is really cold out
Speaking of a boost, dark chocolate (or dark chocolate peanut M&Ms) is rocket fuel for climbs
Keep your food easily accessible in pockets (for body warmth too), eat while walking so you don't take as many breaks
Walk slow enough so you can eat without stopping
Drink as much as possible on the drive to the trailhead so you start out pre-hydrated
Know when it is appropriate to slow down a lot to avoid breaking a sweat
Merino wool thermals are awesome if you can stand the cost
A backpacking backpack isn't going to carry gear the same way as a moutnaineering backpack
Layer down early, before you get warm and soak you shirt, gloves, and/or hat
Keep your puffy layer at the top of your pack, as soon as you make an extended stop, put it on immediately to keep your core warm.
The Good and The Bad
Spending a wonderful day with friends
Lack of views
|Had dinner at Danno's on the drive up. On the drive home we were still burning off a large breakfast so we didn't stop anywhere|