I thought I would be a bit late posting this since it’s already April but there’s still a lot of snow up in the Indian Peaks and last Sunday’s freak snowstorm might suggest that spring hasn’t quite settled in yet. Geoff
was up on the Divide in his snowshoes on Friday and it got me thinking about a four hour jaunt we took up there a couple months ago - which was the first time I actually got the point of using those silly looking foot rackets.
I got a pair of snowshoes a couple years ago as I thought they’d be a good tool to keep exploring the peaks in winter without the need for too much extra gear. My first outing in them up Mt. Hood was terrible though, with way too much ice, lots of cursing, tripping, flicking snow up my back, overdressed, under dressed and a general sense of getting absolutely nowhere with the retched things. That was pretty much the extent of my interest in them for that season and I didn’t get them back out until I moved to Colorado. A trip up Fern Canyon to pack out a nice luge trench after the first big dumping had me back in Oregon all over again and by the time I’d returned to the car I was wondering how much I could sell them for on Craiglist. That’s until Geoff mentioned he’d been up to Arapaho peak the week before and suggested we head up there again on a clear day. The thought of going up to 13,500ft in the middle of winter with not much more than my usual running attire definitely had me willing to give it one last shot.
The ol’ Jetta didn’t make it up the icy hill so we jogged the first 3 miles or so up the road to the trailhead before putting on the snowshoes. As we started running on the first rolling “trail”, I immediately noticed something different from my previous outings: good snow conditions. While this may sound incredibly naive, it was somewhat of a revelation to me that in the right conditions snowshoes ARE the most efficient form of foot travel. We floated along to the first major climb that popped us out one ridge over from the Divide. The wind was nasty and had blown away most of the snow in this exposed section. I was surprised at how well the snowshoes handled the mixed terrain and we didn’t need to take them off once to negotiate the talus fields. Neither of us was feeling too excited about pushing on for another couple hours in the headwind to Arapaho peak so, we opted for a fun descent in deep powder back towards the car. All in all, I’ll definitely consider using snowshoes here and there when the conditions are right to explore some the higher terrain above treeline, usually untapped for me in the winter months.