Having both been recently unencumbered by employment, Rory and I made plans for a weekday tour. Monday’s forecast was for Sunshine and temperatures approaching 60F, so we brainstormed higher mileage tours that would avoid south facing, large and/or steep terrain in the afternoon. The prior weekend was unseasonably warm as well, so we figured any good snow would be hidden on north aspects.
We settled on a loop in the Aplental backcountry with descents down a north aspect of Chair Peak and Holy Diver on the way out, and descents from Gem Lake and Snow Lake on the way back. For this route the larger more avalanche prone descents down Chair and Holy Diver are north facing and accomplished early in the day, before snow would be expected to be sliding around. The route’s descents down from Gem and Snow Lakes are south facing and skied in the heat of the afternoon, but the terrain here is smaller and more manageable. The ascents on this tour are favorable for a warm day as well – The south aspect ascents up Chair Peak and Mt. Roosevelt are accomplished early in the day, leaving shaded north facing ascents to Gem Lake and Snow Lake Divide for the afternoon.
We hit the trail at 7:30 AM, just between dawn and sunrise. Conditions for the tour up were hard pack, as to be expected with Sunday’s warm weather and refreezing overnight. Travel got a little friendlier as the sun began to warm the snow/ice surface while ascending Snow Lake divide.
The snow for our descent from Chair to Snow Lake was a bit firm and wind affected, however, the north aspect’s cooler temps and shade left a chalky edgeable surface with fresh snow scattered about. Fun turns overall.
The ascent from Snow Lake to Holy Diver was steep, sunny and beginning to get warm. We topped out at 11AM and would have been in a tough spot any later in the day.
Holy Diver held similar snow conditions to the north aspect of Chair Peak. Rory and I are typically snowboarders, but due to the mileage, amount of transitions and expected snow conditions, we opted to goon around on skis for the day.
After dropping holy diver we looped around towards lower wildcat lake and transitioned for our ascent and return southward through Gem and Snow Lakes.
We experienced a bit of loose wet activity on the afternoon’s south facing descents from Gem and Snow Lakes, but nothing unexpected or unmanageable. We also noticed a small slide took out a corner of our uptrack to Holy Diver later in the day as things warmed, reinforcing our decision to tackle that bit early. The bottom of Bryant Col. slid pretty big down to source lake as well.
Fantastic sunny day in the mountains, fist pumps and high fives all around.