COLD CLEAR AND ICY
Had a very late start at 13:20 so only went up to the first false summit waited for dark and then came back down under headlamp. Despite the late start it was an interesting trip.
I was surprised to see a hearty group of climbers doing boulder problems low in the switch backs. Along with their crash pads they had very cold hands. It was in the low twenties and hard boulder problems require glove less hands to be placed on icy cold granite. Passionate mountaineers do funny things at times. I remember hearing about one fellow who in preparation for an upcoming mixed climbing mountaineering trip hiked holding snowballs in his bare hands so that he could acclimatize them for his upcoming trip.
Met a young lady who said she volunteered for Blue Ridge Mountain Rescue Group. She said she hiked Old Rag a lot so I encouraged her to consider volunteering for ORMS and provided her information on how to get in touch with it.
It was a good day to retrieve the garbage bag sized zip lock bag from near the last good camping spot on the Ridge Trail. With it being so cold there was no need to worry about the hornets/yellow jackets. The trail had very hard packed snow which in many places had transformed into ice.
When I got back down to the upper lot there was a party waiting on two members of their party and another party of two whom they had befriended near the summit. The two groups of two came out about ten and fifteen minutes after I arrived. The last group out said they were probably going to be sore from bruises received after falling on the icy trail several times. When I asked if they had slipped on the really icy part of the Saddle Trail they said no because they had traveled that part of the trail sitting down.
Have you ever tried to walk on a sidewalk that was not cleared of its snow, had been packed down by pedestrians and had turned icy from several days of thawing and refreezing? That is what many parts of the trail were like.
When this trail is coated in ice you can make it without any form of ice traction on your feet but it will be a lot more fun, go a lot faster, and be tremendously safer if you wear something that will grip on the ice. Think Stabilizers, YakTrax or MicroSpikes.
Does not look like much snow or ice but there was plenty.
Very low on the Ridge Trail the sun was just sinking over the mountains shoulder at around 16:00.
Just before the first false summit a good idea of how the trail looked higher on the mountain.
The classic look up the rock scramble from the point where you get your first views of Etlan.
I hung out on the first false summit until it got pretty dark. I can see and hear all the way up the Rock Scramble to the top of the Chute so I waited in order to make sure there were no late parties coming down the Ridge who might need help because they got caught in the dark without lights. It was amazing how much colder I started to feel just hanging out around R22 for forty minutes. On the exposed ridge the wind was a fairly constant 10 miles an hour with gusts up to twenty. Once you were off the ridge the air was almost still.