Ascent of Mount Lemmon on 2015-12-26

Climber: Hal Watrous

Date:Saturday, December 26, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Lemmon
    Elevation:9157 ft / 2791 m

Ascent Trip Report

Attempted Mt. Lemmon as winter snowshoe/scramble, part of a 7 summit bid during Christmas Break.(4 successfully summited) The ascent route I took was from end of road ski area by restaurant and lifts. I took the 1000'ft gain, 11/2 mile road route in 20 degree weather as I needed a moderate trip in between strenuous Mt. Graham and Miller peak on a 3 day sequence of trips. There were few reports for a winter or December trip, so hopefully this will provide some help for those attempting a winter trip.
The summit observatory was closed and locked, so I put on snowshoes and traversed around the east side of observatory fence to get to the true summit. The true summit described in other reports was slightly lower than the observatory. The fence had fallen at northeast corner so was able to briefly get inside observatory grounds. I also walked up to higher point above the observatory gate. The offroad portion is no more than a 1/4 mile.
Interesting things that I encountered included finding hundreds of locals from Tucson up filling the 70 car parking lot, up to see the snow and get out after Christmas Day. Most of these visitors stayed within 200 yards of the parking lot and/or were taking trips up the ski lifts. On return to the parking lot, I found law enforcement directing traffic of literally 100's of cars ascending to join the party. I was fortunate in getting out. As I descended the road, there was a line turning around in icey conditions rather than wait their turn to park(none available). As I descended further down the road, I encountered 100's more visitors sledding and otherwise enjoying the snowfall. Finally, as I descended to the valley floor in Tucson(45 degrees), I passed roughly 500 cars ascending the Catalina Highway. It was like all caution was thrown out the window with family decisions to get up to experience a White Christmas at any cost. All in all, it would have been tragic if the slight icey conditions had turned deadly.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes

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