Ascent to Big Snow Mountain-Lower Hardscrabble Lake on 2017-05-07

Climber: Evan Battaglia

Date:Sunday, May 7, 2017
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Big Snow Mountain - Lower Hardscrabble Lake
    Elevation:4100 ft / 1249 m
    Remaining Elevation:2580 ft / 787 m (49% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Saturday: drove Middle Fk Road to the end. (It's a pretty bad road, but not the worst I've seen. Bottomed out once each way.) Loaded up my bike and rode past Goldmyer to the Hardscrabble "trailhead". On the way in, I was a bit surprised at how rough the road was. My cheap hybrid bike with knobby tires was challenged, but in the end it ended up sufficing. There are some quite rocky parts, some wet parts, and there were a couple parts it went downhill on the way in. All this kept me wondering how well I'd be able to ride down. On the second half of the ride to Goldmyer (and by that I mean, the turnoff for Goldmyer), the road is noticeably better. After that the road stays excellent for a half-mile or so, then gets progressively worse. I probably walked my bike a little under half the distance from Goldmyer to the trailhead, but I was definitely exerting myself.

I made it to the "trailhead" in about 1 hour 45 minutes. I didn't see any big log or stump as other trip reports have mentioned, there was a cairn with a round wire thing (one report said "hubcap" -- it didn't look like a hubcap but was about the same size), and some flagging.

The "trail" goes up a couple hundred feet before what is apparently the remnants of an very old mining road. After about a quarter mile going roughly ENE, it takes an abrupt turn left (N) up hill. I missed this turn on the way up, but I came down the path on the way down. This path later turns to the right, and, although there are one or two spots with some bushwhacking, for most of the way it's evident that you are on a path of some sort. Further up above was all snow for me. It's not easy, just make sure you are always on the west side of the creek.

It was very slow going for me -- took about 2.5 hours from the TH (where I left my bike) to reach Lower Hardscrabble Lake. This was partly due to routefinding (carrying those darn poles slow me down too... in vain hope of saving my knees on the way down), but largely due to the very soft snow conditions. I could have easily used snowshoes.

I reached the lake at 6pm and tried to go around it on the west side. The lake was mostly frozen with some open spots. The snow piled up on the west side, sometimes sloped moderately steeply (25-30 degrees?) to the lakes edge. The snow was very soft and I was falling through down to almost my waist. There was water running down the mountain above and I didn't feel quite comfortable continuing further, being not able to tell exactly where the lake ended (just where the piles ended). I relucantly realized I probably would not make it. It was almost time to camp anyway so I turned back and camped at the south end of the lake, after flattening/compacting a spot for my tent (took a while with no shovel) and carving steps down to the lake outlet to get water.

Sunday: For some reason, I assumed that the soft snow was not old/wet enough to harden overnight. So I slept in, not intending to continue in the morning. But when I got up at 9am I noticed I would walk right on the snow without falling through at all. I hurrenly got my things together and it worked for a while but soon after I turned around last time (a quarter-way around the lake) I started falling thru a bit. It was too late. Also at this part the snow was particularly sloping down. It probably would have been OK if the snow was firmer -- or maybe then I would have just walked on the lake -- but I didn't feel 100% safe with the soft snow, and I was worried about what returning later in the day would be like, when the snow is softer. So I turned back here, with the annoying thought that if I had just woken up at 3am I probably could have made it. Today I learned the importance of an alpine start!

It still took probably 1.5 hours to get down. The ride down on my bike was surprisingly fun and relatively easy, so my worries on the way in were unfounded. (Biking is definitely slightly faster than walking -- but even if it weren't, it saves my knees and feet! And is a change of pace, and riding down is fun.)

Car TH 12:40
Bike TH 14:20 - 15:20
Lower Hardscrabble 18:00
Lower Hardscrabble 10:30?
Bike TH 12:00?-13:00?
Car TH 14:10

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2700 ft / 822 m
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Bicycle, Ice Axe, Crampons, Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2700 ft / 822 m
    Start Trailhead:1400 ft / 426 m
Descent Statistics

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