| February was the last month!
RT: 13 miles
Vertical: 4,100 ft.
I'd climbed this peak in every calendar month except February, and two attempts in 2008 had both been unsuccessful due to deep snow. Since it had been basically a month since any significant snow fell in these parts, I decided this first Saturday of the month was my best chance to remedy this omission. Boy, was I right!
The Pikes Peak region has really gotten off easy on snowfall so far this winter, and what I found on the way to Rosa was super easy going as a result. I left the Gold Camp Road closure trailhead at 5:40 am, over an hour before sunrise, just to make sure I would have enough time. There were a few icy sections on the Saint Marys Fall trail, but everything was crisp and tractiony in the early morning chill.
I caught the first sunlight on the east face of Stove Mountain:
Less than two hours brought me to the point where the trail intersects FS379. There I finally put on gaiters, anticipating deeper snow ahead.
It was a little deeper, but nothing like what I was prepared for. Numerous recent tracks made the trail clearer than I have ever seen in in winter, and there were even stretches where bare ground showed! I zipped on up the switchbacks and came out on the north ridge in less than 45 minutes.
When I got to the base of the final climb up the north slopes, I finally found consistent snow cover, but with a pleasant surprise: recent showshoe tracks, which gave me a good surface to walk on virtually all the way to the summit! The tracks actually followed the real trail almost all the way to the summit. Following them, I topped out at 9 am.
It was windy on top, and therefore cold, and I couldn't get the register canister open, but it was sweet all the same. I snapped one picture, drank some water, and headed back down. Here's a look at the saddle area about half way down:
Even down in the trees on the east side of the ridge, I found conditions like these:
By that time, I was finally getting hot, so I stopped when I got back to the road intersection to strip off a layer and east some. Even with the sun beginning to soften the snow, I cruised back down the trail until I got below the falls. There, the icy portions of the trail had finally become treacherous, and I really had to slow down and be careful. I managed only to slip a couple of times, but it took some doing!
To my surprise, I was well below the falls before I met anyone else on the trail. Back at the collapsed tunnel, the going got considerably easier, and I picked up speed again. I made it back to the car at 11:53. Not a record, but not bad time at all for winter!
Of course, there's a summit shot:
This makes climb #21 of this great peak for me!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):