Cone and South Peak

March 8, 2015.

7-ish miles | 2500′ ele. gain | 6 hrs.

Cone Peak was the go-to mountain to practice snow skills in the late winter. But this year we were thrown a curveball: no snow in the mountains. Anywhere. We couldn’t find an alternative in the area that would provide us the conditions to put on crampons, use our ice axes and learn self-arrest techniques. Instead of bagging the whole trip we headed for Cone Peak anyways for a summer-like training hike.

We arrived at Tombstone Pass late in the morning and put on our winter packs for training purposes only. It would be t-shirt weather in just a half an hour. Five of us set out towards our main objective while I silently mulled over our options for the day.

When we got our first view of Cone Peak I stopped in my tracks. I mean, I knew it would be snow-free but I just couldn’t fathom it until I saw it with my own eyes. Totally bare. Brown. Depressing.

We followed the trail towards the meadows and searched for a good spot to start heading cross-country. We did our best to stick to the dirt and rocks and avoid trampling the meadow plants that would start to emerge for spring blooms. It was bumpy and steep, with lots of loose rock underfoot. Each person picked their route up towards the summit.

It was a bright, sunny day, perfect for catching big views. The snow-capped Three Sisters taunted us from many miles away, saying, “come play in the snow!”

The team reached the top around noon, which was perfect timing for lunch. We savored a long, sunny meal break and pondered our next move. We could head back the way we came, or…

Tag South Peak.

That’s what I wanted to do. We had plenty of time. I’d had my eyes on that peak for a while. It didn’t look that far away.

We dropped down off the summit and traversed eastward across the meadow. There were some minor ups and downs but the route was fairly straightforward. We regained the ridge and looked around in awe of the spectacular landscape we were walking through.

As we approached the summit we had to cross a few small snowfields that were sheltered from the brunt of the sun.

But once we reached the top, it was a glorious celebration!

To head back we reversed the traverse but stayed as low as we could to avoid re-climbing back up to Cone. Once we were back on the shoulder of Cone Peak we quickly found the trail and scurried back to the cars.

Two summits, a little bit of snow and a lot of fun equals a darn good day. And I got to spend it with some great people.

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