I started with this pic because this is one of my favorite spots on this particular trail. The picture doesn't even BEGIN to do this area justice.
Anyway, we knew before we headed out that it was going to be A.) Cold and B.) Snowing
It wasn't too much of either at the base but that changed pretty quickly the higher we climbed. the snow was pretty light as we crossed the Cascade Link trail so we decided to climb our favorite (and most difficult) trail - Spellman Trail. There are several spots on this trail where the ability to climb is a bonus and on a day in December where so much ice is on the mountain and the snow was beginning to fall, it was that much more challenging. There were unquestionably areas where our skills were put to the test as we navigated some tricky climbs and did our best to avoid the ice that cascaded in sheets in some areas over the rocks.
Here's a nice pic of the terrain:
The REAL fun began once we got above tree line. Fortunately, we had our YakTrax with us and were able to maintain steady footing on the snowy rocks. By now, the wind was whipping and the snow/ice was pelting us pretty good and with just over half a mile to the summit, there was NO WAY we wee backing down:
Buffeted by blizzard stength winds, all bundled up as best we could be, we forged ahead to the summit. The first photo is my wife, Storme. The second is me. The pictures don't tell the whole story but we were fighting ice and wind to stand up for these pictures, but we made it:
Of course, that is only half the story. We still needed to DESCEND. Alot of times, the descent can be more difficult than the descent but we chose a different trail going down - the Red Dot trail, which is still steep - especially coming down from the summit till about halfway down the mountain. Regardless of that fact, there was less ice and no sections we had to climb down. So just a matter of watching our step and being careful. As this photo quite clearly shows, we had our hands (and feet) full.....
Finally, we reached somewhat more level terrain but we had one more concern. It IS winter and it gets dark early - especially in the mountains on a snowy day. We really had to push hard while still watching our step to ensure that we got out of the woods before dark came on in all it's glory. We made it by probably 15 minutes or so as you can tell from this photo:
That photo shows about the last tenth of a mile before exiting the trailhead. It was almost full on dark at this point (we DO carry flashlights just in case). The full hike took about six hours. We were both exhausted but completely exhilarated that we had completed possibly our most difficult hikes and definitely our coldest.