Pawnee Peak (attempt)
December 4, 2010 - from Brainard Lake
I had not gotten out in almost a month and Bob had been sidelined for about three months pending the arrival of his daughter from the prenatal aqueous environment . . . we were both ready to get out. I suggested the short drive to the Indian Peaks area, no more than two hours from Cheyenne but with the sizeable downside of the typical Indian peaks approach . . . . long and even longer in the winter. We figured to take a half hearted shot at Pawnee Peak approaching from Brainard Lake.
The road south was fine but snow covered once we got a few miles past the town of Lyons. We parked at the new Brainard Lake winter trailhead and were soon hoofing our way down the two mile course to Brainard Lake proper and the summer trailheads. I initially stowed the snowshoes on the pack but soon enough put them on as the snow was not so much deep but well tracked by skiers, making it easier to snowshoe than slip left and right for two miles. We made good time on the road, never having to break trail though relatively few appeared to stick to the road proper but instead choosing well signed snowshoe tracks that branched left and right.
We skirted Brainard Lake to the right and after another half mile of road, we arrived at the trail to Long Lake and Pawnee Pass. We still had a solid track but it now looked to be the work of a couple of skiers rather than more continuous traffic. The snow was only 6 inches deep at the parking area but now had increased to every bit of 24 to 30 inches. We stuck with the trail, skirting the right side of Long Lake, taking full advantage of the well broken and very well spotted track. We passed the end of the lake and after about two miles came upon the two skiers who so graciously set the course. We exchanged hellos and continued on, now it was our turn to work for progress.
We left the trailhead at the late hour of 10 a.m. and now paid the price, We progressed about another quarter mile beyond the skiers before stopping to assess the climb. Increasing snow . . . lowering cloud . . . and the promise of a return in the dark if we elected to go further. We made the call and turned for the car, now about five miles distant. We were still two miles from the summit of Pawnee Peak when we turned but the effort did yield a ten mile physical conditioning hike and get us both outside after too long of a break. The late start was a predictable summit killer but we pretty much knew that before we began. We long ago learned that winter is often more about getting out than getting a summit.