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Palisade Peak

Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort

Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort Links:

January 17th, 1999

8.0 miles
600 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:30

Rating: 6/10

Directions: Royal Gorge is located near Donner Summit off I-80 in California.   View Driving Map

Jennie, Kane and I snow-shoed in Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort.

When we arrived at Royal Gorge in the morning, it was raining. Not a driving rain -- just a light drizzle. But still, it was raining, not snowing. After some discussion, we agreed that we would snowshoe instead of x-country ski. This was Jennie's first time snowshoeing; Kane and I had done it the week before.

Even though it was raining, it was about freezing temperature outside. I had my long wicking underwear, snow pants, fleece pullover, and waterproof/breathable jacket with hood. On top of that, I had my balaclava, hat, goggles, and Gore-tex gloves. My favorite accessory was the balaclava -- a very thin piece of clothing (worn over the head and neck) which made a world of difference in keeping me warm.

We started out on the Big Ben trail. There were a few skiers, but not nearly as many people as had been there the previous day, when conditions had been much better. After 2km, almost completely flat, we reached the base of the Kat's Walk lift. We continued on up the Kat's Walk trail, then up the Castle Pass trail to a warming hut.

All this time, it continued to drizzle. We stayed mostly dry, although my feet would suffer a bit at the end. I was wearing my every day shoes, which are day hiking shoes (not my normal hiking shoes). They're not waterproof. While my normal hiking shoes aren't waterproof, either, they're much better (given their performance at Cathedral Lake). Before I do any other hike in the rain or snow, I am definitely going to waterproof my shoes.

The warming hut was a much different sight than the previous week. The sky was completely clouded over this day, and the warming hut was actually a comfortable temperature, rather than a sauna. After stopping for a few minutes, we continued on to Palisade Peak.

As we walked along the trail, 50-foot trees on either side of the trail, snow fell. Snow? Rain? The branches of these tall trees were covered with snow from the previous two days. As the rain fell and increased the weight, eventually some of it fell. We could see big chunks of it falling sometimes. I got pelted a few times. Mostly though, we would just see light snow occasionally fall throughout the forest. The forest was alive with the sound of falling snow.

Kane starting a 5.4 climb with his snowshoes on

As soon as we crested a small hill and reached the Palisade Peak, we started to get buffeted by strong winds. Branches of trees were pointed in one direction, seeking shelter from the onslaught. Clouds marred what could have been a great view. When we got close to the edge, we could see that it was a long way down, but that's small consolation to the view that we missed.

A tree begging for mercy at Palisade Peak

We retraced our steps back past the warming hut, and then started up the Castle Pass trail. Our goal was to make the Snow Mountain warming hut, and then turn around. However, by the time we got to intersection 42, about a kilometer away from the hut, Jennie was getting blisters and we were approaching our turn-around time. We were supposed to meet Jean, who'd gone snowboarding, back at the lodge.

So we stopped. Jennie put some moleskin on her feet, and we headed back. It took a little while before we generated enough heat to make ourselves comfortably warm again. If you don't move in the cold rain, obviously, it's very easy to see how hypothermia can set in.

As we were nearing the Half Hitch trail, Jean told us over the radio that she was back at the lodge. We were still over 2 miles away, so the range was impressive considering the rain and the trees. We continued on Half Hitch to Reindeer, and finally back to Big Ben.

After returning the equipment, all I really wanted to do was stand in front of the fire and warm my feet. Unfortunately there were too many people standing around the fire, so I had to be content with the hot noodle soup Jean had waiting for us. =)

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