First big hike of the new year, and even though I didn't make it to the top, it was a great day of hiking. For anyone who may not know where Black Butte is at, it is off of Highway 20 between Santiam Pass and Sisters. Take Forest Service road 11 for about 4 miles, then turn left on the 1110 road for just under 5 miles. This will take you around the North side and up to the trail head back around to the SouthEast. The trail is about 2 miles long with around 1500' off elevation gain. The summit is at 6436' with a historic fire look out as well as the still used lookout tower and crew cabin. Due to snow on the road, I was only able to make it a few miles up the 1110 road, so started from there. Even though I didn't make the summit, due to deep snow and looming weather, it was a good day of learning as well as accomplishing a few goals I'd set for myself.
The first goal I'd set was to test my current layering plan, which I'm fairly happy with, pending a few minor adjustments. Started with silk long underwear, which will be switched with polypro later, fleece pants, and a pair of Sierra Designs light rain pants. They are a thin rip-stop nylon that is lined with a membrane and fully taped seams. They come with a small stuff sack, and pack down to something that could fit in a pocket. Bought some wool/acrylic blend socks to round out the lower half. I'm still waiting on buying boots, so the good old XtraTuffs were used today due to sloppy roads and snow. Good boots, but you feel every rock and your feet sweat like crazy. After the tax return comes in, new boots are on the list. For the upper half, I scored some REI OXT Tech long sleeve shirts on closeout, color was discontinued. Good base layer for moisture control. Threw a 1/4 zip fleece on over that, with my Marmot jacket in the pack. Hiked up to the trail head and threw the jacket on, then coming back down chucked the fleece in the pack at the trail head since I'd be moving faster heading back. Layers worked great, other than a few minor corrections I need to make.
The big lesson learned today....... if you're going to be hiking in potential snow conditions, leave early. I knew that, I'd read it in several of my books and trip descriptions, but I got a late start today. That decision may or may not have completely thwarted my making it to the summit, but it made me decide when to turn back. There was plenty of wind and weather making its way around, and within a mile from the top with clouds looming, I started punching through the knee deep snow. Once you get out of the tree line, there is still around 2+' of snow on the trail. There are also still many large rocks in the trail that create pockets to fall into. I decided to turn back at around 5700', which left about a mile to go. It was already going on 3pm, and to fight knee deep snow for another mile would put me well into dark before I was headed back. I'll save the summit for another day. If I had started earlier and the snow stayed firm, who knows. I'm still happy with the day. All together I covered 7.4 miles and around 2400' vertical. That's some good hiking right there, and the view wasn't bad either.