Added by Ian Glass
A gentle 13,000er in the Indian Peaks that offers a great introduction to snowshoeing larger objectives.
Want to start snowshoeing peaks?! Of course you do! If you don't already have snowshoes, you can rent a pair at your local REI (the one in Boulder, CO is closest to this hike). Check the snow conditions and if there is a fair amount of snow, I would recommend renting the larger of the two kinds of snowshoes they offer.
The next little bit of advice for heading out is, layers. One of the most important parts of winter hiking is to minimize sweat. If you get wet, your clothes get wet, and if you stop for a break... you'll get really cold. That's no fun. Make sure that you have wicking base layers on and be sure you can vent your external shell layers. Also, regulate how quickly you are hiking. Get after it, but don't overwork yourself. Take brief breaks to avoid breaking into a full sweat but be sure they are short enough that you don't start to fully cool off. It's a bit of a dance but once you get it, you'll have a blast!
From Colorado Highway 72 at Ward, turn west onto the Brainard Lake Road. Travel 2.5 miles to the entrance portal. If you are doing this during the winter, the road will be closed (Nov 15 - Apr 30). Plus side is you don't have to pay summer recreation fee. The downside is, you'll have to continue another three miles to Mitchell Lake Trailhead (map to TH linked below). So park your car in the parking lot at the entrance portal, gear up, and head out.
The trail begins on a mild grade that banks sharply left at .25 miles (an important mark when snow covered) and continues steadily to a break in the forest on the steep south flank of Mt Audubon. The trail then turns right on to switchback which you will follow up past tree-line, into open tundra. Once above tree-line, depending on the snow, you will see a cairn marked path to the summit. If no cairns are visible, pick the safest path to the summit.
The reason Audubon offers a nice winter ascent is its broad ridges and large expanses of tundra. This open gradual incline offers hikers safe approaches. However, the downside to this is the wind. More than half of this hike is above tree-line. If you picked a windy day to hike, it will be gross the entire way to the summit after the trees. So have fun and be mindful of the weather.
Here are two links:
Check out the National Weather Service forecast and a winter map of Brainard Lake Recreational Area (to show the hike to the trailhead) .
- Snowshoes (recommended)
- Waterproof boots
- Thick wool socks
- Polyester base layers
- Insulating layers (like marino-wool or fleece)
- Water/wind proof shell layers
- Small insulating gloves (recommend)
- Sun glasses
- Sun block
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