Belknap, with my glissade track

Belknap, with my glissade track

I could have tried the other side of the forest road I used the previous day, but looking at my road atlas, I saw a couple of other dirt roads out of Marysdale leading in roughly the right direction, one of which (Bullion Creek) even had a trail leading nearly to treeline.

After a chilly night in the canyon bottom, I got a late start up the trail west toward Bullion Pasture. The snowdrifts in the trees, starting around 9,000 feet, were nicely consolidated in the morning, and I had no trouble crossing them in my running shoes. Having brought snowshoes the day before and found solid crust in most places, I had opted for crampons.

Shortly after passing the Delano Peak trail, I lost the trail in the snow, and wasted some time and energy side-hilling up the right-hand fork of the canyon, which leads to the same meadow as the trail, though less efficiently. Though the snow was well-consolidated on south-facing slopes, it was still powdery in places on north-facing ones.

After reaching the meadow I headed north up a ravine, hoping to find some sign of the north-south ATV road, but it was completely obscured by the snow, which was still deep enough to cover all but the top few inches of many trail markers. After some wandering to orient myself, I figured out which peak was Belknap, and took off along the undulating ridge. I was glad there was still snow covering much of it, as all of the steeper slopes consist of hideous scree, too large to boot-ski and completely loose.

I suffered up the final climb to Belknap on a mixture of semi-consolidated snow and more of said scree. The efficient thing to do would be to continue to Baldy, but it looked far, and I had no desire to re-climb Belknap on the return. This turned out to be a lucky choice, as the crust had softened enough to make most of the return below treeline a hell of Poisson-distributed shin- to knee-deep postholing.

Reaching the car, I noticed that while my cursory map-reading had led me to believe that Belknap was the range highpoint, nearby Delano is a few feet higher. Fortunately, it is accessible from the same trailhead.

Dirtbag Note

They are technically for guests only (though the proprietress took pity on me), but the showers at the campground just north of Marysdale are some of the nicest, cleanest ones I have found, and cost only $1.

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