This was my first co-lead of an AMC Chapter trip, and it was on a trail that I'd never skied before. If I had my druthers, I'd have skied it before so I would have a better idea of what to expect. Still, I'd hiked it several times and new the trail well. Our group was a bit smaller than planned due to car trouble for a few participants, so we only had 6 total. It was an extremely cold day, -12F at the trailhead. We were worried about that, and about snow conditions since two weeks before when I'd scouted the bottom of the trail it was still thin. But we parked at the gate, waxed up, and headed out (a bit late). The ski to the trailhead went quickly and eventually we warmed up. Aside from the first 50' of trail, you don't need skins for quite a ways, so we stayed with wax for a while. After crossing the snowmobile trail we skined up and started some more serious climbing.
Despite the cold, it was a glorious day. We couldn't stop for long without getting chilly, but the sun was strong and there didn't seem to be much wind. It wasn't warming up much, but with all the exertion we didn't really need to bundle up excessively. The group had a range of gear, 3 of us on backcountry equipment, three on heavy tele gear. If I did it again I'd use the heavy tele gear. I'd been worried about the long approach, but it would have been fine on heavy gear. As we climbed there was a magnificent undercast in the trees, almost purple in hue. I've seen it before but this time was pretty special and lasted for quite a distance. We got strung out a bit as we approached the ridge, but since it's only .2 from there to the summit we all got together for the final push.
The summit of Garfield has a fantastic view in summer, but in winter it's most spectacular. It was cold, no doubt, but the sunshine was very nice, and no wind is a real bonus. Julia's feet were quite cold, so she warmed them up on my belly, a better alternative than my armpits. Other than that, we were all warm and having fun. We ate a quick lunch, drank some hot tea from my thermos (yum), took some photos, then headed back down. Bruce and Stephan elected to ski down from just below the summit, turned into a bit of an interesting ride. The rest of us put on skis back at the junctions and headed down. Those of us with lighter gear kept our skins on for a ways, but we all had some great skiing. There were a few guys we saw coming down as we headed up, and their tracks headed off trail through the trees for long stretches of trail. We kept mostly to the trail, cutting turns where we could and doing a great deal of snowplow. Once we got down about a mile I took off skins and got some nice sections of skiing, intersperced with some fairly classic crashes. We all made it out to the car just around dark, everyone safe and sound.
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