The warm glow of mulled wine and spicy hot coco was a coveted memory when the doors to the car opened and an icy blast of wind blew through. A near full moon lit up the snow-covered world around us. The stars that could shine through the moonbeams, like those in Orion, sparkled above as we hunched over, backs to the wind, to strap on our snowshoes.
Once we got out of the exposed parking lot and onto the Brainerd Lake Trail in the trees, the wind was heard whistling in the upper branches and hardly felt. The gentle slope was just enough to warm the seven of us up from the initial shock of stepping out of our warm cars.
The Sierra has truly been blessed this year with record snow fall. So, although the weather this spring and early summer has been warm, there is still plenty of snow in the beautiful backcountry. With that in mind, some colleagues at Atlas Snow-Shoe Company came up with the wild idea to do a traditional skiing route across the Sierra-Nevada mountain range on snowshoes. While this was admittedly for our own personal fun, we could justify it as a work trip to test the snowshoes.
The result was a 45 mile trek across the breadth of the Sierra. We started just east of Independence, off Highway 395, and hiked up Symmes Creek. After 12,000 feet of vertical gain and traveling and camping for six days above 11,000 feet, we arrived at the Wolverton Ski Area in Sequoia National Park. The route is usually done on skis with a few mountaineering sections to get over the highest passes, including Milestone Col on the Great Western Divide at over 13,000 feet.