A lot of people think that since I'm from Alaska, I automatically know mountaineering skills. Not so. Wish it were the case, because it seems like it could be rather cool. Nope, I have read about them and had them summarized, but never was taught, never practiced. Today, I drew upon this great dearth of knowledge, and made use of an ice axe and microspikes (crampons for people who don't know how to use crampons).
I didn't really need the gear, but I was glad I had it, definitely used it, and tried to practice safe snow travel techniques. We even put on our rain gear and practiced self-arresting on snow and slopes that don't often precipitate the need for self arrests.
The best part of the day (for me at least, it may have driven Carmen somewhat bonkers) was playing with the topo map and compass. I've never had any formal training but understand them (and I'm cocky enough to think I can figure the rest out), though Carmen used them for work a lot last summer. Sure enough, once we came around to the northeast side of Red Tahquitz, it was all snow and the trail could not be seen, though footprints were visible. Despite the gorgeous view and early hour, we were both feeling bitchy, and I got secret, smug satisfaction out of being able to correctly identify exactly where we were on the map instantly, and got to convince Carmen that we were further ahead on the trail than she thought.
We followed the tracks until they veered from the proper course, and tried to follow the trail, but we quickly realized that the PCT would take us side-hilling up high along the rim of Tahquitz Valley, so we followed a drainage down until it met a forest service trail, and navigated along it until it hit Saddle Junction. We left the SPOT on to track our progress- check it out, it might be interesting. Once we got a handle on mountain-snow-travel-sans-skis, we started having a lot of fun and even stomped "I (heart) U" in the snow to take a photo for Mother's Day.
On the way down sunny Devils Slide trail, Carmen and I tried to video each of us singing her made-up ditty for our mothers:
Well I'm a dirty old girl
On a walk in the woods
You may ask me where I'm going
North! North! North to see the ones that I love
- Typoed on my iPhonehh