The hike to Midway Pass in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness was an interesting one that offered both hiking and snowshoeing. The weather was great, it started a little overcast but that cleared up and then eventually began to cloud up again, but the views where spectacular. There is still a lot of snow above 11,500 feet and it looks like it will be that way for at least another two-to-three weeks.
When I arrived at the trailhead, I was the first one there, which I thought was a little strange and didn't know what to make of it. As I was gearing up to step onto the trailhead, two couples arrived. One couple was a retired man and woman, and we talked a little about the trail. I told them I had planned on making it to both Midway Pass and Midway Lake. They saw the gear I was bringing with me, most notably snowshoes and said that last week they had made it to Midway Lake, and that there was very little snow up there. Interesting I thought, wasn't sure how that was possible but didn't press the matter.
The first leg of the trail jumps quickly up off the valley floor and quickly snakes its way up the side of a steep incline to the Wilderness boundary. In many ways this first part of the hike reminded me of the trail to Pitkin Lake, specifically the steep jump off of the valley floor. Up until the Wilderness boundary the trail was snow free and everything was very green and very warm. For almost the entire hike there was no wind.
Once I got to the Wilderness boundary there where thick patches of snow and the couple that started out first was on their way back, looking a little disappointed. I asked them if they made it to the lake and they said no, there is just too much snow; I started to feel better about bringing the snowshoes with me. Looking at the condition of the trail, I decided to put my snowshoes on at the Wilderness boundary and knew it would be a mix of snowshoeing and rock-snowshoeing at least for a little while. Micro spikes might have worked for a while, but the snow is a mix of hardpack and mashed potatoes, so postholing would be an issue.
As it turns out snowshoes where the right choice, even though there were times walking across rock with snowshoes looked strange and made me cringe each time I heard the metal blades on the bottoms of the snowshoes slide over rocks. Once above treeline, snowshoes made sense and the weather could not have been better for snowshoeing in short-selves and shorts; very sunny, very warm and next to no wind and breathtaking views of the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness and off in the distance the snow-covered mountains of the Maroon Bells Wilderness. From time to time you could see the famous bells of Maroon Bells - covered in snow.
There was snow much snow above treeline. It ranged from nothing to six feet or more and in consistency from firm hardpack snow to slush that you would sink up to your thigh in, even with snowshoes.
The views from Midway Pass are incredible and I spent a lot of time there. I wanted to push on to Midway Lake, but there was so much snow and given how soft the snow was getting by mid-day I opted not to push on. Looking over how much snow was on any possible route from Midway Pass to Midway Lake, there is no way that retired couple did that trek "with very little snow." As it turns out, I only made it midway to Midway Pass. Not until I started to write this that I realized I didn't even make it to Midway Pass - there is so much snow for the last week of June. Even with only making it midway to Midway Pass, this trek came in at 7.2 miles roundtrip. That would explain why I'm not sore from this hike. I have wicked sunburn but I'm not sore. I may have to revisit this one later this year.
The alpine meadow where I spent much of my time must be a sight to behold when there is no or very little snow on it. I was spectacular when I was there. Over the course of the entire hike I did not see a single person on the trail once I crossed the Wilderness boundary. That was great, I did have the entire trail to myself. The weather started to turn towards the end of the day, and the clouds started to build as I left the alpine meadow. Perfect weather, incredible views and not a sole on the trail, what a great day on the trail. Check out my GPS tracks here.