On Feb. 13, at our drop into No Name Creek, fairly consistent snow about 3 feet deep, covering most obstacles. No collapses or cracks. Upper snow layer of about 10-12 inches was cohesive and would support a skier except on an aggressive turn. If you punched the crust at mid-level, you would collapse into the lower layer of sugar snow. We found the trail along the lower east side of No Name Creek, descending to the NE to the crossing of Hunter Creek.
Ascent on south facing slope out of Hunter Creek went well, climbing on sun crust changing to about 6-8 inches of fairly new snow as the angle laid back and we gained the plateau up into Hunter Flats and into Slab Park. No crack or collapsing except when crossing the willows. Light breeze and generally sunny, about 15-20 degrees F. Breaking trail through 6-8 inches throughout the tour from Hunter Flats into Slab Park. Changing leads frequently to keep up a steady, consistent pace.
At Slab Park, we found the elk camp and then looked for the old timber road leading up NW then W and then SW to Bald Knob. Found occasional blazes but they were few and very far in between. We found a day skier track and took it up to the saddle at 10,800 and crossed west to descend to the Hut. But we got caught in the pull of the downhill glades and descended too early, paying the price of timber bashing until we dropped onto the trail from Margy’s about 1/3 mile from the hut. Watch your altimeter because if you cross that trail and don’t know it, you are toast. It would have been far better to not descend below 10,700 and contour all the way around to the up tracks and descent lines on Bald Knob. That would have allowed a much easier descent on tired legs. The snow on the north aspect of Bald Knob was a bit worse than the descent into No Name Creek – solid upper layer but collapsing regularly without shifting or sliding.
We made the eight miles in nine hours, arriving at McNamarra at the stroke of 6:00 pm and fading light. In retrospect, we should have left earlier from Benedict and stayed at 10,800 to contour around Bald Knob. Otherwise, the trip came off as we planned with no surprises, detours or upsets. It is a committing challenge over varied terrain. You need to have your route finding dialed in with either GPS waypoints or very good map reading skills. Laying in the first leg of the route from Beneditct to the drop in point saves time and energy on the big day. Drink and eat lots. And don’t think of doing this route without having thought through how you would spend the night out. You need to go light and fast. Enjoy.