The weekend after Thanksgiving was looking promising for another adventure and the Craggies were on the menu. At midnight on Friday there were 3-4 inches of trackless snow covering Eightmile Creek Road. I parked at the Copper Glance TH and settled in for the night. Leisurely start at 7 am walking up the road until just before the Billy Goat Mine. It was extremely slow going up to No Dice Lake on light snow covered talus and deadfall from the Diamond Creek Fire. From the lake the climb up the west slopes to North Craggy was straightforward and slightly spicy with the crappy footing. It was 3:30 by the time I got back to the lake. Despite the mostly clear skies, I did not want to be slogging along in the treacherous ankle torturing terrain after dark so I decided to set up camp there along the west shore. I didn't really find any great flat spots but with the snow cover slightly drifted thick in the larches and no floor in my Megamid I was able to make a spot work near a huge flat boulder which I used as a kitchen counter. Although it seemed well frozen, overnight I could hear the lake ice making occasional thunks and pops. Not much wind.
I was up before dawn the next morning and moving before 7. It had clouded over, and by 8 started to snow lightly. Fortunately it did not last long and visibility remained good for the rest of the day. My goal was to head south and exit the No Dice basin via the narrow slot couloir to reach the Big Craggy / West Craggy saddle. The terrain between the lake and the saddle is loaded with bouldery moraines. While these boulders are perhaps pleasant in summer, with all this snow I figured they would be terrible. Instead I traversed the talus hillside along West Craggy's lower eastern slope. This actually turned out to be ok so I was pleased with the progress. The couloir was surprisingly pleasant with a mix of frost-cemented scree and wind affected snow drifts. All too soon it seemed I emerged onto the comparatively snow free south facing side of the saddle a little before 9. From there I took the standard scramble route up the SW ridge of West Craggy, then back and up the W ridge of Big Craggy. Afterwards I took the SE ridge through the incinerated forest to pick up the trail. The burn has put a lot of trees down across the trail and the old road road grade, introducing some tedium. I returned to the car by 2:30 not having seen anyone for a couple of days. Besides mine I did not see any tracks on the road for at least 5 miles on the drive down.
BTW I carried snowshoes but did not use them, maybe in a couple more weeks it would have been worth having them. Off the trails and roads I was mostly moving less than a mile an hour, on crampons mostly. I felt like going without them or trying to move much faster would result in a rolled ankle or even more holes in my pants.
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