Peak(s):  Clinton Peak  -  13,857 feet
McNamee Peak  -  13,780 feet
Date Posted:  12/23/2007
Date Climbed:   12/22/2007
Author:  shanahan96
 Low Hanging Fruit?   

Winter is back! The forecast for Saturday isn't that appealing with a wind chill value around -40 and a predicted temperature just cracking the positive side of things. But it's not like I can pass on climbing the first day of winter....can I?

After a snowy drive early Saturday morning, I arrive at Montgomery Reservoir around 7:30am.....and man does it feel like winter already! The wind is whipping snow across Lincoln's upper slopes and hissing across the dashboard of my Subaru while I was gearing up for the climb. My car's thermometer reads -4 degrees. Happy days, this isn't going to pleasant!

Winter winds doing their usual number on Lincoln

At 8am, it's time for battle, goggles, hand warmers and balaclava go on immediately. A few minutes down the trail, drifts make snowshoes a smart decision. Time to settle in for the long plod ahead.

First view up the drainage

The familiar Wheeler Trail shows the way up the Middle Fork of the South Platte River Drainage. Fairly soon, Clinton, McNamee and Traver jump out during a breather in the wind down low. Wow, they're gorgeous!

Traver, McNamee and Clinton through a break in the wind lower down

The wind is back....Breaks didn‘t last long.
Clinton through the wind

Treeline hits just below the turnoff for Wheeler Lake. Oh goody, let's find a spot to ditch the snowshoes around the crest! At the crest, bad news is revealed in the form of a substantial snow-covered area surrounding Wheeler Lake; leave them on, they aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Crossing the basin west of Wheeler Lake, the snow deepens. What is this? I thought treeline was supposed to equal freedom from trench work, not making it worse! Oh well, no one said this would come easy.

Snowshoe track across Wheeler Lake basin

At the north end of Wheeler Lake, I head towards the small cliffs blocking the upper bowl below Clinton, McNamee and Traver. This looks like a good route, hopefully these snowshoes can go soon! Around the corner holds no such luck, looks like these suckers are coming along for the whole show.

The frustrating postholing continues as I climb higher towards the east bowl. Atleast the steady postholing has allowed me to develop a rhythm and focus on something besides this unrelentless wind. Views of plumes dancing along the ridges are a most unwelcomed site. There's going to be a battle royal up there.

Traver peeking out as the upper basin nears

Around 12,900', enough scree is showing to allow me to remove the snowshoes. The large rocks provide enough shelter from the wind to allow a moment of food and water; it's time to change the hand warmers also.

Scree intermixes with snow patches as the next couple of bumps go by. Clinton's east face is loaded, no safe route there.

Clinton‘s loaded East Face with recent avalanche activity

Fortunately, McNamee's east face has a scree patch all the way up, I'll take that.

McNamee‘s path through the avalanche hazards

My speed increases as the snow patches disappear and the scree takes me to McNamee's summit at 2:30pm. The wind is here too, and it's not handing over my main objective without one more serious fight.

One glance at the ridge to Clinton brings a mixed bag of feelings. My energy is fairly zapped right now and that looks pretty far, but the scree and what looks like wind-compacted snow makes me feel good.

The ridge to Clinton(13,857‘), my primary objective

From the start of things, the wind blows harder yet the snow allows me to make swift progress. The first bump holds a mini-cornice which has to be negotiated on the west side. After that, it's back to the snow and.....thud, waist-deep snow, joy.

Travel slows to a grinding halt as scree travel isn't reasonable in this spot and bottomless snow eats my legs with each step. The wind seems to have kicked up too. Forward I slog, slowly, as the main bump in the ridge approaches. At the bump, I find hard snow to the McNamee-Clinton saddle. From there, scree saves me from postholing to within a few feet of Clinton's summit which is reached at 2:55pm. Success!

I'd love to dig out the summit register but this wind is merciless today. 30 seconds on the summit and it's time to boogie towards the scree below the ridge connecting the summit and the highpoint on Clinton's East Ridge. Bye hellacious wind!

Plunge stepping through the connecting snow patches in the scree makes for a rapid decent and soon I'm back at the snowshoe cache. Starting down something's missing, where's my snowshoe track? My track has been blown clean, it's not even visible, go figure. Dirty mountain gods, different year, same old tricks.

Despite the re-break, the descent goes by quickly and my path around Wheeler Lake reveals short sections of earlier passage. At the crest of the slope heading to the Wheeler Trail, all evidence has gone by the wayside. A mile or so down the trail, dusk arrives.

Wind still dancing along Clinton‘s upper reaches

Fading light with 2 miles until the reservoir

Through the dimming light, it seems that some of my snowshoe tracks from earlier today have already been raised above the snow. Never seen that before. 30 minutes from the reservoir my headlamp goes on and I march through the darkness to my vehicle. Wow, 9 degrees.....a warm front!


Comments or Questions
thanks joe
12/24/2007 00:57
that was you two! the blowing snow was making it difficult to figure who it was.

love the pain!


Snow Dance
12/24/2007 02:11
I do love watching the snow dance in the wind off the ridges.
Thanks for your first of the season report.
Be well stay warm,

it was 66 degrees here too!
12/24/2007 02:33
inside....don‘t worry baby, you‘ll have plenty of those lovely unforgettable winter climbs coming your way enjoy those christmas goodies!

ken- the snow dance is lovely to watch....from the car! glad you enjoyed the report.


Wish I could‘ve been there... Kind of...
12/24/2007 03:47
Looks like a beautiful if a total battle of a climb. Maybe I‘m crazy but I actually kind of wish I could‘ve gone. Oh well, another time. You still need Fletch...

texas stevie and stevie junior
12/24/2007 04:06
don‘t worry, you‘ll get yours soon enough.

there‘s fletcher, silverheels, evans and massive among others looming on that list in the near future. maybe something else interesting? call me if you‘re available on the‘ll be well worth your time 8)


12/24/2007 07:59
Nice to see a winter report! Looks like a fun climb, albeit a bit brisk up there!

Chicago Transplant
Happy Winter!
12/31/2007 17:11
Finally, all that waiting through the warmth of summer paid off for you, winter centennials back on the menu!

Looks like a brutal day, I was skiing Beaver Creek (w/ Steve Knapp) and we definitely were feeling the wind chill flying down the hill, I can‘t imagine how bad it was at 13857!

12/31/2007 17:56
look whose back! trail breaking has been awful without you around.

you don‘t want to imagine the wind chill that high. it‘s been like playing alaska on both clinton and fletcher! not horribly enjoyable


Woot Winter!
08/28/2008 00:37
Nice TR Jamie! Way to persevere! I was on Hoosier ridge the week prior to your trip and it was much of the same...wind, unconsolidated snow above treeline, and oh yeah, lots of wind. FUN times!!! When are you doing Silverheels and Fletcher? You taking the ridge route (Hoosier pass) on Silverheels?

It‘s what we love!
10/22/2008 10:35
Dam, boy! negative temperatures, high winds, burning quads and stunning white scenery, winter time is back! The first few times always makes you kinda grunt and curse. Oh, by the way, I think I may have you break trail with those new shoes you got!
Gotta get em‘ good and broken in you know!
Some good pictures, Jamie. Gives me a good idea of what to bring for Thursday.

Wasn‘t so painful to me
11/30/2010 17:28
since it was a balmy 66 degrees here in Tennessee! I did think of you as I was sleeping in and lounging around eating lots of Christmas goodies. I have a feeling I'll pay for it next weekend...
Congrats on your first winter summit of the year!!!!

11/30/2010 17:28
kiefer- what in the world are you talking about, new shoes? oh yeah, it could be a doozy.

mark- yeah, it was, um....character-building yeah, that's it. fletcher and atlantic are my only remaining centennials in the tenmile/mosquito range for calendar winter. expect them to fall soon. maybe one tomorrow?

hoosier pass to silverheels. yup, no avalanche danger there, that's my route!


A fine day for pain
02/05/2011 00:22
Nice TR Jamie, I think I saw you from Antero

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