Crater Lake was our final destination on our Triple Park Trip. We had originally planned on hiking to the top of Garfield, Scott, Crater and Union Peaks. However, an unseasonable snowstorm which dumped 5 feet of snow on the park change our plans. The Rim Road was closed which took away access to Crater, Union and Scott. The Road was open to The Rim Village though so we could still get Garfield and walk the road Watchman, a small peak with a watchtower.

We began up Garfield at first light. The air was frigid and it was hard to believe I had been sweating in Yosemite less than a day before. The trail starts behind the Hotel, but it was invisible under the snow. But we new it followed the rim and then up the ridge. There were also some tracks. Right away I had a feeling crampon would be a nice addition to the hike. I didn’t realize though they they would become a requirement. We ascending the switchbacks up the ridge. The trail was pretty apparent with the snow and the going was straightforward and doable with just poles until about maybe 7400 feet. After that the angle of the snow got much steeping and the ledge of the trail most exposed. There was one point where we had to walk for about 3 yards on a rock catwalk next to the snow that had drifted on the trail right on the edge. The trail was eventually obliterated in steep angled snow and invisible. Without crampon we opted to climb up some exposed talus and scree . We then reentered the snow and stopped at a tiny flat area about about 7600 feet to examine our options. The snow was frozen and had been questionable and sketch up to this point. It was about to get steeper to regain the ridge… and we weren’t sure how stable the ridge was. Without an ice axe and crampons we made the hard decision to turn back.

We instead walked down the West Rim Road to Watchman Point. There is a trail beside the road, but it would have slowed up down and we didn’t have the time to post hole. We didn;t think we’d make it up Watchman without snowshoes when we first got there and just hung out at the point enjoying the perfect view of Wizard Island. But as we got up to leave Damien took a closer look at the trail and found that he wasn;t sinking as much as expected. We decided to go for it. We followed the gently switchbacking trail through the snow with minimal sinkage to the summit of Watchman. There is an out lookout there what is not open to the public, but the views are spectacular! And we had it all to ourselves! Well worth the long road walk…

Speaking fon the road, we wanted to cut off some road travel time so instead of descending the trail we opted to plunge straight down the mountain to cut off a mile of the road which circles around the back of the Mountain to the TH. This is kind of an adventurous moves as the road around watchman features of impassable cliffs. But we figured we could troubleshoot if need be. We used a combination of plunge stepping and glissading to descend. We did end up popping out on a cliff above the road, but there was a lower angle place we were able to down-climb.

We followed the road back toward the Rim Village. Along the way we came across a vole that had no issue with me walking right up to it and well… I also petted it with my gloves on of course. i doubt it will be long before he is picked up by a predator, but he was so darned adorable!