Other than back tracking briefly on the forest service road put on some snow chains and waiting for a half hour so a few big trucks could pass and pack down the snow, and then headed the rest of the way up to the trail head with the car. We had no problems what so ever.
We decided to skip the lower easier cave, and headed through the upper caves. Since Emily and I had done them before, they went faster than I expected. We climbed up and walked back in the snow. We saw no one else. The mountain trail was empty except a bunny trail and bear tracks. Snow was coming down pretty hard, but it was powder, not ice. Emily and I had done the caves and the trail back before, but I was being careful watching for the markings on the way back since the trail was under eight inches of snow. Except for a few slips in the powder (I saw a root under the snow, turned around to tell them to be careful and tripped over it) we had absolutely no problems.
We got back to the car, cleared off the snow, and headed back down the mountain. Once again, no problems.
Now that same weekend, my hiking buddy’s friend headed out to snowshoe with two other women. Though they made it safely to the trailhead, they felt it was unsafe for three women to snowshoe because “no one else was there.” They saw no footprints, no evidence of other people and instead of going on an adventure, they went home. Maybe they were smarter, maybe not. I don’t know them well enough to say.
Sure, we were taking a calculated risk, but anyone who hikes in Washington State should understand that there is risk involved. Male or female it doesn’t matter. Being a group of women is irrelevant as long as the parties involved are careful and carry the ten essentials. If anything we are more careful, because we knew we were alone. Of course, because we were being careful, no one got hurt. Nor did anyone overexert themselves physically. We had a fantastic day.
Here is a picture of me, my sister Emily is emerging from the Ape Cave’s exit, behind me.
Oh and if anyone is wondering what ten essentials I am referring to, they are: Water, Food, extra clothing, map, compass (and the skill to use it), sunglasses, sun screen, first aid kit, flashlight (in this case plus extra lights since we were in a cave), matches and fire-starter. Additional useful items: especially on a winter hike: Emergency blanket, A packet of orange kool-aid. If you ever do get lost, you can use it to stain the snow as a marker to help people find you. Neon orange is not a color found in nature during the winter in the alpine regions of Washington State. Whistle and little compact mirror to use as signaling devices.
Also if anyone is curious about the rest of my gear: I’m wearing: wicking base layer, wicking long johns, two shirts, pants, rain jacket, scarf (to protect me from the icy cold drips off the ceiling of the cave), wool socks.
I’m a throw back in my choice of winter boots: personally, I like leather, not lined with gortex or any other synthetic. I’ve been wearing the same pair for ten years. I also like wearing two pairs of gloves. A pair of thin liners plus wool fingerless over them.