Trip Report    

Winter Scramble - Florence Peak (winter)

A stunning winter day with perfect snow conditions.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The trail is clear of snow till just past the falls.  There are a couple new blowdowns across the trail but they were easy to jump over or go under. 

I listed this trip with an 8 am start time to help participants avoid driving in the dark to the Carbon river entrance.  The drive out this morning was complicated by very icy roads.  I was very happy to see that the temporary traffic light metering the access across the Fairfax bridge has now been removed and the road has been repaired.  The bridge was completely covered in ice and snow so we crossed it very slowly.  

Upon arrival at the our trailhead for the day I was happy to see that the road has been completely repaired allowing drive up access to the park entrance and parking lot.  At this time there were two vehicles parked in the parking lot.  The lot is smaller than it was a few years ago and probably now will only hold maybe five to eight vehicles.  With the road now re widened additional parking should be much improved along the shoulder just outside the park.   

Once the day's group arrived we discussed the issues for the day and what gear we should bring along.  This discussion was made easier by some beta I received from a couple of Mountaineers that contacted me earlier in the week that did this route on Wednesday.  Huge thanks to Woody and Tanna Knouse for the beta since you saved us from carrying a little weight and helped set our expectations for the day.  With the information we had we decided our main issue was the incoming weather and the avalanche forecast.  To deal with the weather and shortened day we decided on a hard turn around time of 1 pm.  For gear we decided that the main summit of Florence would most likely be too snow and ice covered to safely negotiate even with a rope so we left it, the helmets, and harnesses at the cars.  We decided microspikes, snowshoes, trekking poles,  and a few shovels would be absolutely required.  Half the group elected to also carry ice ax's.

At just after eight we headed up the Rainforest loop trail.  This trail is a wooden boardwalk and was covered in ice for sections making for a slick start to the day.  From the Rainforest loop trail we jumped on the west boundary trail and started gaining elevation.  The trail at this time is still easy to travel with only a few new blowdowns that are easily negotiated.  

After traveling just over a mile on the Boundary trail we met our first obstacle that I was worried about, the water crossing at the waterfall.  Currently the water flow is minimal in this area but there was just enough to keep the ice off the rocks.  Yes there was still ice on the rocks for some sections but with a few careful steps we were all safely able to cross.  

The waterfall crossing.


Once we all safely crossed we resumed our upward trek.  Much to our surprise we still hadn't run into any significant snow.  This didn't last long.  Around a quarter mile from the waterfall crossing the trail was completely snow covered.  I estimate at this point we had just passed around 3,000 feet in altitude.  The snow was nice and firm and appeared to have gone through a few freeze thaw cycles over the last week.  Travel was still very easy and we elected to continue on without microspikes or snowshoes.

Elevation around 3,300 feet just coming out into the first opening.

Photos by Jason Boeh


Sweet peak.


At around 3,400 feet I started to post hole.  The snow still seemed very firm in most places but we elected to put our snowshoes on at this point.  After donning them we were able to negotiate the hills much easier with minimal slippage.  Travel was still easy and the snow was nice, firm and deep.  After a bit of travel we reached the final ascent to gain the ridge heading towards Florence peak. 

Heading up towards ridge to Florence peak.

Snow is deep but still very consolidated.

Photo by Jason Boeh.


Once we gained the ridge heading to Florence our travel became very easy.  Surprisingly for the most part the top of the ridge only had around a foot or less of hard snow covering it.  We believe the wind scoured most of it off and put it somewhere out of our way.  This made the final mile to to Florence go very easy.  The only issue we still faced was the steep approach to the false summit and how much snow it had or didn't have on it.  

Open area just before final approach to Florence peak.

Deep powdery snow here that slowed the group slightly.


As we did the final approach we were happy to see that the snow just off the false summit was very hard and not deep at all.  This eliminated the avalanche concerns I had for this area and made the approach much easier than anticipated.  At this point we realized what great views we would have for the day after being in the forest all day.  

Final approach to false summit.

Snow is hard and minimally deep.

Photos by Jason Boeh


First glimpse of what to expect for views...


Once we arrived at the false summit we all took a nice breather and got a bite to eat.  Surprisingly most of the participants including myself packed pizza along for lunch.  As we ate we evaluated if reaching the true summit was an option or not.  We all came to the conclusion that it was not given the snow blocking our approach to it.  While taking in the views we noticed that the weather was moving in on us off in the distance.  The wind at the top was a light breeze that was very cold so we got our photos and prepared for the descent off the false summit.

Rainier from Florence.


Pizza time.


Weather incoming.

Photo by Charles Glassman


The descent off the false summit was very easy due to the firm snow.  In previous winter visits to this peak I have found the approach and descent in this section mired by either to much snow or just powdery slick snow.  Today was absolutely perfect. 

Leaving the false summit

Photo by Jason Boeh


Fun fun fun!


  Once off the false summit it was all downhill for us.  With our path already laid out in the snow we made good time back down.  On the way down the weather did move in on us but by this point we were only around an hour or so from the cars.  It was surprising how quickly the clouds in the distance had gotten to us.  

View of Sweet peak on way out.  Weather moved in quickly.

photo by Jason Boeh


On the way down we wore our snowshoes almost till we ran out of snow.  Once out of the snow we quickly made it back to the waterfall crossing and then back out to the cars.  Once again the boardwalk still had slick frozen patches to watch out for.   As we left the park it started a misty rain on us.  All in all a great day out.  

Trip distance around 9 miles.

Elevation gain just under 4,100 feet.

Time 6 hours 23 minutes.