After getting a taste of winter about a month ago, I’ve been eagerly anticipating more snowfall on Mt. Lemmon. Unfortunately, the weather through the rest of November was fairly warm and no snow fell up on the mountain. All that changed in the second week of December when a storm system rolled in and dumped a ton of snow.
On the following Wednesday, clear skies returned. The very next day my girlfriend and I rented some snowshoes from the Summit Hut and headed up to enjoy some fresh powder. Through the store’s rental program, local customers can check out tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, climbing shoes, and snowshoes to outfit their adventures. Considering how infrequently we get snow down here in Tucson, I was quite glad to be able to check out two pairs of snowshoes and test them before making a purchase.
As we drove up Catalina Highway, snow started to appear even at the low elevations of 4,500 feet. By the time we reached Windy Point Vista, which is roughly halfway up the mountain, there was enough snow lying around for a few people to have snowball fights.
After parking at a trailhead near Summerhaven, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed up the trail into the fresh powder and 35 degree weather. Noticing that some cross country skiers had already paved the way before us, we decided to follow in their tracks. The snow was very deep, between 3-4 feet, and had a very fine powder consistency that weighed down the trees and made them look beautiful and crystalline.
After two miles of fighting our way uphill in multiple feet of powder, we reached a high point looking south over Tucson. The view was majestic. As we took a quick break on a nearby log, the warmth of the afternoon melted the snow and ice seated on the trees, causing it to rain down over us. The crackling of the snow and ice falling to the ground almost sounded like rain.
Heading down following our own track proved almost as difficult as creating that track in the first place. The snow had a frustrating tendency to slide under our feet, making the descent a little tricky. When we finally arrived back at the car, we eagerly jumped into the warm and cozy Subaru to enjoy the scenic ride back down Mt. Lemmon.