Peak:  Mt. Audubon (13er)
 Route:  North slope
 Range:  Front
 Posted By:  bangerth
 Date of Info:  01/20/2020
 Date Posted:  01/21/2020

The road from the gate to the Mitchell Lake Trailhead is snowblown for the most part and consists of a thin layer of, by now, hardpacked snow, plus the occasional snow drift several feet high. Boots are all you need.

From the trailhead, the next segment is through the trees to the bottom of the switchbacks. This segment now has a very nice trench. Someone tried to walk there yesterday with just boots and postholed every other step, but with snowshoes this is a pleasure.

The trouble starts with the switchbacks. These are wind drifted and covered in deep snow/drifts. I've discovered trying Audubon three times over the past two months that all previous traces of hikers are always quickly erased and one has to find the way anew, or just go where one wants to go. This stretch is a LOT of work, steep uphill through deep snow.

Once at the top of the steep part, the trail goes around the right side (east) of a little hill. This is the downwind side and so also covered in deep, often loose snow. The trail is also impossible to find or keep. We discovered on our way up that the easier way is to just go straight over the top of that hill after the steepness of the switchbacks: One ends up in windswept space faster this way, and from the top of the hill, it is easy walking towards the base of Notabon. An even easier way is to go LEFT (west) around the hill (discovered on the way down): Just above the tree line and in shrubland, the wind has compacted the deep snow there and its hard crust carries you 95% of the time, whereas the south slope of the hill still has loose snow. I'll try to add a rip report that explains this in more detail later.

Above that hill, neither snowshoes nor microspikes are needed: just head straight for the base of Notabon and avoid the steep snowfields on the east basin of Audubon. It is possible to avoid almost all deeper snow in this stretch. Above the snowfields, angle left and up the ramp to Audubon's summit. Snow is mostly between the talus, cementing them in in most places. There are only a couple of smaller snowfields one either has to go around, rock hop, or spend 10 ft on snow.

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