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Bandera Mtn (Attempt)

January 6, 2001

Road 9031 had too much snow and ice on it for us to drive to the gate, before the hairpin, so we just parked along side the road and followed some roads that didn't appear on the map. I was hoping that the roads would lead to the upper part of 9031....not so!

We were able to follow the switchbacking roads for about 600 feet where they ended in forest. I could see an opening a few hundred feet further up through the trees, so we bushwacked (I'm going to use that term a lot in this description)through until we hit the clearing which turned out to be a long boulder field. There was relatively little snow, so we figured we could just scramble up the boulders. It was hard going because of the slippery moss covered boulders plus the snow cover varied greatly in depth so some places you could step but others you'd break through. As I led up through the rocks I asked Kim if she wanted a ski pole so I tossed the first one down to her. My aim was off and it slid down the slope and came to rest next to a large fallen log that we had crossed earlier. I didn't want to take the time to backtrack down to get it, so I told Kim that we would get it on the way back and to just forget it as I tossed her the second pole with better aim. I was thinking that I really didn't want to come back this way. I rationalized that it would be OK if we ended up not coming back this way since I had found the poles on my first failed attempt on McClellan's Butte. I figured it was meant to be lost! So, we picked our way up through this minefield for about 3 hours. We tried to avoid the minefield by going in the trees, but this was just more bushwhacking which was very slow going. We continued this until the boulder field finally ended at a rock outcropping with a cool horn.

We traversed under this but it became very rocky and steep, so we bushwhacked to the left of it (BW3 rating) down into a ravine with a creek running at the bottom and crossed to the other side where it was less brushy. We could see the ridge by now, but no road. My altimeter read 3200 and the road was supposed to be around 3100. We were able to take a bearing off of McClellan's Butte and it said that we were too far east. Kim said something about being glad that she hauled her snowshoes all the way up here, so they could get such a nice view. ;) It was getting close to 4pm and the sun was quickly disappearing behind the mountains so we had to choose whether to continue up, hoping to find the road, or back track down through the nasty boulder field. We knew we would be hiking out in the dark, and a road was much more appealing than the 1000 feet of boulder field, but in the end we agreed that a difficult "known" was better than bushwhacking in the dark in the completely "unknown".

We made it back down to the boulder field but then we realized that the bottom of the boulder field forked into two. Which one did we come up? We had been following our tracks most of the way down, but in the moonlight it was difficult to pick them up again. We had headlamps, but they didn't help much with relocating our trail. Although the switch backed road that we started on would be much easier to hike down, we knew that the 9031 road was at the bottom of this hillside, and if we continued down through the forest we would eventually hit it. So we continued down the right fork. At this point we were getting tired and the idea of bushwhacking 600 feet in the dark to the car was not comforting. Each of us was breaking through every other step. Kim took a nasty fall and her knee was getting bent backwards, luckily I was close by to help her get back up. We took a little break after the near accident and talked about our options. It was full on dark now. We decided to put our headlamps on and continue down slow and easy. It was here that I realized the battery in my headlamp was going dead. I usually carry a spare, but I didn't this time since this was a quick and easy day trip. Fortunately Kim's battery was still good.

It was a miracle but as soon as we started hiking down, I looked to the left and saw a large fallen tree. Then I saw boot tracks in the snow. I made my way down to the tree and sure enough, there was my pole lying in next to it! We knew that we hadn't overshot the switchback road that we came up on. I welcomed the pole back (and felt shame for thinking of abandoning it!) and bushwhacked back through the forest to where it opened up onto the switchbacks. We were very glad to be on level, stable ground after having spent the last 6 hours nerve wracked! We followed the roads down to 9031 and finally back to our car. 6:22pm.

We went home and ordered pizza.