We started with the goal of practicing essential skills of the winter mountaineer: walking with crampons, and self-arrest. Although the slope conditions in the prior week would have been ideal, a recent dump of snow worked against our plan.
Before starting up the slopes, we spent about an hour in the car reviewing footwear, crampon styles and the differences between various mountaineering axes, etc. In that time, more than two inches of snow fell on the ground — boy was I glad we covered that content in the car!
Regardless of the snow down low, there was a solid sheet of ice once we entered the forest that warranted the use of crampons. But, as we worked our way higher to the saddle on the route to Mount Cokely we came into progressively deeper snow.
Exiting the forest, I was walking through knee deep powder. As we started ascending the steeper slope it pushed waist high. We crested out on the saddle but only took a short break before we started heading back down the hill.
We never found the chance to do the self-arrest practice; even if we tried we would have found ourselves cradled in the deep snow. Regardless, I had a lot of fun heading out with a group of people who were new to winter mountaineering.