I've wanted to do this route ever since I read about it, but due to the slope angles up high it wasn't wise to set out solo. Luckily, I met a new friend Khris Rino on the WHC page and being that we both love to do photography he was totally game to give it a shot!
We parked at the lower lodge fairly early and with our snow shoes strapped in headed up the far left edge (eastern) of the ski area. One thing became apparent fairly quickly, and that was packed snow is really nice to walk on in snow shoes... when it's flat! Any sort of side hills on packed snow gets a little tricky and is definitely a good ankle workout. The hike up really wasn't all that bad, and after a nice cardio workout we landed at the top of chair #8.
At this point the serious stuff begins. The "trail" up to the top of Pan Dome is a 45-55* slope so off came the snow shoes, and we took the well worn boot pack trail. After traversing Pan Dome we dropped down onto the arm, and were immediately greeted with some absolutely stunning views!
Now we knew going into this day that the weather outlook probably wasn't going to be that good for taking pictures, but we figured that just getting accustomed to the route would allow us to come back at a later date prepped for either an overnighter or a late night sunset and astro photography session. As you can see below though, the clouds were thin for being overcast and acted like a nice big soft box while still leaving an ample amount of light to give texture and feel to the snow. Needless to say we got seriously lucky!
We each made our rounds getting shots at different angles all the while battling with a fair amount of wind and dusting of snow. Looking down the arm we were immediately aware of what we were up against, and with that also knew we did not have the gear to safely continue on. No question this is a section that will require an ice axe and crampons. To be honest, I'd love to just ride the ski lift up to the top of chair #8 and start from there leaving the snow shoes at home, but that's what scouting trips like this are all about.
After getting our fill of good shots we decided to call it quits while we were ahead, and carefully made our way back down Pan Dome and then all the way back down to the car. I think we got pretty lucky this trip considering what the weather was supposed to show. We got some great images, made new friendships, and came back all in one piece. Great trip!