Bandera Mountain scared me. It was the first time I was in a position where I felt overly vulnerable. This is why it’s important to not hike alone.
Bandera was my first Spring hike this year, and honestly, if I knew what I know now about the mountain, I would’ve waited for all the snow to melt. Reaching the summit of this beast of a mountain was something I really, really wanted to do. The trail leading up to one of the most steepest parts of this mountain wasn’t all too terrible. It was quite easy, to say the least. So trekking back to make the summit in the future isn’t going to be all that bothersome.
There was very little snow on the main trail leading up to the top. I encountered my first minor snow field around 4,500 feet elevation and it was relatively easy to cross. I did, in fact have to use my micro spikes to get passed because one slip would mean certain death. Or a really long downhill slide through rocks and fallen timber. The second snow field had a solid booth path blazed through it so I wasn’t entirely too worried while crossing that one. Then I encountered a fifth of a mile of sheer vertical climb. It was nearly straight up.
The fortunate part about the climb was that there were giant boulders within the path that I could use to assist me in climbing up. The unfortunate part was that the wind was blowing extremely hard. For every two steps I climbed one foot of elevation gain. It was wild. Once I reached the top, I encountered a third snow field that led all the way into a dense forest ridge line. It was treacherous. I slipped my micro spikes back on and dug in with every foot hold so I didn’t end up slipping down the mountain side. The ground was compacted ice through the dense forest and once I was out of the forest it was onto more exposed snow fields. As I climbed higher and higher, my legs started to cramp up. I knew my legs were being overworked and this made for a dangerous situation. I knew I had to turn around. I took a few more pictures and started my descent.
I used side steps and stayed low to the ground. But it wasn’t going to be that easy. The ground finally gave way and I started to slide down the mountain on my butt. I used self arrest tactics digging my heels in and fanning my arms out clutching the cold, wet snow with my fingers. I finally stopped after about 20 feet. My finger tips grew instantly cold. If I had kept going, I would’ve taken a nasty fall some 200feet down off a ledge 50 feet away. Close call.
Had there been no snow I would’ve made the summit, no doubt. Bandera mountain will be revisited at some point this year and I’ll most certainly reach the top without any problems. Snow can complicate any hike even if you’re wearing proper gear. Self arrest tactics are a must-know to survive snow fields and also listen to your gut. Snow can be unpredictable, unstable and the most dangerous thing about it is you don’t know what’s underneath it. So be safe!