Winter Adventure on Brace Mountain

Mar. 23, 2021

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By: Dani Flocco
This past winter, that has sadly just ended, was an amazing hiking season for me and I got to experience one of my most interesting adventures with a lovely group of friends in January. Myself and 3 other women decided to take on Brace Mountain, approaching from a different side than any of us had done before- with fresh snow and ice on the trail.
Eager as could be, we charged up what we thought were the steepest sections of the trail, marveling at the beautiful frozen waterfall and remarking how great this bluebird day was. Well, we completely missed the sign that warns the trail is “dangerous and only for very experienced hikers”. While we are all experienced, I would say that a fresh sheet of ice on exposed ice slabs was a bit beyond all of our comfort zones. So, getting straight to it- we encounter the trickiest part of the trail. In dry conditions I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. With all the ice, I experienced my first panic on trail and told one of my friends “this is it, I’ll just stay here forever”. We had climbed up a very steep section with no good hand holds, and there was nothing but more exposed sections to come. It was nerve-wracking, challenging, and made me all the more thankful for the trail crampons I had upgraded to just this past year.
I couldn’t imagine getting back down, and wouldn’t I be insane to keep going up? Fortunately I was with some of the best hiking companions anyone could wish for, and we talked ourselves through it together. When I got up from the most treacherous part, I stepped aside to a small plateau and looked down. This was one of the few times I truly felt scared of heights. It was good to know that my sense of self preservation is still intact, but all I could think of was how are we getting down!
We reached the summit, took in the glorious views, and then shared a moment of silent stares at one another before beginning back down. We had nothing to say- we just had to do it. This was going to be one of the trickiest things I had done to date, and excitement began to set in. It was a reminder of why I love hiking and challenging myself, but also a but stressful.
Being that I had Luna, one of my dogs with me, I opted to go behind everyone else so that she and I could take our time after watching the others’ methods for descending. One by one we made it down that very treacherous section, and I felt confident in my abilities finally. Luna followed my direction while I indicated to her where to go, and I crab walked down using the heel spikes on my trail crampons to walk myself down without losing control. This was just a few minutes long, but it felt like an eternity.
From there on, there were a lot of less tricky parts that I had no trouble with. I know I would not have been able to do this at all last winter, and despite the 10 minute meltdown on the side of the mountain, I felt immense pride in myself and Luna. This experience was incredible- and we all celebrated at the end, thrilled that we did it!
Pushing my limits is something I love to do, but until this very day on Brace Mountain I don’t think I ever truly had pushed myself like this before. While not the tallest mountain I’ve hiked, it was the most satisfying summit so far.

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