This Saturday turned out to be a fine day for a fun conditioning hike. I've climbed Bandera several times before, but it's still one of my favorites along the I-90 corridor - steep in places, and a bit rough hewn, but opening up to broad views to the south early, and peeks into the Alpine Lakes along the ridge. Not feeling the need for an alpine start, Jose' and I arrived at the trailhead at around 8:00 - the temperature was still crisp, and there was new snow higher up on Bandera, with some blue sky promising nice hiking weather. We made short work of the old road section, and soon headed up the now clearly marked trail. We had soon climbed high enough to reach the newly fallen snow, and were pleased to see no footprints in front of us! Once the snow got deep enough, we dispensed with trying to follow the path of the trail, and headed straight up steep snow slopes. Pausing now and then to look back at the peaks on the south side of I-90 (Mt. Washington, McClellan's Butte, Mt. Kent, Humpback Mountain) we climbed quickly towards the ridge. It was steep enough and icy enough in places to make us glad we had our ice axes, and near the top some clouds rolled in to make us have to think about our route finding. Fortunately, we were able to surmount those minor obstacles, and soon found ourselves at the ridge, looking down into the mists where I knew Mason Lake was, although it was hidden from us now. We turned right along the ridge and wandered through the very icy snow in the small patch of forest, then headed up again towards the false summit
Once on the false summit we could look over to the true summit, down onto Mason Lake (the clouds had finally lifted), and into the heart of the Alpine Lakes - beautiful scenery all around. For this day we decided that the false summit was good enough and, after a quick snack, turned to head back down to the car. The snow had softened considerably since we had come up, and the descent was a bit trickier, with the steep snow threatening to slough. We stayed close to the trees where the snow was a bit more firm until we dropped once more into the forest. We ran into a couple of other parties heading up as we were heading down, but for the most part it was a beautiful and lonely day.