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Mount Dickerman is one of the mountain loop classics. Unfortunately with the plethora of choices in this area like Columbia, Silvertip, Del Campo, Vesper, and the rarely climbed Big Four Mountain, it’s not often I get around to climbing it. When my girlfriend Elena sent me a message telling me the mountain loop highway had opened for the season, I thought Mount Dickerman might be the perfect way to introduce her to the magic of the highway that started my climbing ambitions. After all, how do you impress a girl who is used to climbing in a place like New Zealand? Mount Dickerman seemed the perfect start to an early season.
We got started late in the day and with the season still being young I wasn’t sure how tough it was going to be to navigate to the top this time of year. The few trip reports we could find from the day before said the snow was soft and other hikers had turned back. But, that left the two of us undeterred.
The start of the Mount Dickerman trail was snow-free, and while the switchbacks are steep, clear trail made for a nice easy start to the day. We navigated a couple of blow downs with ease, encountered one sunbathing snake, and made it to the waterfall crossing in no time.
The waterfall crossing is where things started to get a little more serious than this peak is during its normal summer season. With the quantity of snow in the gully, the normal trail was not really an option so we opted to climb straight up the center of the creek. Despite the snow being soft, navigation was easy with the right gear and knowledge. If you do choose to come up here in the early season make sure you know your stuff when it comes to snow conditions. Things can go wrong very quickly with a simple misstep.
Above the waterfall crossing, there were a few other footprints that looked fresh and we chose to follow those most of the way. At one point they veered off in a direction that seemed like a bad choice to me and so we set off, breaking our own trail approximately following the summer route.
From this point, we were navigating our own way to the top. Things went well but very slowly in the deep wet snow. As the views opened up it took some of the pain off our legs and we pressed on taking turns working our way uphill.
As always the climb to the top of Mount Dickerman is a steep trudge and it will hurt. But the icing on the cake this time was seeing no other footprints. Judging by the fact that there were no other tracks and the highway had only opened one day prior, I am pretty sure we got to be the first to the summit for the year. It might not be a first ascent but it certainly felt like a privilege.
Just after us, two other hikers reached the summit. Even when covered in snow, don’t expect to be alone on the top of Mount Dickerman for long.