Hike, hike, hike. We must hike. Snowshoes wouldn't be necessary because the snow level has risen dramatically. Anything left is likely sloppy and hard. I did bring crampons and an axe, just in case. (Always prepared, but it's starting to get heavy.)
Scott and Josie picked me up at home so I just had to sneak away from Tokul who was none to pleased. I'd already dodged Amy and the kids since they were at swimming. (Special kudos to Amy for managing all three kids after swimming.) We met Eric (another TNAB hiker) at the trailhead. It was chilly, but as we started up the hill we stopped to strip off layers. I might have gone a bit too far since I wound up in just a t-shirt with my pants vented fully. (Later I'd have to regear.)
At about 3,200 feet we started seeing snow on the trail. At least it looked like snow. It was more accurately described as ice. We slowed dramatically as our footing got worse, but kept pushing up encouraged by the glimpses of the nearly full moon peeking over the ridge.
When we finally emerged from the trees onto the talus field we were treated to a thin, but hard layer of snow mostly covering everything and shining brightly in the moonlight. We all added more warm gear before pushing up. I stopped to try some pics, but found the wind that was now whipping around quickly made long-exposures blurry. (Sorry.)
At 4,000 feet we arrived at the split in the trail. The trail that headed to Mason Lake had some tracks, but not a ton. The trail that led to the summit(s) of Bandera was almost completely unbroken. Or the snow was so hard it wasn't showing footprints. We decided that short on time, traction, and with a brutal wind we were done. Puffy coats came out and went on and I froze my fingers trying to take pictures that were blurry thanks to the wind.
We turned for home, but I stayed behind a few moments to call Amy, try a few more pics, and then found I could easily walk down without a headlamp. Along the route down we made good time, partially because now that we weren't working so hard it was too cold to just casually stroll.
Total distance was about 5.5 miles and 1,900 feet under a spectacular moon with good folks. Maybe El NiŅo won't kill this winter after all.