Last Saturday Peter, Greg and I decided to give the big loop a try. I thought it might be a little early in the season but I figured it might present a few training obstacles that could come in handy in a few weeks. Plus I really wanted to get in a good amount of vertical and mileage. This route is one of my favorites because it has all the qualities I look for in a run, it's a loop, has some very runnable sections, lots of vertical and rugged terrain, plus it's close to home.
At about 6am we left the car at Church fork and headed up to the pipeline for the most boring part of the trail. The one small downer on making this a loop is that we have to hit the road at Birch Fork then head up the Terraces picnic area to get to the Bowman trailhead (alternatively I've thought about going all the way to Elbow fork then take the connector back over to Bowman). We made good time going up Bowman since the trail was in good shape and we didn't hit any snow until just below Baker Pass. However, the closer we got to the pass the harder the wind blew and once we got over the pass into Mill A basin we could see a storm coming over the Big/Little Cottonwood ridge. That, combined with the rain that started to fall, increased our pace a bit as we made our way around Mt Raymond back over to the Millcreek side.
Then the real fun started. for the next hour or so we spent a considerable amount of time traversing the remaining snow fields and finding the upper Desolation trail. There were some great sections of glissading which was great fun, but the traverses on the slippery spring snow started wearing on me a bit. Just before we gained the pass below Thayne's Peak the snow let up and we cruised the remaining descent back to the car. In the end we got 19 miles and 4,350' vertical in a little over 4 hours.