This is the first scramble in 2012, done on my birthday. Although I successfully summited this mountain, I should say, I was neither physically nor mentally ready for this ascent. Grotto Mountain was not on my winter to-do-list originally, until I was “fooled” by a local guy met in Grotto Canyon. He summited this mountain in December via direct route (Kane’s Route), well, maybe he is a local mountaineer with tens of years of experience. The direct route involves several steep slab sections even below the treeline, as well as cliff bands, so I decided to give it an attempt via ACC route, a longer but safer route. The scramble section is merely a very steep hike, with several hands-on sections, but avoidable if staying on the ridge. However, the 1425m elevation gain makes it a demanding ascent, even in summer. Note this elevation gain is almost the same as Cascade Mountain’s. In winter, it’s still okay if the trail has already been made by others. But during my ascent, I couldn’t see any trail after gaining about 200m elevation or so. I knew the official trail should be around me here or there, because I knew I was ascending the correct ridge. But due to the snow cover, it’s a completely different story. I could see flags here and there, but they could only help me to ensure I was on the correct route. The rest of the ascent involves heavy trail breaking, bushwracking, as well as, knee-deep post-holing. Even before the bushwracking section, there are two trails that can ruin your day. The first one is the trail to the direct route, which is bigger and has a flag. I went off-route here, and wasted about 20 minutes. The second one is the Horseshoe Traverse, which continues horizontally all the way to Cougar Creek. In these days, it seems like most people are doing this trail, instead of Grotto Mountain. Too bad I went off-route again, and wasted about 1 hour here. When I was back to the correct ascent rib, it was almost 11 o’clock. As I mentioned before, there was no trail. The massive amount of trail breaking and bushwracking is extremely exhausting if you are alone. I really wished I had a partner to share. As approaching the treeline, the snow gets deeper and deeper. The post-holing was about knee-deep, for about 200m elevation gain. It could help if I brought the snowshoes up, but if so, I had to carry that thing all the way up and down, which is probably more demanding than a not-too-long post-holing section. Once above the treeline, I finally can relax a bit. Due to the lack of snow on upper section, the rest was just like a late season scramble (although still a looong way to the summit). I didn’t stay on the ridge during ascending, instead I traversed around several false summits on west slope. The traversing involves several moderate sections. (On the way down, I stayed on the ridge all the way until the last false summit. This route is actually the easier one, as well as, more scenic.) I had to take my ice axe out for a snow slope crossing, because an involuntary glissade would make me slide down about a hundred meter. By the time I reached the summit, it was 2:20pm, which indicates I only had about 2 hours of daylight time. I checked the register, and the last ascent was done on Dec. 27th, so I’m the first people successfully ascended Grotto Mountain in 2012. I retraced my footprints for decending, and I couldn’t believe I made the trail all the way to the treeline. Hopefully there will be people doing this mountain in the following several days, so they don’t need to do the massive trail breaking thing. Even though I tried to run down, I was forced to watch sunset on the mountain again. But it wasn’t too dark by the time I made back to parking lot.