The mountains are calling and I must go. ~ John Muir

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Dream Job

With our New Year's trip to Boundary Peak a bust due to weather conditions, Nevada's high peak is definitely on our radar for 2011.  However, this year’s primary objective will take us backpacking in the Western Rockies and an elevation of 13,528 feet. 

In recent years, we have hiked in a variety of terrain and taken seasonal expeditions throughout the United States ~ from sections of the Appalachian Trail to New Hampshire's White Mountains and our recent summit of Borah Peak.  During this time we have become gear savvy and expanded our abilities by learning from each other, other hikers, and a variety of publications.  We practice safe hiking measures, including noting how our bodies are affected by elevation and turning back when conditions are not conducive to a safe journey.  We are prepared with the necessary gear, including maps, navigation and digital cameras, and have learned to effectively use crampons and ices axes, as there is often a chance of a sunny, warm trailhead and a snowy, icy climb to the summit. 

Our plan for this adventure is to summit Kings Peak, Utah, via the Henrys Fork/Highline Trails, a 28.8-mile round trip hike.  We'll start with a flight from California to Utah and drive to the High Uintas Wilderness, where we will camp and acclimate to the 9,400 ft altitude.  The next morning we will backpack to Henrys Fork Basin, to camp and continue adapting to the rising elevation.  On day three, we will summit Kings Peak and return to the Basin ~ 14-miles round trip with an additional 3,000 ft gain.  The next two days will take us back to the trailhead and home.

This excursion will make an exciting addition to BACKPACKER, as the scree, boulders, and views promise to be spectacular.  The natural flora, fauna, and summits of nearby Mounts Gilbert and Powell are sure to be a sight!

Not only would this truly be my dream job, but we're going anyway ~

Why shouldn't BACKPACKER benefit from our experience?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Borah Peak, Idaho ~ elevation 12,662 feet

September 19, 2010

Borah Peak via the Southwest Ridge to Chicken Out Ridge, 6.8 mi
Class 3; Elevation Gain 5,300 ft

A moment of hesitation…
But no chickening out

Although we’ve spent many weekends hiking and climbing, hitting high peaks has been somewhat of a challenge since we all moved out west.  There are several peaks within driving distance, but they are not as easily accessible as the mountains of the northeast.  Additional time is also needed to acclimate to the trailhead elevations, as the mountains in the west reach considerable heights.  Extended weekends are necessary.  Extended weekends are not easy to come by.

Just arrived at the campground
With that said, we decided to use our 2010 vacations to summit our highest peak yet, as well as visit Yellowstone National Park and check out the Tetons.  It was an amazing week of camping, hiking, and (for Jim and Tim) bison burgers and antelope sausage whenever they were available. 

Our trip began with a drive to SFO to pick Tim up.  After loading his suitcase into our fully-packed car, we drove through the night, heading toward Mackay, Idaho.  Mid-morning we stopped for an awesome cup of coffee (and to sign the wall) at the Shot in the Dark Coffee House in Twin Falls.  We pulled into Mackay, hoping to find a place to grab lunch.  Everything was closed, but several people pointed us toward a free bbq that the local schools were hosting.  We checked it out, hunted for firewood, did a drive-by of the trailhead, and chatted with the campground owner, Daryl, about the Lost River Range. 

The next morning, in the dark and cold hours of day, we set out.  Tree-line came upon us pretty quickly, and the balance of the hike was very exposed.  Loose gravel and steep gains made this a challenging peak to summit but the views were unbelievable ~ each more stunning than the last.



When we reached Chicken Out Ridge, we met several people who had done just that.  But there was no chance that we were joining them.  The nerve-racking cake walk that was Chicken Out Ridge was over before we realized, and more scree soon followed.  Toward the apex of the mountain each step up led to half a step back, but we pressed on ~ holding tight and scrambling up the loose rock.

Although an amazing mountain (Jim’s favorite summit so far), we were ready to head to Yellowstone the next day.

At the summit

Monday, January 10, 2011

Humphreys Peak, Arizona ~ elevation 12,633 feet

August 29, 2008
Humphreys Peak via the Humphreys Peak Trail, 9 mi
Class 1; Elevation Gain 3,500 ft

Our first encounter with significant altitude…
And a dark descent

As we drew nearer to California and the end of our cross-country trip, Tim and Julie hit one more high peak.  We pulled into the Woody Mountain Campground to acclimate and get ready for the following day’s hike to the summit of Humphreys Peak; Arizona’s highest.

The next morning, we headed out early, geared up, and started on the Humphreys Peak Trail.  Our first few steps through the wildflower meadow were full of excitement.  We hit the forest ~ the spruce and fir trees ~ and gradually climbed the switchbacks to reach the saddle.  At one point, we saw a rock slide region up ahead.  The switchback was so sharp to the right, that we barely noticed the trail continuing behind us and thought (for just a moment) that we might need to climb the rocks.  Lucky for us, we stopped to assess the situation and figure out how to cross the steep and treacherous mass of fallen fragments.  That was when we turned and saw the trail continuing
upwards.  We ambled on.

Once we reached the saddle, and headed toward what we thought was the summit, the trail grew steeper and rockier.  We reached this false summit and, with our new vantage point, realized several more stood before us.    

Once atop Humphreys, the views of the White Mountains and the north rim of the Grand Canyon were amazing.  We even watched a tornado off in the distance!  It was truly a stunning 360-degree panoramic for miles.

Although not a terribly difficult mountain to climb, the altitude was a bit intense, causing a slow ascent and a late descent.  Back at the car, Tim insisted that he was awake enough to drive back to camp, but as soon as we pulled out of the lot he had second thoughts.  We switched seats, drove back to camp, and crawled into our tent to pass out for the night.  Best sleep ever after this intense and invigorating peak!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Magazine Mountain, Arkansas ~ elevation 2,753 feet

August 27, 2008
Magazine Mountain via the Signal Hill Trail, 1 mi
Class 1; Elevation Gain 225 ft

An impromptu detour on our way west…

Although we intended to summit a couple of mountains on our drive west, Arkansas was not on our radar.  With Tim at the wheel, we played License Plate Bingo, listened to episodes of the Star Wars radio show on cd, and contemplated our next stop.  Tim spotted a sign on the side of the road that read, Magazine Mountain next exit.  After a very brief chat about whether or not to pull off, we opted to search for our next high peak. 

We followed the signs, our road map, and our trusty GPS way further than we anticipated and eventually came to the parking area at the Signal Hill trailhead.  To our dismay, this was going to be another ½ mile stroll, albeit a beautiful wooded jaunt through the Ozarks!

At the summit, we ran into an employee from the Department of Parks, who was power washing the stone map of Magazine Mountain and back at the car we met a wonderful older couple who has hiked all over southern Arizona.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Clingmans Dome, Tennessee ~ elevation 6,643 feet

August 25, 2008
Clingmans Dome via the parking area, 1 mi
Class 1; Elevation Gain 330 ft

The only peak all three of us have hiked...
that we didn't hike together

Julie on the Hen Wallow Falls trail

Clingmans Dome was the first high peak that Julie and Tim summited on our cross-country drive (and move) west.  We had a fantastic couple of days of camping, making pancakes in the rain, hiking waterfall trails, and hitting another high peak – even if it was only a ½ mile walk to the summit!

Clingmans Dome was mostly drivable, with a steep walk and a climb to the top of the observation tower.  On a clear day, they say you can see over 100 miles, with views of several states.  We saw clouds and haze as far as the eye could see and, therefore, couldn’t see much of anything.

We did, however, get to set foot on the AT once again!

A quick step on the AT
Tim, Whaddaya see?

Jerimoth Hill, Rhode Island ~ elevation 812 feet

August 16, 2008
Jerimoth Hill via a dirt road, apx 235 yds
Class 1; Elevation Gain 7 ft

A stroll through someone’s backyard…
In flip flops

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mount Washington, New Hampshire ~ elevation 6,288 feet

Mount Washington via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the Lion Head Trail, 4.3 mi one way
Class 1; Elevation Gain 4,270 ft

Another rock…
Way too soon

After only one day of rest, we loaded the car and headed from Maine to New Hampshire, for the second peak in our High Peaks Tour.  We pulled into the Lafayette Campground in Franconia Notch and hobbled around the grounds taking pictures of the beautiful Presidential Range (ok, Julie hobbled, everyone else was healing nicely).


The next morning, we headed to Mount Washington’s trailhead.  What would have been a less strenuous hike than Katahdin was made more challenging, due to summiting in Maine only 48 hours earlier.  It was a bit too soon for the steep ascent and, although we are not big fans of drivable summits, it was a blessing to have a van ride back down to the parking area.

The best part of reaching the summit of Mount Washington?  Aside from being able to check Washington off the to-do list, seeing amazing views, and feeling the satisfaction of making it, was the little girl, with the awestruck look that said, “Did you really hike the whole thing???"