Saturday, August 6, 2011

Electric Peak

Killer week.

Tuesday some of the Texans on staff smoked a couple of briskets and then there was an employee poker tournament (Texas hold 'em of course).  Boo-yah and thank you-what a great night.

Wednesday I participated in the one of the great pastimes of the Paradise Valley: floating the Yellowstone River.  We rented a raft on a perfect day-86º and sunny with a slight breeze-and floated down the river for the afternoon, drifting between snow-capped mountains and under clear blue skies.  The water was the perfect temperature to be refreshing, but not warm enough that you could stay in forever, as we alternated laying out and sipping beers and diving in the water to cool off.  The perfect remedy after a long week of work.

Thursday I got up at sunrise to head into Yellowstone.  Going into the park always means something fun is in store, which gets me excited.  This week seven of us-five staff and two guests-were on our way to climb Electric Peak, a moderate summit located at the northern border of the park.  It is a hike and climb combination, totaling 20 miles round trip with an elevation gain of over 3,600 feet to reach the 10,969 foot summit.
View from the trailhead.  There she blows!
One great thing about climbing peaks is that nature is behind at higher altitudes.  It was a flashback to see lupine, Indian paintbrushes, sticky geraniums, arnica, and all of the other flowers again.  Around Mountain Sky all of the wildflowers are pretty much done for the year, so it was a real treat for our eight-or-so mile hike to the base of the peak.  We were even lucky enough to see some sandhill cranes.

Then we got down to business and scaling Electric.
The final ascent.  Actual climbing was involved and a couple of places were pretty hairy-one misstep could have landed me in a world of hurt.  Luckily our whole party was as nimble as the bighorn sheep that inhabit the mountains, and we made it up safely.
The most rewarding part about climbing peaks is that you never fully appreciate the view until the top.  Sure you stop and take a breath or two here and there on the way up, and perhaps glance at the view for a minute, but you do not stop to take it all in.  As you get closer to the top, and the climb gets steeper with every step, each peek is better than the last, but they are only sneak previews of sorts.  You are winded and out of breath, and lactic acid is built up in your legs.  There is no time to process the beauty until you plant your feet on the peak and take a deep breath as you look around to take in 360º of mountains, valleys, forests, clouds, rivers, and skies, all laid out before you.  You feel as though you have conquered them by climbing the peak and they now belong to you.  You deserve this view.

The reward was well worth the four-and-a-half hours of hiking, climbing, and doing battle with mosquitoes.  You can see Gardiner at the very right side of the picture, nestled in the valley.  On the left side of the picture you can see the precarious ridge we traversed to reach the summit.
All in all it was a very satisfying weekend, and today I was not even sore.  Floating rivers and climbing peaks-life does not get much better than that!

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