Monday, May 26, 2014


I climb peaks, not corporate ladders. They can be physically and mentally challenging, and the reward, while intangible, is better than any monetary compensation. Call me young and headstrong, but money is not a driver for me. Sorry Benny Franklin, but take the backseat. John Muir, you are my man. Thoreau, you can take shotgun.

Saturday was a half day for me, with beautiful weather and tons of tourons (read: tourist morons) out on the roads. What is a guy to do who just wants a little peace and quiet on the trail? The answer was staring me in the face-Emigrant, the peak that sits across from the ranch. Snow covered and all, it was the clear choice, all 10,915 majestic feet of it.

View of Emigrant from Mountain Sky
Nobody would be attempting it at this time of year, seeing as the snow is too light for backcountry skiing on it, and any normal person would wait until the snow melts to hike it. Boo-yah.

Emigrant again, but from near the base
Speaking of it, snow was definitely the word of the day. Sure, I have climbed Emigrant a couple times, but never with snow, or any peak with a decent amount of snow on it for that matter. Solid footing, avalanches (very low probability), and sliding on ice could all be problems. Or, let us call them challenges, it has a more positive ring to it.

A little morning mountain glow greeted me as I arrived at the trailhead at sunrise
My strategy for combating the snow was to hit it early. In the morning, I figured it would still be crusty, so it would be possible to walk on top of it and avoid post-holing. As well, it would be frozen together and less likely to let go and send me on an unwanted sledding trip down the mountain. Ice would be dealt with on a case by case basis.

The first half of the climb was easy, with the first wildflowers coming into bloom. Sagebrush buttercups, Wyoming kittentails, and shooting stars led me ever up the mountain. At the tree line I encountered the first patches of snow but was able to skirt around them. Farther up was a different story-there was no getting around that stuff. As well, at a certain point there is really only one path up Emigrant, so there is no choice to make-follow the ridge! As a famous fish in a movie once said, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

Following in the footsteps of mountain goats
My morning-crust theory worked quite well: I avoided post-holing, but it had enough give for solid footing. It was also clear that the snow was not going anywhere. In fact, walking on top of the snow was preferable to bare ground and climbing on scree, the loose rock that sends you back half a step for every one that you take forward.

After three hours and ten minutes I was surrounded by nothing but blue sky and scattered clouds. Of course, the hairiest part was the last 20 yards, walking across a snow ridge all of two and a half feet wide with steep drop offs on either side. Picturing it in my mind still gets my adrenaline pumping.

How do you value the reward for climbing this? I do not have an answer for you except that there was no place in the world at 9:35am, on Saturday, May 24th , that I would have rather been.

Looking East

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