Well I don't know where to begin to describe my trip, other than amazing. Perfect weather yesterday and today for climbing. I reached three summits, didn't even think about Dutchman after looking at it. It may be doable non-tech but it looked pretty crazy. I did Imp and the unnamed ~10,900 foot peak west of Sentinel yesterday and then Echo today. I decided since the unnamed peak was higher I would just settle for it.
I hiked in on Monday and set up camp on a small hill just west of Expedition Lake. On the hike in I was fortunate enough to see a family of moose on the trail (male, female, baby). They were the first moose I have ever seen, so it was very neat to see them like that in the backcountry. They apparently don't care if you make noise while hiking though; they aren't going to move haha. I tried waiting a bit and they still didn't move, so I just detoured around them. They were huge!
Upon getting about 5-6 miles into the trail the scenery became stunningly beautiful. I was thinking that even before I got to Hilgard Basin this was the most beautiful area I have been to. Mountains like the Tetons are grand and epic, but I think the Madisons are just beautiful
. Like something you would see in a landscape magazine. I knew the scene that would greet me in Hilgard Basin from a few pictures I have seen but it was still stunning. They must have gotten some serious snow last week because there was snow as far down the trail as about 8,500 feet and there was a lot of snow on the higher mountains, with Echo being nearly smothered. I met a couple guys that were hiking out, they had been in the Hilgard Basin area for four days and they said that on Friday they had to set up camp on snow. It sprinkled a little bit around 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday but other than that the weather was great.
Tuesday I woke up at 6 a.m. to get ready for Imp and hopefully ~10,900 (that's what I'll call the other peak). Does anyone know the exact elevation of that peak by the way? My map doesn't give the elevation of it. I headed out at 6:45 when there was enough light to navigate by, aiming for the saddle west of ~10,900. The route was easy enough, since there aren't many trees to navigate through. Getting to the saddle was just a matter of climbing a talus field. On the other side I headed north toward Imp, which I might add, has seemingly endless boulder fields. Surprisingly though, the boulder fields were pretty easy to navigate compared to the other ones I have been on so far.
The sky was looking clear when I reached the bottom of the south couloir, and I decided to take the easy route instead of the SW ridge, just to make sure I wouldn't be hindered by weather. Upon starting up the south couloir I questioned my decision, since there wasn't a single sturdy rock to step on the whole way up haha. It was a nightmare getting up but I got down in record time, basically skiing my way down. I reached the summit ridge of Imp and checked out the "class 4" route up the middle. It looked very fun but I didn't think the best time to try some class 4 was when I was the only person for miles, so I opted for the easy route around to the SE ridge, which greeted me with some beautiful exposure, and then the incredible summit (I reached the summit at 9:20, 2 hours 35 minutes from camp). I immediately knew why I craved this mountain so much when I reached the summit. Had I climbed the SW ridge the entire climb up the mountain would have been a blast. I kind of regretted not taking that way since the sky was still clear, but there is always next year. The summit was unquestionably my favorite so far. Awesome exposure on all sides, including a couple of rocks on the summit that actually bridge a gap, so you have a drop beneath you too! After eating lunch on the summit (why not?) I reluctantly headed back down and toward ~10,900.
The climb up ~10,900 was pretty easy, but just interesting enough to make it fun. There are a couple class 3 sections, at least the route I took. It looks like if you wanted to you could probably just traverse on the north side of the mountain around the steeper sections but what fun is that? Plus it would be killer on your ankles. I just followed the west ridge all the way to the summit, which was broad and had no cairn, so I made one.
I returned back to camp after a very beautiful and successful day.
This morning I left at 6:45 again. I got to just below the north ridge, where I could take a look at the east ridge possibility, but it looked like there was way more snow there than I wanted to deal with so I opted for the north ridge route. The terrain was pretty easy, except I got to the steep stuff at about 8 a.m. and there was still ice or frost on a lot of the rocks, making them very slippery. Even the ground was frozen and slippery in spots. For that reason I would say Echo was definitely the hardest of the three, simply based on it being very slippery. I reached the summit at 8:30, 1 hour 45 minutes from camp. I would have made it faster but I came over the ridge east of the main ridge way too far south, and had to actually go back down and then back up to get to the north ridge, which was quite frustrating. The summit of Echo was basically opposite of Imp's. It was broad and very large, but offered views of some beautiful scenery nonetheless. The sky was literally cloudless except very far off in the horizon, and it was then that I could say the stars aligned for my trip.
I didn't see anyone else climbing on the peaks I did. I had the mountains all to myself. There was a group camping across Expedition Lake from me, with horses and dogs and all that. They were there all three days like me, and looked like they would probably be there longer. I didn't get a chance to talk to them so I'm not sure what they were doing.
I was expecting at least one good rain or storm but there weren't any. I reached all the peaks I really expected to. I got to see some of the most beautiful scenery ever. All in all, the best weekend I've ever had, hands down. I owe Peakhugger a big thank you for giving me some encouraging words to camp it instead of day hiking it. I can't imagine how much less
fun I would have had if I had day hiked them. It would have been cool but I wouldn't have been able to really enjoy the beautiful scenery since everything would have been a race to the peak before the afternoon clouds.
I'll post some pics when I get them edited this evening! Now: shower!