The gate at the trailhead for Scott Peak. Scott Peak is hidden from view here
I had just gotten back from a week in California where I really had a special week that was capped by dayhiking Mt. Whitney when I checked the computer email to find an email from Bob Bolton. The gist of the email was to wonder if I could "sneak" out in the middle of the next week to do some stuff in Idaho. Of course the answer would have to be yes. After all, here I was in the best shape that I had been in for some time and there were peaks begging for some of my attention. Of course I had to make some schedule changes down at the office and eliminate thursday off of my schedule but this was prime time August and I needed to do this.
Bob met me in Kennewick late Weds afternoon and we piled his stuff into my Tacoma and headed towards Idaho. Our plans were discussed and our agenda looked like this, we would first do Scott Peak and then just to the east of Scott, pick off the county highpoint of Clark county, on the side of Webber Peak. We pulled into Mountain Home Idaho about 1 a.m. and found a spot to park in the old K-Mart parking lot where we grabbed some shuteye. After about 6 hours of sleep, we found a cafe and had a decent breakfast to power us up for the day. The drive from Mountain Home to where we wanted to get to was still a good 4 hour drive away. The trailhead for Scott Peak is off of Idaho highway 28 and it just takes awhile to get there.
We stopped in Arco Idaho for some supplies and gas and continued onward, finally arriving at the trailhead around 12:30. A gate (open) defined the trailhead with a small sign denoting the fact that motorized vehicles were not allowed beyond the gate. Parking was just parking on either side of the road and nothing else that really defined a trailhead. A jeep track continued on beyond the gate but didn't appear to be getting much use in recent years. Taking time to have some lunch, and organize our daypacks a bit, we finally were ready to hit the trail at about 1:30 (actually 2:30 Idaho time since we were still on pacific time mentally) Realizing that this was a little on the late side, we figured that we could move fast enough to get up and down before dark but just in case, I had a headlamp in my pack.
Map of general area and to get a BIGGER map of the above one, click HERE
It was only a mile to a junction but I noticed almost immediately that something wasn't right as I walked up the track behind Bob. My legs felt like lead and no matter how hard I pushed, I couldn't make up the gap that was widening between Bob and I. Bob noticed almost immediately that I was struggling a bit and this puzzled him. He stopped and asked me what was wrong and I explained that I had no clue. Even though the elevation gain wasn't significant, I continued to lag and pretty soon Bob was well ahead of me. I kept asking myself why I could feel this way, especially after having had such success just a few days before. I had climbed Brokeoff Peak (7 miles and 3600 feet), White Mtn Peak (15 miles and 3000 feet) and Mt. Whitney (22 miles and 6100 feet) as well as a couple others the previous week and I shouldn't be having this problem.
Bob was waiting for me at a spot near the 9000 foot mark and was concerned about my performance. By this time I had figured out what the problem was and I explained what I had figured out. When I came back from spending a week in California, I was affected by some allergens in the area where I live and was forced to take some allergy medication. The allergy medication eliminates the symptoms I have but it extracts a price when I take it, it leaves me feeling very tired and lethargic. After I explained this to Bob he said it made sense to him as I sure couldn't have done what I had done the week before if I hadn't been in top shape.
The route (in red) as it goes up to the ridge and then hooks left to access Scott Peak. (photo by Bob Bolton)
While he had waited for me to join him near the 9000 foot mark, he had taken the time to study the maps and information we had on climbing Scott and Webber Peaks. He had figured out a better route up to the ridge and recommended that we forget the other route we had planned to use and go with what he had determined. I had to admit that his route looked good and agreed to give it a go.
From the 9000 foot level, we had to drop down a bit and head into some trees on the other side of the draw. Then we started up towards the large gendarme that was a landmark that was midway up the route. After leaving the trees, we hit crappy scree, the kind that moved under every step you would take. In fact, in many places it was two steps up, one step back. Bob was obviously being held back by me so I encouraged him to not worry about me and go get them thar peaks we had planned to get as the time was a factor. He reluntantly agreed and soon was moving twice as fast as my leaden legs would allow and before long he was moving out of my view as he rounded the gendarme on the west side. I had no desire to quit despite not feeling right so I just kept plugging away but I still was moving a lot slower than I wanted to and before long I realized that summiting Scott Peak was not going to happen for me this time and my goal became just getting to the ridge at 11,000 feet.
This pic shows Bob at about the 9500 foot mark (before he got to the ridgeline)
I could see Bob as he hit the ridge at 11,000 feet and headed up towards Scott Peak. He wasn't much larger than a speck but most of the time my eyes were on the ground right in front of me as it was worthy of close attention due to its instability. I checked my GPS and found I was at 10,000 feet and at my pace would probably hit the ridgeline at around 6 p.m. A couple hours went by as I plodded up the scree pile and before long I could see Bob returning from doing the Clark County highpoints located on the eastern side of Webber Peak. He had already done Scott and had made great time on the ridge line from Scott to Webber. I decided to stop where I was, just a little shy of the ridgeline so I could intercept him as he traversed back towards where I was.
Although hard to see, Bob is descending from the false summit of Webber Peak in this pic. I waited until we hooked up again.
He was surprised to see me at this elevation since he had assumed that I had gone down rather than continue the climb. He filled me in on his ascent of Scott Peak and the highpoint on Webber and we began our descent since it was out of the question for me to continue on as it was now 6 pm. If I had started earlier in the day, even in my current state, I had no doubt about summitting both peaks. Funny how I had no problem going downhill and was able to keep up with Bob easily. We made it to the truck just as it got dark so we timed our descent properly. The sad thing was I was less than a half mile from Scott Peak's summit and less than 400 feet of elevation although picking up Webber Peak would have required another mile of effort and a couple hundred feet. Believe me when I say I 'll be back to finish this unfinished business off.
Two days later, I summitted Hyndman Peak, a 13 mile round trip effort with over 5000 feet of elevation gain and had no re-occurance of the "leaden legs" syndrome. I figure that the allergy medication was completely gone from my system by then.
Lesson learned? There are going to be times when you take for granted that energy that we almost always have only to find that your tank seems to be empty. Regardless of the cause, whether medication related, illness or altitude, lack of sleep or something you can't put your finger on, it is bound to happen on occasion as it did to me on Scott Peak. I still feel that despite the sluggishness I felt and the way my body was reacting that I could have summitted had I started earlier that day, but I found it humbling nonetheless.
Humbling because I just assumed when I left the trailhead that I already had this peak in the bag. Next time I won't be so cocky.
UpdateOn August 3rd, 2007, I went back along with fellow SP member Dennis Poulin
and climbed this one again, only all the way to both the county highpoint located on the east side of Webber Peak and then Scott Peak soon afterwards.
Wonderful country that I would never get tired of. We had done the county highpoint of neighboring Jefferson county the previous afternoon and drove to
the gate marking the trailhead in a rainstorm that evening. Both of our vehicles were covered with mud from the roads in but in the morning we had clear skies. We had just barely got off of Scott Peak before the weather started changing. I've attached a pic of my friend's entry in the Scott Peak register from the previous time when I just missed not getting the summit due to lateness in the day.