A Southerner's First 10K-foot Peak

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Trip Report
Wyoming, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Aug 16, 2010
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A Southerner's First 10K-foot Peak
Created On: Aug 30, 2010
Last Edited On: Aug 30, 2010

My First 10K-foot Peak

High on my list of things to do in Yellowstone National Park was to try to bag at least a couple of peaks that are over 10K feet above sea level. And I very much wanted to get at least one that was over 11,000 feet when we got to Grand Tetons.

Although both parks are packed with peaks in that range (and over), many of them are parts of multi-day treks. Since Carole and Andy were with me and don't like to hike, I knew that I'd have to stick to day hikes to bag the peaks. So I picked out several that looked like easy to bag summits within a day.

My limitations turned out to be the road system in Yellowstone. Because of
the low speed limits you can't really drive very fast (and shouldn't want to do so). Add to this the fact that there are often various traffic delays and it's even harder to get around the park. Lots of new road work projects are now taking place and this meant that several of the roads in the Park were under construction and this caused detours and delays in excess of 30 minutes in getting from Point A to Point B.

The morning that I chose to hike the first peak on my list, Avalanche Peak, I didn't take into account the great distance from the lodging we were using, and the guidebook I was using had some just plain bad information in it that caused us to miss the trail head. Thus we overshot the location and drove past it needlessly and into a traffic jam caused by a road improvement project. By the time I figured out what was wrong we had to sit through the jam, then turn around and pass through it again. Thus, I ended up at the trail more than an hour later than I had intended. Instead of starting my hike at 9:30 am, I wasn't able to get started until a little after 11:00 am.

Hoyt Peak from the SaddleSaddle

As I got ready to hike, Andy decided that the cut he'd gotten on the sole of his right foot the previous day was just too severe to allow him to hike. So he elected to stay at the car while I went ahead. It's supposedly really not a good idea to enter the back country alone, because of the presence of grizzly bears. Andy and I had just seen a griz shortly before we arrived at the trailhead. But the bear took off into a ravine and vanished as soon as it was aware of us. So that was a good sign that the griz really didn't want anything to do with me.


Still, looking at the warning at the beginning of the trail didn't do much for my confidence. "Don't travel alone" was the first warning there. In addition, I had just accidentally hit myself with pepper spray while checking out my bear spray! My thumb hit the button when I was checking the plastic safety on the bottle and I found my left hand covered in burning hot spray and some of it on my right eyebrow! Oh, joy. Luckily there was a creek at hand and I washed the stuff off. It's pretty potent crap and I can see how it can fend off bears.

Deciding that the views and the experience would be worth the risk, I headed up, leaving Andy at the car to explore the picnic area and environs and listen to satellite radio.

The trail was, as advertised, pretty steep to begin. But nothing I hadn't experienced in the East. In fact, the trails in Yellowstone are so well maintained that they're like vast graded boulevards in contrast to the National Forest trails I'm accustomed to using. In addition, the air out west is so dry that I didn't suffer the long ordeals of sweating that I have to contend with here in the South. I hiked up that mountain relatively sweat-free!

At about 9000 feet I came out of the forest and onto the tree line. The trail flattened out and I was rewarded with a fantastic view of the bowl below the summits of Avalanche Peak! It was fantastic! I stopped there to get out my tripod and take many photos. After a short while another hiker appeared and we talked. His name was Russ Snider and he was from Colorado. He asked if he could join me and so we ended up hiking to the summit together and taking the unofficial loop trail down the peak and back to the Avalanche Peak Trail. One thing that I had originally wanted to do was bag Hoyt Peak in the same hike, but I was really low on water by that time and I was also worried about leaving Andy alone at the parking area any more. Five hours alone waiting for me was plenty, I figured. So Russ and I decided not to hike Hoyt Peak and pushed on down to the road.

It was for views like this that I went to Yellowstone! I was amazed!

Alpine LakesLakes
The views from Avalanche were fantastic. And I realized in an instant why the western hikers/backpackers/climbers who I encounter always have a jaded opinion of the mountains of the East and South. Yeah, we have some tough terrain in this neck of the woods, but what the high country of the eastern USA lacks is a true vastness and a sense of real wilderness. Our wild country is just so small and contained in comparison to that of the West.

Deciding not to bag Hoyt due to the fact that I had used up almost all of my water, and that my son was waiting patiently at the car, Russ and I headed back to the parking area. Then after exchanging email addresses with my new-found hiking pal, Andy and I headed back our cabin and Old Faithful Inn to get in some more day hiking elsewhere in the Park. But the experience of bagging my first over 10K-foot peak was under my belt! It was all that I had hoped it would be!

The view from the summit of Avalanche Peak



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Viewing: 1-9 of 9
Arthur Digbee

Arthur Digbee - Aug 30, 2010 9:58 pm - Voted 10/10


Glad you got to do this.

Your bear spray incident struck a chord -- I once accidentally discharged mine in an RV park. I wasn't aiming at the little dogs, really I wasn't . . . .


BobSmith - Aug 30, 2010 10:53 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: congratulations!

Ha! As a letter carrier, I can sympathize.


MarkDidier - Aug 30, 2010 10:11 pm - Voted 10/10

Congrats Bob!

I've been waiting for your posts from your trip. Glad to see them coming out. Hope the whole trip was a success. Congrats on your first 10K.

And yes I love the mountains of the east as well, but the west sure is vast, isn't it! I can completely relate to all of your thoughts in this report comparing the east and the west...the weather and the vastness.


BobSmith - Aug 30, 2010 10:54 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Congrats Bob!


One thing that took me by surprise was how quickly I got dehydrated. And all without knowing that I was sweating! I got to the ridgeline of Avalanche and wasn't soaking in sweat as I would have been here in the South. And then I started drinking my water only because I felt like I should try. Then drained a quart before I knew it was gone!


BobSmith - Aug 30, 2010 11:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice Report

I'm seriously considering Glacier for next summer.

Two major road construction jobs going on when we were in Yellowstone. One was really a bother, the other not so much.

Sarah Simon

Sarah Simon - Sep 2, 2010 10:25 am - Voted 10/10

Yeah, but...


"And I realized in an instant why the western hikers/backpackers/climbers who I encounter always have a jaded opinion of the mountains of the East and South. Yeah, we have some tough terrain in this neck of the woods, but what the high country of the eastern USA lacks is a true vastness and a sense of real wilderness. Our wild country is just so small and contained in comparison to that of the West."

Still, for me, there is something almost magical about the Appalachian Mountains. They are deep and dark and so full of history, stories of people and life. The AT, in particular, is simply amazing: To have a 2000+ mile foot trail running through the mountains so close to the continuous megapolis that is the East Coast...simply amazes me. And then there are the waterfalls, the flowering trees and shrubs...I think the Appalachians are amazing.

I'm glad you enjoyed the "wide open spaces" of the west, but your own back yard sure holds its share of delights and wonders, too.




BobSmith - Sep 2, 2010 11:13 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Yeah, but...

Oh, yeah. One thing that I realized almost from the moment I started hiking out west is that our forests put the west's to shame. There is nothing in North America like the diversity of the southern Appalachian forest. We have more species of tree in one square miles of the Great Smoky Mountains or Pisgah National Forest than the west has in total. And our waterfalls are great, due to the abundance of rainfall that we get and the nature of the geology.

If only there had been some foresight, one of the grandest National Parks in the country could have been created in the Pisgah National Forest--the highest cliffs in eastern USA, temperate rainforests, mile-high peaks, high altitude bogs, etc...

But at one point in Yellowstone I was looking out over a spot that had thirty mile line of sight with no roads. There is absolutely nowhere here in the East where I could have seen something like that...with 10K-foot peaks all around. I have to go back.


Dean - Jun 23, 2011 10:12 pm - Voted 10/10


Thanks for sharing, your pics are very nice as always and I appreciated your remarks.


BobSmith - Jun 24, 2011 8:49 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Enoyable


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A Southerner's First 10K-foot Peak

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