You know you feel it. That itching desire. The need to get out. To summit. But what if you work awkward days? What if you have no partners in town? What do you do? GO CRAZY! Kind of. Go Solo.
I've tried to find partners on this website, but it seems nothing has worked out. It is okay, you just get the mountains to yourself.
I was the only car and only person in the Bear Lake parking lot as I was gearing up for my climb until a man approached me out of no where wearing only jeans, t-shirt, tennis shoes, and a tin foil like emergency blanket around his shoulders. Him and four friends parked their car about six miles down the road around midnight and did a night hike up a trail to Bear lake. One of the girls got sick so they decided to spend the night instead of hike down to the car! This guy, Michael, asked me for a ride to his car and I agreed. It caused me to start a little later then I wanted to but I felt so bad for him and his chilled friends. What can you do with these out-of-towners?!
The all too often taken picture of the Dragon's Tail and Hallett Peak
The snow was still firm after a 7:00 start time. I made fast progress until Emerald when I chose to go to the right instead of the left of the lake. A month ago I didn't have this problem there because Emerald was still frozen solid. But alas I made it to the base.
I started making my way to the buttress that separates the Tooth from the Tail. I thought it wise to put my crampons on here. There was a snow storm the night before and it left about 3" of wet snow. This made progress a little slower as the snow was balling up on my crampons, but it wasn't as bad as I have experienced before.
I probably should have read a little more about the route than I did. I wanted to make it a more exciting, unknown ascent and it certainly was. When the couloir forks I didn't know if I needed to take the right or the left. I couldn't see what the right had in store, and the left looked more direct and fun. The main worry of the left was I didn't know where it topped out! It appeared to surmount a sharp rocky ridge that I would have to traverse in order to gain the gentle slope of Flattop's East side. This sounded more fun, so I went for it.
A whole mountain all to myself? Thank you!
Emerald Lake below. Ice all around, but no one else to be found.
There were actually two sections I found difficult. There was a small crevasse not more than seven feet deep (as I was telling myself it would be okay if I fell in) with a very small fragile bridge to cross. This was more of a mental crux as I lightly stepped across keeping all the weight I could on my axe planted on the opposite side. After this the couloir reached its sharpest angle of about 55*. Directly ahead was the real crux.
Rime Ice covered the rock and the holds! Don't fall or it's curtains.
I knew if I fell I would have a very hard time arresting my fall. The Rime Ice on the rock also made me concerned if I had ascended the wrong fork and I did have to traverse a sharp ice covered ridge. I knew if I made it over this crux I could be trapped between lots of rock and hard places!
I climbed onto the icy rock feeling secure like a greased pig. I was able to jam my axe in small cracks or around rocks that I hoped were more than just frozen to the ground. My crampons on the rock actually felt quite secure. I was happy that I got into mixed climbing the past two years despite my previous hatred of the exercise. I reached high for my next hold but the angle and the ice made it worthless! I was able to lock off with my other arm and slowly drop to my last secure position. "So, do you want to hike all the way back down or what?!" I got back up, adjusted my feet, and pulled over.
Now, does this thing top out where I hope it does? Indeed; no freaky sharp iced rock ridge for me. Relieved, I did a little dance.
All went well until the trail entered the trees and got itself lost in the snow. I started to follow some old tracks that seemed to know where they were going. As I started to get lower and lower the tracks became more defined. Elk. Are you kidding me? I've been trusting on the cow family to find my way back! Elk are smarter then they look as I soon was back on track with human foot prints and back to my car. I checked my car's clock. 11:00 am. Four hours?! And I thought I went slow. I had time for another lap.
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