Not As Bad As It Might Look
Hoyt Peak from the northeast slopes of Avalanche Peak Mike on the "crux."
Probably everyone who hikes up popular Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone stops to admire Hoyt Peak, a rugged-looking mountain southeast of Avalanche and connected to it by a long ridge. Not too many climb it, though. No officially maintained trail heads up it, and the peak can look a bit intimidating to the average hiker. But it beckons the legs, heart, and imagination of the climber, and so it was with great satisfaction that I learned thephotohiker
(Mike), too, had a keen interest in climbing it. Plus, the mountain shares his name. Who can resist that? (I'm just glad my name isn't K2.)
I'd hiked up Avalanche five years earlier with my wife and left wanting to return for Hoyt. Mike and his wife had attempted Hoyt back in 1999 but had to turn back because of rough winds on the ridge. We had no information on the peak except knowledge of its appearance and position, plus remarks from another SP member that the ridge went at around Class 3+, with places where he and his partners wished they had brought a rope. All that added up to two things: fun and adventure.
We hit the trail at about 6 to beat the crowds, the weather, and the construction delays. After we attained the saddle between Avalanche and Hoyt, we encountered the type of ridgetop trekking that I pretty much live for-- views in all directions of some of the best mountain wilderness remaining in the Lower 48, and no one else around. It was a little disappointing to find that the ridge climb was not nearly as rugged and challenging as we'd expected and hoped (mostly Class 2 with some short Class 3 sections that you could bypass if you wanted to), but that didn't ruin the experience a bit. It isn't every day that one gets to stand atop a wild Wyoming summit and stare into the North Absaroka Wilderness, where the distances are long, the rivers are swift and deep, the brush is thick, and the bears are thicker. Below us was an old glacial basin filled with snowfields and nameless lakes. To the north and south was an ocean of mountains I could happily spend a lifetime or two exploring. Maybe three or four, actually.
We descended Hoyt and then hiked up Avalanche Peak via its less-used northeastern ridge. The 360-degree view from Avalanche takes in almost all of Yellowstone National Park, and so it wasn't hard for us to agree to heading up there even though we'd both been up it before. After that, it was out of the park and to the Brooks Lake area, near Togwotee Pass in the Southern Absarokas, where we would spend that night and the next camped at one of the prettiest campgrounds in the Rockies.
This was my first outing with Mike, who had driven out from the Bitterroot Valley to join me for a few days in the Absarokas. It was a great day, and a good start to mountaineering together.
On the summit-- photo by Mike.
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