Summit Naps

Summit Naps

Page Type Page Type: Article
Activities Activities: Mountaineering, Scrambling
You left the car at dawn, but that was 5,000 vertical feet and many hours ago. Now you're on the summit, still mildly euphoric from the exposed scrambling you just did. The views and the weather are great, but you realize your early start has left you feeling a tad sleepy. And the warm sunshine sure feels good...

Enter the Summit Nap!

Napping at 13770 feet13,770 foot nap. My climbing partners demonstrate proper form on the summit of the Grand Teton.

Finding a sheltered alcove in the rocks, you bed down. The breeze rustles softly, and in the sun's warmth you slowly relax. You can feel the mental tension of the ascent seeping away. Morpheus greets you with open arms... After five minutes asleep, you feel rejuvenated and ready to face the descent.

What makes summit naps so delightful? I sometimes wonder if I subscribe to the mountain goat mentality: if I'm on top of something steep, and looking down at everything else, I must be safe, and can sleep soundly. Or perhaps it is just like our other mountain pursuits: the ephemeral and improbable nature of napping on a summit makes it all the sweeter.

Mount TyndallMount Tyndall, the site of my favorite summit nap so far.

There are two major obstacles to a good summit nap.

  1. Weather conditions: Napping is a fair-weather activity. Rain, wind and blowing snow can all cause problems.

  2. Nap site: this is the second major challenge. You need a spot that is comfortable enough to allow complete relaxation, preferably out of the wind and with good sun exposure. Be creative: skilled nappers can find comfortable beds even in jumbled talus. Climbing ropes, packs, extra clothing and even water bottles can be used to improve your spot. To minimize your environmental impact, try to avoid moving rocks (purists argue that significant rearrangement precludes fair-means napping).

Summit naps should not be confused with basecamp napping. While basecamp naps are a time-honored tradition, they are far more predictable and mundane.

Recuperating at Applebea DomeNot a summit nap.


  • A helmet with good internal padding can take the place of a pillow: just leave it on.

  • If you are having trouble falling asleep, try a taller mountain or an earlier start next time.

  • Because of afternoon thunderstorms and the difficulties of descending in the dark, I do not recommend endurance napping.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 33

MichaelJ - May 3, 2007 11:47 pm - Hasn't voted

Nice piece

Perhaps, someday I'll do one on belay naps...

Krishna Dole

Krishna Dole - May 4, 2007 9:54 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice piece

Thanks, MichaelJ. Your mention of belay naps made me laugh-- I've heard stories...


rhyang - May 4, 2007 11:33 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice piece

Party of three, someone else belaying, tied into anchor, nice spacious ledge, warm sun, loooong lead ... light short nap :)


MichaelJ - May 4, 2007 1:47 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice piece

More like: flew into different time zone, slept three hours, started hiking before dawn, now it's cold and partner taking forever to climb something out of sight, head gets heavy...


mvs - May 4, 2007 4:13 am - Voted 10/10

Good naps

My best nap was on the summit of Snowking Mountain, Washington. Me and two friends just talked more and more slowly, and then quit talking. We were all asleep! Lasted about an hour on the nice warm day.

Krishna Dole

Krishna Dole - May 4, 2007 10:03 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Good naps

Thanks for commenting, mvs. Snowking looks like a nice mountain for napping (and climbing, for that matter). Washington is definitely on my list of places to go.

Krishna Dole

Krishna Dole - May 4, 2007 4:30 pm - Hasn't voted


Thanks, Chief. I've heard the 'lots of slack + Gri Gri + backup knot' combination can make belaying an aid pitch go by in a few blinks of an eye, as it were.

Krishna Dole

Krishna Dole - May 4, 2007 3:03 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Can't Do It


Thanks for the comment. I'm actually not much of a napper either, and usually the one antsy to get going. But see: even us non-nappers have fond memories of time spent asleep on summits!

(Just to clarify, I'm not pictured in the Grand Teton photo.)


aemter - May 4, 2007 3:09 pm - Voted 10/10

I like

the album - good creativity! I'm very fond of napping and don't often miss my 20 min "power nap" even when I'm on lunch break at work!

Krishna Dole

Krishna Dole - May 4, 2007 4:35 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: I like

Thanks aemter.


rpc - May 7, 2007 5:12 pm - Voted 10/10

fun, wholesome, clean, family friendly!! opposed to an article idea that's been running around in my mind along similar lines: Summit [insert activity].

Krishna Dole

Krishna Dole - May 8, 2007 10:39 am - Hasn't voted

Re: fun, wholesome, clean, family friendly!!

Hehe... you might get in trouble if you supplied photos for that article.

SkiOrClimb - May 8, 2007 11:42 pm - Hasn't voted

Made Me Laugh

Your article just brightened my otherwise gloomy evening of law school finals studying. I think my only real summit nap was on the top of Half Dome several years ago. I'm going to make a point to do more this season. Cheers.

vancouver islander

vancouver islander - May 15, 2007 4:50 pm - Voted 10/10

Just got home from a splendid nap ....

....on top of one of our local hills. Warm spring sunshine, the local ravens trilling away, the scent of new flowers. For some reason I j u s t d r i f t e d a w a y....

Nice piece.


idahomtnhigh - May 15, 2007 9:13 pm - Voted 10/10

naps are the best

Your article describes exactly how I have felt the few times I have taken cat naps on a summit. My favorite summit for naps so far is Razzberry Peak in the Wallowa Mountains of Oregon.

Sam Page

Sam Page - May 15, 2007 10:35 pm - Hasn't voted

Middle Teton

After climbing the Buckingham Buttress, my partner and I napped on the summit of the Middle Teton for at least one hour. I woke up feeling like complete crap! I was groggy and woozy and dreaded the 6000 foot descent back to the Climber's Ranch.


Little_Mole - May 16, 2007 2:46 am - Voted 10/10

Alarm clock?

Wonderful article! But how do you manage to nap für 5 minutes? I'm always afraid to fall asleep until evening. Do you take an alarm clock with you?

Krishna Dole

Krishna Dole - May 16, 2007 5:49 pm - Hasn't voted


for the comments everyone.

Mole: I'm actually not a very good napper. I usually only nap when waiting for others, and wake up pretty easily. But I suppose writing this article has established me as completely narcoleptic in the eyes of the community. :)

Nyle Walton

Nyle Walton - May 17, 2007 10:09 am - Hasn't voted

fifty four years ago

I slept atop the Grand Teton in 1950.

Nyle Walton

Nyle Walton - May 17, 2007 10:09 am - Hasn't voted

fifty four years ago

I slept atop the Grand Teton in 1950.

Viewing: 1-20 of 33