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!
13,770 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 Tyndall, the site of my favorite summit nap so far.
There are two major obstacles to a good summit nap.
- Weather conditions: Napping is a fair-weather activity. Rain, wind and blowing snow can all cause problems.
- 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.
Not 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.