San Juan County Highpoint: Mt. Peale

Mt. Peale has been on my list of mountains to climb since I first went to Moab in 2009. The La Sal Mountains tower above the red rocks, often graced with snow during “desert season” in the spring and fall. Being based in Norwood this year brought fresh incentive to climb Mt. Peale since the La Sals grace the western skyline on most of my after school runs.

The highest peak in Utah outside the Unitahs, Mt. Peale comes in at 12,721′ above sea level. Moab, to the northwest, sits at only 4,000′ while Paradox Valley to the southeast is at about 5,300′ of elevation. Peale is on a whole slew of peakbagging lists, including clocking in at #57 on the USA prominence list (it’s the 3rd most prominent peak I’ve climbed to date).

Early this winter, my rooomate Katherine mentioned that she wanted to climb Mt. Peale in the winter and wanted to know if I would join her. I was somewhat hesitant considering that I wasn’t sure when I could commit to climbing the peak since I was working 7 days a week and as a result of all that work, I wasn’t running very consistently. She basically ignored me and just kept talking about the hike like it was something that was Going To Happen.

Excellent move.

As it happened, I suggested March 12 for our ascent. I had paid no attention to daylight savings time beginning at exactly the time we planned to depart from the house (2am MST/3am MDT). Somehow I figured I had plenty of time to finish my shift at Mouses at 9pm, drive 50 miles to the house, sleep a bit and still climb a giant mountain? I was, however, committed, so I was in. Three hours of sleep and all.

Also throwing a wrench in our plans was that the weekend prior, Katherine had twisted her ankle in an ice climbing fall. I was willing to let her off the hook on the hike (in some ways, I saw an escape that would prevent me from facing my fears about my own fitness) but she continued to insist that she would be fine despite not wearing real shoes at school all week. (#realchampion)

My alarm didn’t go off because I very wisely set it for 2:45am, a time that actually didn’t exist that day. Katherine gently woke me up at 3am and then attempted to lay out to me that she was 75% sure her ankle could handle the hike. It was 3am, I was out of bed, and we were leaving. That was that. We jammed to T-Swift in the car on the way to the trailhead (which meant that I had “Bad Blood” and “All You Had To Do Was Stay” in my head for 16 miles…) and I kept my eyes peeled for deer lurking on the roadside.

Honestly, when we strapped our snowshoes on at the start of the snow-covered road, with Peale looming in the full moonlight, I gave us a 50/50 shot of making the summit. We had a long slog of road before we could even think of moving up the slopes. The magic of hiking in the dark took over though and we made great progress. I didn’t even turn on my headlamp because the moon was totally sufficient for light.

The day dawned just as we reached the start of our ridge ascent. Once we left the road, the snow got steep fast. My 2nd hand snowshoes purchased when I lived in Montana (in 2010!) don’t have ascenders. They’re small, definitely not designed for mountaineering on 30% slopes, and some of the quick tighten bindings don’t stay very tight anymore. It wasn’t long before my calves were screaming and I was tugging on my bindings every few minutes to keep them tight. I was tired and just wasn’t feeling it. The sky was greyer than I’d expected and I felt terrible.

I’d seen the exposed rock on the ridge from the road and all I wanted was to make it there. As soon as I could, I removed my snowshoes and strapped them to my pack, opting instead to go up the scree with microspikes and ice axe. On the rock, I started to find my groove and the sun started to come out. I moved efficiently upward grabbing short breaks while waiting for Katherine to catch up; during one of these little breaks I actually fell asleep in the wind at 10,000′. It was sort of nuts.

At the top of the exposed rock on the ridge, we crossed some steep snow on our way to the summit. We were both tired but the summit was only 150′ above us. Most of the way, we managed to stay below the ridge and were somewhat protected from the worst of the strong winds out of the northwest. On the final walk to the summit, however, the winds were definitely something to contend with. I braved the wind to take a couple of selfies and then it was time to head down.

Our short summit stay was sort of disappointing since the views were incredible. We could look north to the bulk of the La Sals, including Grand County highpoint, Mt. Wass:

Looking south over South mountain the Abajos and the Henrys were visible along with most of canyon country:

Looking back to the west, there was the Uncompaghre, Pardox Valley, and my beloved San Juans:

We debated a little how to descend and eventually settled on a glissade down the gully. It was steep in some places but it worked out okay. The day was getting warm and the snow turning to mashed potatoes so our pants were soaked. By the end, when the grade had lessened, we were both laughing and mentally preparing for the long slog back out to the Jeep.

12 hours after we’d gotten out of Ruth, we arrived back in the parking lot and headed out hoping to make it to Naturita in time for burgers and milkshakes at Blondie’s. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two milkshakes consumed that fast.

At home in Norwood, we attempted to have celebratory beers but I was sleepy by the time I’d had two sips. We’d covered somewhere in the ballpark of 15-16 miles and climbed 5000′ in elevation. That’s definitely not too shabby for an afternoon on the snow.

Thank you so much to Katherine for an awesome day in the mountains. I learned a lot and I reached the summit of a mountain that had been taunting me for years.

 

Sunday Sermon

“…I know that many men and even women are afraid and angry when women do speak, because in this barbaric society, when women speak truly they speak subversively – they can’t help it: if you’re underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert. We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.
“That’s what I want – to hear you erupting. You young Mount St. Helenses who don’t know the power in you – I want to hear you.”

Copyright © by Marian Wood Kolisch

 

 

 

 

–Ursula K. Le Guin, Commencement Speech at Bryn Mawr (1986)

 

And, holy cow, if you need more inspiration read the whole speech.

On The Page: No Shortcuts to the Top

I can’t remember where I picked up my copy of No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks by Ed Viesturs but it was on my bookshelf of “you must read all of these things before you’re allowed to buy any new books” so I started it a few months ago. Like of its kin, this was a pretty quick, easy, and inspiring read about chasing a BIG dream.

It had been awhile since I’d read a major expedition memoir and this was a memoir about a whole series of expeditions. This book was a really enjoyable read. Viesturs is candid and his story is human and suprisingly relateable considering that most readers will probably never attempt the world’s highest peaks. (It probably also didn’t hurt that the book was written with legendary outdoor writer David Roberts. Check out this article about Roberts in Outside if you’ve never read any of his work.)

Reading about Viesturs evolution of his 8,000 meter summits goal was really inspiring. It makes my county highpoint goals seem really tiny but the way that Viesturs spoke about his expeditions and goals somehow also struck home. I think this is the strength of No Shortcuts to the Top: that Viesturs speaks about the rarified air of some truly difficult, dangerous, and remote peaks

I was a little put off by the descriptions of Viesturs film projects (he was on the IMAX Everest documentary expedition that was on the mountain during the 1996 disaster. I’m glad that Viesturs was able to find ways to make his passion pay for itself but it all just felt a bit heavy handed towards the end.

 

When Parents Are There: My Dad & Baseball

Scrolling through my reader this morning, I clicked on a post titled “Sasha DiGiulian’s Mom on Why You Should Let Your Kids Take Big Risks”to see what sage advice Sasha DiGiulian‘s mom could share with moms like mine that worry about their daughters in the outdoors. (Plus, you all know I’m a sucker for posts about women kicking ass outdoors.) The article was great and Sasha’s mom was really cute. Then I read a quote that made me burst in to tears:

“Then, when you started lead climbing, I took the course so I could lead belay, and honestly, I loved it. I loved spending time with you, and I loved going to the climbing competitions with you.”

It’s early spring. This is the time of year I used to spend hanging out with my dad at the batting cages, going to take ground balls on any dry day, and staying up too late talking about the possibilities for my team (and probably the Seattle Mariners too).

Starting just after Christmas, a few days a week, I’d come home from school and my dad would take me to the batting cages. As my teammates would point out to me, I could drive and he would have given me money so I didn’t have to go with him but I liked to. I loved spending that time with my dad. Sometimes my sister would come, which was mostly great because we could rotate in and out of the cage with each other. It certainly wasn’t rare, though, she didn’t want to come choosing friends or television over some extra practice.

I remember a lot of him providing me feedback on my swing but I also remember riding down the hill from our house in his red pickup just talking.

I’m pretty sure more than once we made people laugh at Rainiers games when I was in high school. He’d almost always sit on my right and when we witnessed a gorgeous swing that resulted in a home run or a double we’d turn to each other—a righty and a lefty—and make our best impressions of that swing, exclaiming about how the contact was just right.

My dad and I: blue circle. Where the 3-run HR landed: Red circle. Dad always regretted not using his long arms to catch it for me. ♥

There were late April games at Cheney stadium that were so cold I wore snowpants and we carried blankets in; often with a beer or two rolled up in them.I remember Game 4 of the 1995 ALDS, standing on the left field bleachers so that 10 year old me could try to talk to my dad over the rock concert roar of the Kingdome as Edgar Martinez, my favorite player, proved to be the hero

Macklemore’s song “My Oh My” makes me cry each and every time from the moment that he sings

Bottom of the 11th inning got the whole town listening,
Swung on and belted the words that started, Joey Cora rounds third
Here comes Griffey the throw to the plate’s not in time
My oh my the Mariners win it

and I picture my dad chanting, “They’re never going to get Griffey, they’re never going to get Griffey.” 1995 is seared in my memory and family lore, it comes up at family holidays and events because we all have shared, intersecting memories because my Aunt Lori bought two seats that we shared and whoever wasn’t at the games would watch them at our house.

Mostly though, the line “And if mom wasn’t trippin’ come on dad please I swear just one more inning,” is what rings true along with the batting cages, ground balls, and thousands of whiffle ball pitches in the back yard.

Today is a gorgeous early spring day in Colorado. The sky is so so blue that it’s almost heartbreaking. It’s cold and there’s some snow on the ground but my time in Maine made me associate that with the start of softball. It won’t be long before baseball season starts here in Western Colorado for my high school students. The Mariners are down in Arizona getting ready for Opening Day. It’s been almost six years since I got to watch a baseball game with my dad and it’s days like today I miss them most of all.

Sunday Sermon

“The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?”

 

 

 

 

 

–Terry Tempest Williams

Lately in #joyrunning: Sanborn Park

I admit it, I let the grind and the darkness take over for November through January. I was trying not to fall behind on school while working all weekend. It was kind of tough. I holed up in front of the woodstove instead of dragging myself out in the waning daylight.

As always, I suffered with that a bit. Sprocket and I are easing ourselves back into action and our February spring weather snap hasn’t hurt. We headed out to run at the top of Sanborn Park road last week and it was glorious. I wore shorts, just because.

 

Ridgway House: February 2017

Last fall flashed by before I could get any progress photos of the lot. Our mid-February spring weather stretch has melted all the snow off and I had an unexpected chance to catch up.

Sprocket models in the middle of our views to the east… hello, dear Cimarrons, I love you so. The sun comes up from behind those lovelies and they light up with alpenglow almost every night. There will be a coffee porch facing them.

Here’s a shot of the property looking southeast from the alley:

Looking northeast from the alley: the house will be in the center of the photo up by the street. Note that the dirt pile is gone along with all of the assorted logs and wood that were scattered on the property.

Here’s a (very skewed) panorama looking north from the property line.

And then, finally, a couple of views from the street. I’m going to try to be better about taking photos like this as things come together!