Tuesday, October 04, 2005

my ill-advised weekend spree

this past weekend i just had to get away, even though i was still sick. happily, i have found in Aaron an excellent partner in crime for such adventures. after great debate, we decided on a 'gentle' backpack up in Neota Wilderness area. the trail we choose is the Trap Park Trail, starting just north of Trap Lake. the hike is along an old access road, very little road and lovely access, to the junction with Neota Wilderness. from there, the trail continues along a little brook before petering out. from there it is a mere 1.2 miles to the summit of Iron Mountain, a delightful hike up one saddle over the summit and around down another. sound a little too good to be true? well, it was. sort of.

Iron Mountain on the left
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
for various reasons, we made a late start of it, hiking in around 2pm. the first part of the hike is stunningly beautiful as we coursed along the north border of a marshy meadow, home to many happy happy meese. in the first picture, we have just come around the first curve and opened into the meadow. Iron Mountain, our destination, is the mountain in the distance on the right. the meadow courses at roughly 9,900 feet elevation although we saw no moose, we did enjoy spotting moose hunters, fresh tracks and generally not getting shot. the junction with Neota lies at the end of the main meadow, three miles in.

we continued along the trial another half mile before scouting out a campsite around 10,300 feet. we had chosen this distance as it kept us below treeline but allowed us to trek in as far as otherwise possible that day. finding a campsite 200 feet from the trail and water while still remaining below the ridge was challenging but provided us great opportunity to sight fresh elk and deer sign as well as further moose sign. eventually we settled on a site, not level of course, and went in search of an appropriate tree for bear-bagging. a showdown with a dead tree placed us securely at the crossroads of 'Leave No Trace' versus 'Leave No Trace'. i will spare the details, but state in our defense that we got the rope back and it turned out the tree was so rotten it would have fallen on its own in the first winter storm...

i spent a humorous night alternately sleeping, waking to find my ankles at painful odd angles, and wiggling back up the infinessimal incline. Aaron fared better but cooler, mainly because his Thermarest sprang a slow leak. the next day dawned glorious but intimidatingly windy. we broke camp and headed on up the trail.

for Mom
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.

leaving the trail provided much fun as the bog clutched at our boots and the ptarmigans scolded our invasion. we reached the beginning of the 'ascent' of the saddle at around 10,700 feet. from here, the hike transformed into heinous wicked as we suffered the marked elevation gain (~1 foot up for every 2 feet forward), galeforce winds, the sail effect of our heavy packs and my terrible stamina and cough. still, we were both determined to achieve the saddle and simply plodded along, switching back frequently to 'draft' on the sudden severe wind gusts. from the saddle we curved up the ridge and achieved the summit. there we found a glass jar wedged in between rocks containing the 'register' for the summit. there was no space left on the paper so i scrounged in my pack, finding a coffe receipt on which we wrote our names, the date and the weather conditions. my first register! :)

me and Aaron on the summit
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.

the view of the Never Summers from the top was spectacular and the accomplishment really affirming. my limited oxygen exchange created moderate grumpiness, but Aaron was quite tolerant and cheering. the descent down the other saddle was incredibly aggravating and steep but we emerged intact and the return hike was quite lovely. all in all, 10.5 miles, all stunning and mostly quite enjoyable. i look forward to returning when well to hike the entire ridgeline, it sounds much less punishing than ascending the saddle.

as anticipated, i paid dearly Sunday night and Monday for my indulgence as my cold rebounded with vigor. surprisingly no soreness though. today i appear to be cresting the ick and hope to be in fighting trim for the coming weekend-hopefully another epic backpack.

1 comment:

Pam said...

I adore your pictures! The vistas are breathtaking and the pictures really make me feel the vastness and open, wild beauty of the scene. What glorious skies! I love your backpack pic - you look awesome!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Love, mom