Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016 in Review + 2017 and Fully Medicated

"If ever I can't see, the magic around me, please take my hands off my eyes." 
- Cloud Cult

It has taken several 2017 weeks to make sense of 2016. Reflection takes time, but mostly it takes space: stand too close to a mirror and you'll see why.

Here is a quick look at the 2016 by the numbers:

***Only mountains w/2000 feet vertical gain or better are counted

Total Mountain Summits (2,000+ vertical): 155
Total Vertical Feet (Ascent): 370,700 feet
Longest Day: 32 miles (Rattlesnake Wilderness)
Shortest Day: 0 miles (illness - homebound)
Highest Point: 13,809' - Gannett Peak, Wyoming 
Lowest Point: See 'Shortest Day'
Coldest temp on a summit (F): -12 (-25 windchill) - Mount Sentinel
Highest temp on a summit (F): 99 - Mount Sentinel
Most Mount Sentinel Summits in one outing: 3 (Ridge-Trail-Triple)

Mountain Summit Highlights of 2016 (this is only a fraction!):

1) El Capitan Winter Ascent (March): Nick, Brandon and I made a leisurely foray into the absolutely stunning Como Peak cirque in the Bitterroot Mountains in March. We spent three days exploring and climbing El Capitan, the 2nd highest peak in the Bitterroot Mountains. The weather was incredible and the company was top-notch.
Nick and Brandon on the summit ridge of El Capitan in the Bitterroot Mountains.
2) Gannett Peak - The Long Way (August): Brandon and I climbed the high point of Wyoming under absolutely perfect conditions. Again, taking our time, we enjoyed the 50+ mile round-trip journey to, up and from Gannett Peak in the Wind River Range. We encountered very few people along the way and had the summit day to ourselves!
Brandon and I on the summit of Gannett Peak.
3) Lolo Peak - On the Windiest Day (May): Linds and I climbed Lolo Peak - her first time w/ice axe and crampons - under some pretty extreme weather conditions in May. Upon reaching the North Summit, we were forced onto our bellies as the hurricane-force went threatened to rip us off the mountain. We slowly crawled away, regained our feet and returned to the land of the living. 

Linds ascending the north ridge of Lolo Peak in a blizzard.
4) Mountaineer Peak - A Bushwhacker's Paradise (October): We didn't know it then, but Cory and I had ventured into the Mission Mountains on what was to be the final summer-like day of 2016. Under blue skies and unseasonably warm temps, we journeyed up, up and up in the general direction of Mountaineer Peak. I will refrain from sharing the mishaps of the day as they are numerous and embarrassing to those involved (Cory and I). Where the trail ended, the adventure began. We bushwhacked our way around Lucifer Lake, up to Picture Lake and the foot of the real climb. A the foot of The Garden Wall, Mountaineer Peak looms 2,500 feet above and 3/4 mile distant via a boulder/talus-filled couloir. We made the descent sans shirts.
Snapshot of Picture Lake and Lucifer Lake from Mountaineer Peak.
Cory in the willows somewhere in the vicinity of Lucifer Lake.
5) Lolo-Sweeney Peak Traverse - Across the Bitterroots (November): Nick had the brilliant idea to traverse Lolo and Sweeney Peaks from Mill Creek to Sweeney Creek. And brilliant it was. The dawn-to-dusk outing including walking on dirt and snow, snowshoeing, ice axing, down-climbing and smiling. The route was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 miles and 7,000 vertical feet of ascent and very slow going at times! Similar to Mountaineer Peak, the day turned out to be among the finest days of its season (fall).

Nick, as we near the summit of Sweeney Peak, with Lolo Peak in the background.
6) Stuart Peak - The Many Faces Of (Year-Round): After three years of attempting a once-a-month summit of Stuart Peak (18-miles, 4,200 feet), I succeeded! Each of the last three years, although I had reached the summit 12+ times/year, I had failed to summit one month for varying reasons (i.e. injury, illness). This year, the goal was to hike/climb Stuart every month of 2016 by every possible route (I count 8). I achieved half of the goal: although I did summit every month, I missed one route on account of avalanche conditions. Here are the routes I hiked/climbed:

- South Ridge
- Southeast Face
- East Ridge
- South Ridge-East Ridge Traverse
- Northeast Face (my favorite climb!)
- Northeast Ridge
- North Ridge (standard route)
- West Slope

Summit self-portrait on the final summit of 2016. This proved to be
the most arduous of the year on account of deeeep snow. 
7) Rocky Mountain Traverse - Take Two (September): Cory and I made an attempt on Rocky Mountain - the high point of the Bob Marshall Wilderness - in May but were thwarted by blizzard conditions on a sketchy route (rime ice coated everything). Thrilled with the terrain, Cory and I returned in September for one of the most splendid days in the mountains of 2016. We made our way leisurely up the route and topped out via the West Face route, a fun scramble up and around ramps. Near the summit, I gained a ramp only to discover a pair of perfectly camouflaged ptarmigan - I near stepped on them! We enjoyed our time on the summit and descended down the east ridge and scree sleeps of the north face. A perfect day out.

Cory nearing the summit the Rocky Mountain after gaining the ridge.
8) Mount Sentinel - Triple-Dip (untimed): Hungry for something strenuous, Mike (and his dog George) and I did a couple of laps on Mount Sentinel via the Ridge Trail (TH to summit to TH to summit to TH). Mike and George departed and I went up once more for good measure. This untimed, leisurely-paced 'Triple-Dip' was a significant step in the direction of letting go of the constant need for timing/setting PRs. 

9) Ranger Point - Redemption in the Bitterroot (July): Lydia, Dave and I had a 3-day, 2-night lark in the Bitterroot Mountains. We - really they - packed in a 30+ lb inflatable kayak - amongst all the other camping gear - 9.5 miles to our Big Creek Lake campsite. We paddled around and enjoyed some fabulous conversations. And some background...

...In the summer of 2015, I did a solo overnight to the area with the intention of climbing several peaks. I climbed Ranger Peak via the knife-edged and heavily pinnacled East Ridge. While bypassing one of the final pinnacles some rocks fell, one of them pegging me in the shin. Committed to the route and getting down to tend to my swelling leg, I was forced to climb up and over Ranger Peak and descend the headwall of the Ranger Cirque and bushwhack my way back to Big Creek Lake: a very exciting outing. The point is, I didn't get to Ranger Point, a subsidiary peak on the ridge. 

Flash forward to the first paragraph of this entry, July of 2016, and I found myself eager to have a go at Ranger Point. It isn't much of a jaunt from Big Creek Lake. I poised myself for a speed ascent and completed the round-trip in ~2 hours w/an ice axe. Unfortunately, on the descent I slipped on a moistened slab of granite and banged my knee and cracked my camera filter. Oy vey.

On the summit of Ranger Point. Big Creek Lake - where we camped - is visible in the center.
10) Point 8,000 - The Longest Way (July): During a 40-mile 3-day, 2-night Rattlesnake Wilderness backpacking trip with a couple of friends (and Linds - we are more than friends), I made an early morning foray to the northern-most point of the Wilderness Area. Although I failed to reach my objective (McCleod Peak), I had a lovely outing on a high-sustained ridge to the summit of the unnamed Point 8,000.

2017 and Fully Medicated:

I entered 2017 fully medicated, that is, on the full regimen of RA drugs: Humira (injection) and Arava to suppress the ol' immune system; prednisone to control inflammation; and celexa to ward off the specter of depression. They are working! After some rough patches of 2016 - struggling to dress myself and use my hands in any meaningful ways - I finally acquiesced and joined the ranks of those on the battlefield, actively fighting rheumatoid arthritis. 

For the first time in six years, I have opted not to set any weekly or monthly mountain goals: speed ascents, records, mountain frequency, etc. Instead, I have decided to take the year off. This does not mean that I will be inactive. On the contrary, I will continue to maintain a base level of fitness and embark on semi-regular forays into the mountains. The goal is to give my body a year of rest, to listen to and respect its desires irrespective of arbitrary standards.

Looking forward, I do have several objectives - body-willing - in 2017 that I am pumped about:

- McDonald Peak traverse (Mission Mountains, MT)
- Granite Peak (Beartooth Mountains, MT)
- Mount Hood (OR)
- Rattlesnake Wilderness Traverse (from Arlee to Missoula)
- High points of Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex - Great Northern Peak, Rocky Mountain and Red Mountain (in-a-day)

That's it. Nothing more, maybe less. If there is a goal in 2017, it is to slooooow down, focus on landscape photography and to enjoy feeling good. 

Be well,


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