Snowy Trapper Peak

“I am floating the Gnjeesha Death Rapids”, said Dave.

“Were floating the Missoula Sewer System”, Julie responded.

I might have misunderstood the water references. The bottom line is that everyone was either traveling out of town or going “floating”.

Finally I got a, “Yea, I totally would like to do Trapper Peak”, from Lydia.

So I finally suckered in a victim to go on a big hike Sunday. Later that week Julie started to back out of their float and was talking of possibly joining us. With confidence I had talked a small group into a peak that I always wanted to do I set off to Bozeman to volunteer for a race.

Saturday night I was feeling a little down and wanted to get out of my trip back to Missoula. I would not let any one down since I talked them into it. So I called Lydia to see if there was a way out.

“So I am looking at the weather and it looks really crappy”, I told her in a worried tone.

“I don’t see anything that would turn me back.”

“Ok, that’s all I needed to know” “See you tomorrow morning at 8”.

So I drove home late that night. Hiking in cold rain sounded like fun. And to top it off I didn’t receive any calls from anyone else. So it was just Lydia and I. Neither one of us ready to back down from a potential “epic”.

Sure enough it was raining that morning. It rained all the way to Hamilton and to the access road. It rained all the way to the trail head and was still raining when we started out in earnest up the tail. Soon a thousand feet later … SNOW. I had no confidence in our summit during a snow storm. We would end up at over 10,000 feet. Yea, no place in a snow storm.

At first it was flakes. Lydia asked if indeed that was snow and I lied and said that I didn’t see anything. Maybe it was our pace going straight up the mountain and we were close to passing out. We even started to discuss the possibility that we would get “above all of this”. It was August for christ sake.

Then white patches started appearing on the ground. The trees were becoming snow laden. Soon we just accepted it and trudged on trying to embrace the white beauty.

We encountered a real young posse of Jobs Corp people. As we climbed up we started to hear sounds that were similar to a frat house. “ye haa”, was yelled. I turned to my hiking partner and said, “GREAT”.

“How long have you been hiking?”

“About an hour”, we replied.

“Holy shit. No way. That’s amazing”.

We were rock stars. We stayed a minute to answer some questions and sign autographs. As we continued on we overheard them talk about how amazing we were. We showed good form as we disappeared into the snow storm.

Then we met up with a nice couple that had news from the last approach to the summit.

“You cant see a thing and the rocks were so slippery we just turned around.” “No wind but we just couldn’t see.”

We headed the warning but showed a unified resolve. Today we would risk it all. We had failed before but today was our day. With no wind we had a chance.

 We gained a saddle just before the trail ended into a car sized pile of rocks. I peered into the white darkness.

“I just assumed we would just hike to the summit.” “How far up does it go?”

“I don’t know”, I replied still starring off the edge. “I got up the first of many false summits and gave up two years ago”.

We started to pick our way up the rocks. I stayed to the ridge and my partner did the reasonable thing by skirting to the south on much easier terrain. I love hiking with females, they pick the best routes. Seriously! I just wanted to hang on the ridge. This gave me some additional down-climbing opportunities.

After about 4 or 5 false summits we saw the last big pile-o-rocks. Another 100 vertical feet later we were reading the marker at the top and doing the summit dance. We found a geo cache and I added to it an Action Wipe. Hey someone may need it.

The trip down seemed to take a little longer. Were were presented with clearer views at he saddle. The mountain finally accepted us as family. We had showed it that we could be trusted and were worthy. For split seconds the clouds cleared, the snow slowed down, and we got glimpses of the most beautiful terrain imaginable. Snow white trees on lower slopes of black scree. It was truly stunning.

At the car we agreed that it was a good day. Even thought it snowed on us pretty much all the time. Winter is here and it doesn’t hurt to embrace it early.

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