Well, the holidays are about over. I’m enjoying my day off much like I enjoyed much of last week: being lazy around the house. Sunday night (the 30th) I returned from NY so it’s back to real life.
New Year’s this year was a bit different. I had originally planned to stick around NY, but then I realized that New Year’s kinda sucks and I didn’t want to take time off just to be able to celebrate it at home. However, almost none of my friends here were back from their holidays so it was looking to be a pretty lame evening. Me being me, I thought, well hell I’ll just go climb a mountain to ring in the New Year. So I did.
At around 8:30 I took off for Mill Creek Canyon to hike Grandeur Peak. Since I still hadn’t purchased a pair of snowshoes I had a couple options: bareboot it with the hopes of an existing tracked out trail or ski it with my touring setup. I was a little sketched out with the snow conditions and it being night at all, so I opted for the former. To be honest, I wasn’t very optimistic about summiting, but a half hour into the hike it was looking pretty good.
Right past the trailhead I got a call from a friend inviting me out to a party for the night. I thought about it briefly and decided to go for the summit solo rather than spend the evening at some random party somewhere. Call me weird but I had my mind set on standing atop a 8300′ peak 4000 feet above my city to ring in 2008.
I was all smiles for the first mile. A perfect snowshoe track made barebooting a breeze, and the trail’s grade only forced me to kick a handful of steps in the snow. Conditions were perfect; there was no wind, it wasn’t too cold, and the sky was a pristine black dotted with stars in all directions. I made good time up to a ridge at about 7500′ and had my first glimpse of the Salt Lake Valley. Since it was only 11pm I figured I had underestimated myself again.
That is, until I continued on from there. The snowshoe track petered out and I was forced to follow a mountain goat track in my mountaineering boots. A quarter mile later I was panting through hip-deep snow along a mildly corniced ridgeline. The summit loomed a few hundred feet ahead so I plodded on, the hiking trail barely visible amidst the contours of the snow. By 11:30 I had reached the ‘summit,’ just to remember that it was just an intermediary peak and I still had another quarter mile and 600′ to climb. I made a quick decision to continue on, but after trudging through waist-deep snow for about 100 yards I reneged. I would just have to make it back to the ridgeline by midnight.
A little bummed, I plunge-stepped through the snow back to the snowshoe track and made it minutes before midnight. Soon afterwards I heard little ‘pops’ from the valley and saw tiny dots of light, the fireworks being shot off from downtown. Happy New Year Salt Lake!
I motored back down to the trailhead in an hour and kept thinking of all those alpinists over the years, spending nights out halfway up remote, committing mountains in Alaska, Greenland, Pakistan, everywhere. The main difference: Partners. A little companionship and traded encouragement goes a long way towards maintaining a positive mental state and pushing the other to top performance. However, a quality solo adventure can be sublime.