I had put off #50 for over a year. I really wanted to stand on my 50th summit of Hallett Peak last summer with Daphne in tow, but she chose to do Mt. Chiquita instead. This is a special summit to me as it was my first ‘real’ summit I ever stood on back in the summer of 2001. I had just moved out here from Texas and was wide eyed and soaking this new landscape in like a sponge. I remember the flowers I saw that day. I remember not thinking I could make the trek over from Flattop. Granted, I had my college weight on. I wasn’t my heaviest but was still flirting with 200 lbs. A couple of back surgeries, and the required sedentary recovery, and a continued football/powerlifting diet changed my physique a touch. But I was hiking it off, one mile at a time. It was this day, back in 2001, that solidified my love affair with the mountains, and Hallett Peak.
I leisurely racked up the summits. Alan and I have a rule that if you summit Flattop you have to pop over to Hallett. With only a few exceptions, and only when completing snow climbs with a handful of folks who just wanted to get to Ed’s asap for a margarita and some tacos, I have obeyed the rule. So the number started climbing. A now misplaced climbing journal was referenced about 9-10 years ago that had my total at about 35, if I remember correctly. Then I just kept the tally going in my head after the journal escaped my care. The number is probably now in the mid fifties, but I played it safe and took a handful of summits off the tally since I no longer had an official number.
I was at 49 a couple of years ago and that’s when the idea of getting Daphne up for #50 started rolling around. Well, that never happened and I had really missed summiting Hallett as it had been over a year. But I couldn’t just go for a random hike up for #50 and needed to do something a little bit different. I love the idea of heading out my front door and venturing off into the hills so I decided to link up the trails from Casa del Smudge and tag #50 in style.
I left a kiss after dawn and hiked up Ramshorn Dr. as I got the latest The Forward podcast going. Love him or hate him, Lance Armstrong has found his new calling in this podcast. It is truly fantastic and worth a listen. I started trotting down Carriage Dr. and was soon heading toward the Homer Rouse Trail on Fish Creek Rd, It’s exactly 1.55 miles from my door to the trail head. I was soon cruising up the trail and passing The Baldpate Inn. Crossing Hwy 7 I snapped a pic of a couple of beautiful bull elk in the sunlight of a new July morning.
The grunt up the Storm Pass Trail went about as I expected. Long, steep, and feeling more like a commute than anything else. Call me a spoiled brat, but this is one of my least favorite trails in the park. But it’s not terribly long and Lance provided some compelling conversation that got me through in what seemed like no time at all. Heading down the north side of Storm Pass is a different story. Lush, stream crossings, wildlife, views, and a perfect grade lull you into the back country. Boulder Brook came much sooner than expected and just like that I was 10 miles in and heading up to Glacier Gorge.
I was able to run every inch of this stretch which surprised me. Training for States got me fit and I was actually shocked that the steep parts I was anticipating just don’t exist anymore. In the past, a few of the sections here weren’t runnable for me and I was just planning on huffing up these in as fast a hike as I could muster. But I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and then popped out near the Glacier Gorge Trail Head. Whoa! That was awesome! That section went by quickly and was a piece of cake. Onward!
I did hike the half mileish up to Bear Lake. Took a gel, finished off both bottles of water/drink mix and prepared for the Hallett Peak Climb. My watch clicked over to 13 miles right as I crossed the bridge from the water fountains at the Bear Lake lot. 5 miles to go and it looked like it was going to be a 36 mile day. Until then, I wasn’t sure how long this day would actually be. I figured between 31 and 35 miles. So I wasn’t too far off just guessing the distances.
I felt great going up Hallett but could tell my strength began to wane about three miles in. I was a bit disappointed with this but not surprised as I stopped lifting weights when I dropped out of States a couple of months before. I could tell a difference. I was still moving just fine, but the pep was gone. At least on the ups.
The weather was perfect. A great 4th of July crowd was out and I got a few high fives for the flag waving above my pack. The flowers were on point as well. One of my favorite things in the world are alpine tundra wildflowers and they didn’t disappoint. The trail passed underfoot and the snowfield by the hitch rack below the summit of Flattop was up next. Quick and easy I was now on Flattop’s summit heading over to Hallett.
Those final steps to the summit actually brought a lot of emotion out. Memories from many past summits flooded in and it was a true joy to take it all in for the 50th (at least) time. Laney and I eating PB&J’s on the summit, Alan and I bivying on the summit (shhhh), two summits in a day, a summit in flip flops, one with Jamie the first summer we met, one with my mom and sisters, Justin and Andrew, Miles, a handful with Derek, more than a handful with Alan, my first winter summit ever, and my first mountain summit in my life. This is a special place to me.
We had some 4th of July plans that evening, and I wanted to take a quick nap in the recliner before we went so I boogied down. I made decent time all the way back but did have to hike back up Storm Pass. The uphill legs just wouldn’t let me run that stretch. But I made up for it on the way down. I set a good pace back to Lily Lake, and then turned it on, for me anyway, down Homer Rouse and back home. What. A. Day.
It’s that kind of tired I may be slightly addicted to. The kind of fatigue that you can only get from spending a full day in the high country moving over a lot of miles in a demanding landscape. #50 was in the books and I did it in style.
A few days later I got #51 in with Derek on a dramatic morning featuring low clouds, cold temps, and a nice rain shower or two. They say no two summits are the same, and I can say every one is, indeed, unique and special.
Thank you Hallett, old friend.