Friday, October 10, 2008

The LoJ LCW PD*: short version
Peak Y, Peak Z, “Zephyr,” Payne BM, “No Payne,” Shawnee Peak, “X-Prime,” Peak X
RT: about 17 mi.
Vertical: approx. 5,000 ft.

(*That's the Lists of John Lost Creek Wilderness Peak Dash)

After Lindsey (what a thrill! See
I accepted Dwight Sunwall’s invitation on to sign up for the Lost Creek Wilderness Peak(s) Dash.
The full circuit was a long, ellipitcal loop from the Long Creek trailhead. It included 14 peaks, 11 of them ranked, over (Dwight estimated) 27 or 28 miles, with something like 8,500 to 8,600 feet of elevation gain.
The beauty of this loop was that the entry was near the middle, and several bail-out opportunities existed to shorten the circuit, reduce the number of peaks, and the mileage, and head back to the trailhead sooner than those die-hards who chose to do the full loop (and there were several who did!). I knew going in that I would opt out somewhere along the route, but it looked like a great, open-ended adventure all the same, with a multi-peak day in the offing, no matter what.
I rode up with Kevin Baker (shknbke) to the campsite on Friday evening, the 26th. After meeting with a few people who, up until that time, had been only names on the website, I retired to my sleeping bag to bivy for the night. It turned out to be an excellent night to bivy, as there was no precipitation or cloudiness, and I was able to enjoy the starry sky virtually all night.
About 5 am MDT (4 am MST), my alarm went off, and I shook myself awake. Others were astir, as well, including Dwight, who was busily trying to brew some coffee in an old-fashioned percolator on his propane camp stove. I passed on some of the underdone coffee, however, and begged a small amount of simple hot water, prepared on the other burner, to make myself some instant oatmeal, my breakfast of choice.
By about 5:30, virtually everyone was awake, and we all piled into various vehicles for the 1-mile ride to the actual trailhead.
A somewhat indistinct (especially in the dark!) trail leads up a drainage from the trailhead, to the saddle between the adroitly named Peak X and Peak Y, the first target for the day. From the saddle, a group of 11 headed southeast toward Y, and then on to the southern end of the loop, which lies oriented roughly southeast-to-northwest within the Lost Creek Wilderness.
We had our first peak by 7:15 in the morning. Small sub-groups formed and re-aligned along the way, but, amazingly, the whole group stayed pretty much together throughout the morning, re-assembling on each summit in succession.
Somewhere around Z, a conversation with veteran climber Jeff Valliere made me aware that he and his wife, Alison, were planning on bailing on the loop at Shawnee Peak, and cutting back across the Craig’s Creek drainage to unranked “X-Prime” and Peak X for a shorter day. Since I had gone into the venture fairly sure that I couldn’t really finish the whole tour-de-LCW with the real hard-corers, this sounded like a good basic plan. It would still net me eight peaks (seven ranked) and probably take all of the day for which I was really interested in staying on my feet.
Although I managed to stay fairly close to the group leaders (whoever they happened to be) getting to each of the early peaks, I had finally fallen to the absolute back of the pack by the time we all approached Shawnee. (This, despite having managed to hike along, and converse, with the semi-legendary John Kirk himself for a ways in the late morning.)
We congregated on the summit of Shawnee Peak shortly after noon, and I could tell that it was going to be fool’s errand to try to maintain the pace much farther. The earlier tentative decision was confirmed: head down the west slopes with Jeff and Alison, as well as Dave Hale, rather than go on to the north for the rest of the loop.
We marched down and across the broad drainage, getting our feet wet for the second time in the boggy bottom where the creek has no definite boundaries, and began the fairly substantial climb up to X-Prime. It did take a while, and before we all reached the summit of this interesting but unranked peak, fatigue did indeed begin to set in on yours truly. I wasn’t finished, but I was certainly slowing down.
We took a number of breaks throughout the remainder of the afternoon, including one while we tentatively waited out the gathering clouds. Those clouds actually dropped a little graupel on us for a few minutes, but, fortunately, it never turned into anything serious.
In truth, by the time I finally plodded to the top of Peak X (the highest summit on this shortened tour), everyone else was being very kind by waiting for me; I was really getting tired and slow. We’d all gotten six summits by roughly noon, but the last two took virtually the entire afternoon.
Still, there was some sunlight left when we finally stumbled back out into the trailhead parking area. Jeff and Alison, in addition to waiting so patiently for me in the last stages of the hike, offered me a ride back to the campsite, which I readily took. (This left my large pack, with all my gear, locked in Jeremy Hakes’s car, where it would remain for another six hours, but there was nothing I could do about that…) I was just happy to get back to somewhere where I could sit down –folding camp chairs, no less!—and enjoy the wood fire patiently built by Liz Rodgers, until the remaining hikers began to dribble in from the various longer versions of the loop.
It was my third hiking/climbing day that week, with each one being more demanding than the one before, so I was, frankly, bushed. But a couple of generously provided beers, and a decent night’s sleep under a starry sky smoothed everything out. There are no pictures from this trip, as I simply neglected to take (among several other things) my camera. But it was a great experience: my most “social” climb to date. However, some of John Kirk’s pictures, including a couple that include me, can be seen at:

and Kevin Baker’s photos (some of which also include yours truly) can be seen at:

Long life and many peaks!


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