4.2 miles 1500ft gain/loss. The other part of our trek was to include climbing nearby Summit Chief, a 3 peaked summit to the NW of our campsite, along the attached ridge we were now on. I had preplanned two possible summit routes on the GPS, in hopes that once we got close, we could make a decision on the best plan of attack. Loading only our water, light jacket, first aid, and cameras, we set out for Summit Chief. There is no designated trail, but we do pick up a faint path that leads past the second lake, surrounded on one side by undulating meadow, then up the ridge to a small dip in the ridge, then over. There is still quite a bit of snow, so we traipse across several small snow fields on our way. Within half an hour, we are above steel blue Summit Chief Lake, a small circular lake on the run out below us, still harboring small patches of ice. Little by little, we cover huge slabs of bare granite, steep snow fields, and loose rock to reach the large snow lined bowl at the base of Summit Chief, where we need to make a decision.
The snow slopes here are very steep, near their top, they are as steep as any we’ve seen before, and look to make the best way up unreachable. The one path looks to take us up across steep scree and talus fields, making it very dangerous for the climbers below. That, and there are two jagged peaks that stick at least a hundred feet into the air along the ridge. Are there spots on the back side to get around? For the front route looks untenable, so we look to the route that goes up the left side, the most promising as for what we can currently see. This, too, has some large serrations that we cannot see if there are gaps so large we won’t be able to cross, so we take a chance, and head up to the left along ridgeline. Just getting to this section of the ridge is steep, and the snow has to be abandoned in order to gain the top, forcing us to clamber up steep loose rock. Once on the ridge, the going is straightforward, until we come to a gaping maw. End of the line. There is no safe way, other than falling with style; to get from this jagged perch to the next, there appears to be at least a 30 foot sheer drop to the rock below. It seems that Summit Chief has kept us at bay, for the snow fields here are still far too pronounced for us to get up them to the point we need to be, with our current gear, trekking poles and hiking boots…Sigh…Oh, well, better to be safe than sorry, and after a quick break to snap pictures and take a last look around this high point, we head back to camp.
Once again, it’s a quick dip into the inviting lake, and I decide it looks like fun to swim to the other side. About ¾ of the way across, I notice my legs cramping, so I roll over and float/stroke my way to the safety of the other side…There are large boulders under the surface of the water to crouch on, and work out the cramps. Hmmm…Probably not a good idea to try and swim back, so I instead take a tour of the lakeshore, making sure that I don’t get into water that is over my head, in case I start to cramp up again. At least this way, I should have no trouble reaching the shoreline within seconds, and be in water that I can wade in…I think it was close to 20 minutes in this water, and the guys are quite convinced I’m part polar bear…Well, at least I’ve got the blubber part down pat.
“…Can’t say I blame him, he was horribly overdressed for the occasion…”
Again, we sun ourselves on the bare granite around our camp, donning skeeter nets to keep the horrible bugs at bay around our heads while our shorts dry. Its then that we get another visitor, a hiker we saw earlier, about 3 hours ago, heading up towards Summit Chief. He stops to talk to Brian, and when he sees Greg and I walk up stylin’ our briefs and bug nets, he cuts the talk short and walks back to his site, somewhere in the tree line below us….Can’t say I blame him, he was horribly overdressed for the occasion…
“…Dan captures a blackmail worthy shot of me cooking in said apparel, looking every bit as if I was trying to ride the granite rock side saddle…”
Tonights dinner is Fajita’s, with Chips and Salsa as an appetizer! Retrieving the bear canister loaded with the fixings for our nights fare from the snow bank, we set about prepping, Greg chops onions, peppers,and tomatoes, Dan grates the cheese, (I didn’t say cut, for obvious reasons), and I get avocados cut and mashed for guacamole, another condiment for our chicken fajitas. After getting everything ready to go, we greedily suck them all down. It’s on this occasion, as I’m engrossed in cooking with my proper get up of bug net and briefs, that the camera everyone fears comes out,(as I had mentioned earlier), and Dan captures a blackmail worthy shot of me cooking in said apparel, looking every bit as if I was trying to ride the granite rock side saddle…Nice one, Dan! I’ll have your five hundred in small bills to you shortly…
The dinner, though heavy to carry in, was a resounding success, every bit as enjoyable here in the backcountry, as it would be in the front. Thanks to everyone for helping to pull it off, I will have the recipe posted shortly. I must admit, with 4 guys, it made it much easier to carry in, and the snow bank was a must to keep everything from spoiling and tasting fresh.
As daylight faded to evening shadows, the Whiskey Sours visited once again, and were attacked with as much relish as the night before. Truly another spectacular day here in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.