I’m a sucker for annual themes. These are usually broad ideas – like bagging all the 10,000ft (plus) peaks in the Wasatch, focusing on climbing, or learning to make shoes. My 2017 theme was slow in inception – taking nearly two months before settling on making summits my focus.
By late February 2017 I’d been accepted for another Wasatch 100 run and I’d also bagged a bunch of [easy] summits training for, and running, Jared Campbell’s Run up for Air (RUFA). Looking forward to the Wasatch, my gut said that climbing vertical was the best way to train. And the best way to climb vertical is to climb peaks. So, a couple of months into 2017 I set an arbitrary goal of 100 summits for 2017. Seemed totally doable. Right?
Well… kinda. The trouble is that winter 2016/2017 was amazing in the backcountry. And although I did summit a couple of peaks on skis, I was more concerned about turns than summits. And with the size of the snowpack, the bigger peaks didn’t open until later than usual. And finally – with my troubling Wasatch 100 run in September my desire to climb peaks nearly vanished. Poor excuses.
Even with those bad excuses I still managed to hit between 80 and 85 peaks – depending on how I generous I was with the summit definition. Generally though, I placed a few rules:
- Minimum 1800ft climb.
- If I was running laps on the peak I needed to descend to the bottom or a generally agreed low point.
- If I was chaining peaks there needed to be a minimum of 200 foot drop between peaks (Hiking the Wasatch rule).
- Peaks needed to be named and/or obvious high points.
A few things I learned and eventually regretted. First – I ended up going for quantity over quality. Meaning I often ran ‘lesser’ peaks just to get some numbers instead of higher, more interesting peaks. Second – the Wasatch is kinda small. Meaning I often found myself duplicating peaks within weeks of previous climbs. Third – solely climbing peaks will not prepare you for a hundred mile race. Even long days climbing peaks – the only training for racing is racing.
But it was admittedly a beautiful year on the tops of the world. I watched many amazing sunrises and sunsets from perch after perch. I froze fingers and toes, tumbled and tripped, and more than once, collapsed in exhaustion as I reached the boundary to the sky. The sweetness of the summit never dulled – but it did become foreshortened in search of the next highpoint.
A few choice photos from 2017 summits: