The plan was to climb the tallest mountain in Utah’s 2nd tallest mountain range.
But it didn’t *quite* happen. In fact, it was a pretty epic failure.
The original plan for the trip was to climb Mt. Peale (the tallest mountain in the range at 12,721′) from the south with my buddy Jeff. Oh,and I had to promise his wife that I wouldn’t let him die. The ascent would have been relatively quick and direct. But we found out that the road in wasn’t plowed, so we had to approach from the north. This meant we’d also have to hike in 4 miles, go up and over the second tallest mountain in the range (Mt. Mellenthin, 12,645′), and then go 2 miles along the high ridge to Mt. Peale. I realized this wasn’t very realistic, so we then decided that we’d just climb Mt. Mellenthin instead.
We drove down to Moab and spent the night at the Lazy Lizard Hostel, which Jeff was repulsed by. Neither of us slept well that night and we got up at 3 in the morning to get ready. As we drove up to the trailhead, the temperature according to the thermometer in Jeff’s car got as low as 3 degrees. When we started hiking it was 8 degrees.
We hiked the 4 miles to Geyser Pass and then a mile or so past because we got on the wrong road. We backtracked and couldn’t figure out exactly where we wanted to cut up to the mountain. There were tons of trees blocking our line of sight and we couldn’t get a clear view of where we wanted to go, so we just headed through the trees and hoped we were going in the right direction.
The way through the trees was excruciating. The snow was super deep and extremely fine and powdery so even with snowshoes on the progress was very, very, very, very slow. After a couple hours of this, I could tell that Jeff was really tired and my hip flexors on both legs were starting to really hurt. We were aiming for the base of the northeast ridge, right where treeline was, but we turned around while we were still in the trees below the ridge. Even though it was early in the day, we didn’t think we’d be able to make it to the top so we figured there was no use in continuing on. If you’re going to turn around, you might as well turn around sooner rather than later to save yourself a lot of time and effort. We only made it to 10,800′ or 10,900′.
It was an epic failure, but we had a good time. Sort of.
Climbing is an odd thing. Rock climbing is usually pretty fun and not too painful (unless you’re putting up new routes, then it’s hard work). Mountain climbing in the summer is difficult and tiring, but at least you can cover a lot of ground quickly and the days are long. Winter mountaineering is nothing but pain and suffering. It’s slow. It’s painful. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s unpleasant.
You know what they say, though… Climbing is so great because it feels so good when you stop.