I am nearing the end of my tenure here at Yellowstone. …But I still have several hikes left. It is only fitting that one of the toughest hikes is saved for the end. Avalanche Peak. (And I have 6 brave souls signed up to hike!)
Avalanche Peak. Just its name is intimidating! Most of my hikes, I do sight unseen. It’s no different with this hike. Having said that, with 3 months under my belt, I know a lot of hikers. So I ask around for info, advice, and description. Others have told me it is like the Amphitheater Lake hike; similar in elevation gain (2100’ vs 3000’), easier in length (4 miles vs 10 miles), more difficult in terrain (lots of scree). And the trail starts at an elevation that is 2200 feet higher than Amphitheater trail. Yup, sounds like a lot of calories will be spent…and less oxygen to help burn them!
A plus to Avalanche is that it is on the east side of Yellowstone Lake. Coming from Grant Village, which is on the west side, it is a relatively short drive. But it is still 40 miles one-way. The lake is at 7700’ above sea level and as we get to the east side, the road starts up into the Absaroka Mountains. A half mile from Sylvan Pass the trail head is on the left, parking on the right: elevation- 8,500
The group of six starting the hike. And us on the trail.
The trail starts right off going up. No warm up on this hike. The trail gains elevation quickly passing through a coniferous old-growth forest following a creek. (Back home we’d call it a brook. But hey! When in Yellowstone, talk like Yellowstonians!). On the way up, we ran into some parties descending. Too tough. They didn’t make it to the summit. Now I’m worried. We are all sucking O2 like it was the beverage of choice. Right about now, I could use an O2 Bar!
Views of the woods (& yes, that is snow on the right)
After about an hour, trees are getting thinner and it is clear where the trail heads…and it looks tough; steep, switchbacks, and lots of scree (scree is terrain that is mostly pebble to fist-sized rocks coving the ground – difficult footing). And it gets worse. We can’t spot the summit yet! Fortunately, weather is good but the sun is peaking through smoky haze. Wildfires in Idaho and Montana have been spreading their smoky air east over much of the landscape the last few weeks.
Views of the valley
Now we are above tree line following the path through scree going from cairn to cairn. Surprisingly, we are all doing okay and continue on. After the next knoll and switchback, the peak is in sight! Still a ways to go but confidence grows.
Trail along the ridge
And there it was… a Yogism! The path split, a fork in the road! Right looked like the logical, straighter path. Left looked longer but safer (easier?). So I turned to the group and said, “There is a fork in the road. We will take it.” And left we went.
A fork in the road
In about a third of a mile we came to another fork. I turned to the group and said, “Another fork, we went left last time, lets go right this time.” Off we went. Vlad (from the Ukraine) said, “Chris, I like your logic.” At 11:15 we summited Avalanche Peak! In just over 2 hours we traveled more than 2 miles. Climbed 2100’ up and sucking in some pretty thin air at nearly 10,600 feet!
Views from the summit
Scree is just as dangerous (maybe more) going down verses going up but we managed. By 1:15 we were all safely back at the trailhead. What an adventure… and accomplishment!
A couple of critters we saw while hiking!
Campah University at …
STAY TUNED! More “tales from the campah”!
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Coming Soon!!! YouTube channel with movies of the adventures!