Posted by: Matt | June 26, 2009

It’s a Short Commute to Shambhala

I started the morning off yesterday by painting my bathtub. This sounds odd, I know, I’m the one who’s been getting up early in the morning to first sand it down and then clean and repaint the vessel. Let me tell you it’s something I look forward too. Not! Yesterday I got a coat of enamel on the tub and then looked at the list of to-dos piling atop on another.

Then, I grabbed a dog and jumped in a truck making my get away as quickly as possible. I knew I wanted to try the Esmerelda Basin traverse I concocted last weekend so I drove in that general direction. There was plenty of reason to find somewhere else to run, but I decided that I’d brave the cold and wet weather hanging out over the Stewarts and hope for the best. Pepper and I drove up the north fork of the Teanaway River arriving at the busy trail head in about 30 minutes. That’s not a bad commute time for a getaway.

We went through the normal trailhead routine, getting the kit ready, stretching, and sizing up the weather. Then I extended my poles and we started up the trail. I started way to warm and soon had to peel off a layer or two. At one of these brief gear adjustment spots I mashed the buttons on my GPS and stopped recording my track log. Blissfully unaware I ran on and up.

At Esmerelda pass the cloud ceiling was just above our heads and occasionally a thin spot or hole would let a little more sunlight through. The wind was whipping through the depression in the ridgeline and Pepper and I ran on after getting a bit of water. Up the first peak to the right there was freezing rain collecting on my knees and making the snow fields really difficult to climb.

I was starting to question the wisdom of heading up the western arm of Iron Peak as we inched our way around the top of the bowl. The granite here is really eroded and the snow fields were even less easy to pass over than the rock because of the precipitation falling on them. I decided we had made the first part of the climb, it was at least worth the energy to attempt the traverse. On we went.

Pepper found a place that made her down right panicked. The rocks were a little wet and the ridge ran down to a knife edge of larger scree falling off on either side a couple of hundred feet. I gingerly tiptoed across the span, but Pepper dug in and refused to budge even with encouragement from the other side.

I had to walk back across and pick her up in my arms. We went like this over maybe half the span and then I put her down on the rocks and the scrambled the rest of the way to the “safety” of the far side. I figured it was ok, better to know this about my running companion there, low on the mountain, than find out about it in a worse spot. I stopped to put a sweater back on and drink some more figuring out that my GPS has been stopped for most of my recent mileage. “Oops!” We ran on.

As we approached the western arm of Iron Peak the cloud cover was falling and the wind was picking up. I knew that when I’d last been able to look at the ascent from this point much of it was over snow fields and more of the degraded scree. The wind was really howling over the slot in the ridge from Ann Lake and thus I decided that it wasn’t worth risking the ascent in the “white room”. Pepper and I started to work our way down the bowl.

The rest of the descent was pretty straight forward. That and I have to say that the whole run, minus the moment when I realized my GPS wasn’t recording, was an exercise in joy. Movement is rapture.

I deem myself fortunate to live in a place that’s at the threshold of paradise. I estimate that I fast trekked somewhere between 13 and 15 miles, at altitude, and at a reasonable pace. It doesn’t get much better than this.

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