Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Backpacking the Worlds Steepest Mountain Range

Yes, actually I have conquered the steepest mountain range in the world. Many, upon hearing that might not believe me or have some picture in their heads of this grandeur mountain like Everest or K2, but both assumptions would be inaccurate.

The valley where I grew up has at its western edge a mountain range called the Wellsvilles. As a kid growing up in Cache Valley this mountain range does in fact seem to be the tallest mountains ever. To make sense of that for you let me briefly explain. You see what it actually means is steepest not tallest. The vertical incline from the base of the mountains to the very peak has the steepest average. So its not that they are so awe inspiring to compare them to the Himalayas or any other great mountains, its just that from the very bottom to the very top the angle as a whole is steeper than any other range. It also pertains to the range in its entirety, not just comparing one mountain to another.

It has been about twenty years that I have lived under the shadows of the Wellsvilles. As a kid I would day dream about one day climbing them or maybe even skiing down the face of Wellsville Cone. This last weekend at the age of 27, I finally made my trek to the top. It was not just a trek either, it was a full backpacking excursion.

My buddy Kirk had planned a backpacking trip to the top of the mountains this summer and invited me to come along. We planned and anticipated the trip for about six weeks and left Thursday, August 30th at lunch time and began our 4,000 foot climb. The plan was to hike to the top and camp in between the two most prominent peaks, Box Elder Peak and the Wellsville Cone. There is a nice bowl between the two and we had been told there is a spring as well, so this was our destination for our camp site over the next two nights.

The Summit of Box Elder Peak seemed to be forever away and took around five hours for us to reach. I didn't think that was too bad considering the 50lb packs we were carrying. Well, Kirk had 52lbs and I had only 38lbs in my pack. I knew that if I carried as much as Kirk I would be left behind or be carried most of the way. I carried about ten pounds less water than Kirk, which was a gamble on the spring having water. If there was nothing but dirt and gravel I would be a sad little man, but I would have dug into Kirks supply when he was asleep if infact I was running low on water, so I took the lighter load for sure.

Once on top we beheld the most amazing views. I have never seen the Valley from such perspectives before. We could peer down one side into Cache Valley and on the other into Brigham City and even towards the Salt Lake valley. Towards the southeast we could see the Uintah mountains, which we have a trip planned there soon as well.

From the summit we made our way down into the valley to set up camp and found that the spring we hoped for did still have water flowing. This was a major relief for me, meaning I would not having to ration water so heavily. We set up our camp, made some dinner, and then being exhausted from the hike, got ready for a great night sleep. My thoughts were heading to the sleeping bag that I have never hiked so hard in my life and I am going to sleep very well, however I was horribly mistaken. That night was absolutely the most horrific, unbearable, wishing for death kind of night that I have ever had. The overcast kept the night very warm and muggy. It was too warm in fact to even be in the sleeping bag, but if any part of your body was out of the bag the swarming mosquito's would bite all night long. It wasn't just the biting that kept you awake, it was them buzzing your head and face constantly, sometimes even flying into a nostril or ear allowing near zero sleep the entire night.

Our camp location proved to be popular that night as well. We set up just down the ridge from the spring which is probably some of the only water on the mountain. There were a few times that we had animals tromping by as they made there way to and from the spring. None were more exciting than the very large and loud animal that grunted at Kirk and I. There was a stand off for quite some time as we knew he was just out of our view in the pitch black night and he clearly knew where we were as each of us tried to out listen the other. Eventually we got so brave that we tossed rocks towards the animal and screamed to hopefully scare it away.

The night was very eventful and exciting, however none of the events included any sleep whatsoever. The next day we made ourselves a makeshift debris hut and scouted around a bit. We gathered grasses together to make a soft be in the hut to ensure a better nights sleep for our second go around. That night things went much better for myself, as for Kirk he ended up moving out of the hut, deciding to sleep elsewhere away from my snoring.

The trip as a whole was quite the adventure. I am glad to have been up there and can look up from the valley below and now know exactly what is up there and have a much different perspective of the mountain range they call The Wellsvilles.

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