Cloud Peak 2007
- Summit elevation: 13,167 ft / 4,013 m
- Trailhead elevation: 9,100ft
- Elevation gain: 4,067ft
- 3 day/1 night trip
- Climbed with my long time backpacking buddy Joel
- Camped at Misty Moon Lake, one of my favorite sites
- Summitted my first 13er
- Hiked over 20 miles (including summitting) in one day
- About blew out my knees (maybe not a highlight!
My view from 13,167 feet on August 17, 2007:
Going into this trip, I had never summitted a significant peak. Since I seem not to get the idea that ‘this may be too hard’, I agreed right away when my friend Joel decided that we should climb Cloud Peak, the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains. Indeed, at 13,167 feet, it was going to be a substantial hike.
Due to scheduling constraints on my end, we had to leave Sioux Falls on early Friday, instead of Thursday as we usually do. That meant we would have to do the entire hike in about 30 hours. But, as usual, ‘it sounded like a good idea at the time’.
We were on the road by 6am, and arrived at the trailhead in mid afternoon. We got right on the trail, and began our 7 mile hike in to Misty Moon lake. It was a beautiful afternoon for a walk, and we both thoroughly enjoyed the walk in. I managed to end up with a bloody nose, which I stopped by jamming random weeds up my nose. Probably not the best idea, but it worked well to halt the bleeding. We had plenty of time to set up camp, eat supper, and enjoy a beautiful sunset over Misty Moon lake. I slept well the first night, other than a few of the usual short wake up calls from wild animals during the night.
We awoke at the crack of dawn the next morning to get an early start on the day’s big adventure. We had about 20 miles to cover, making an early start essential. We were on the trail by 7am, and began trekking down into a valley below Misty Moon, then up a steep waterfall.
Once we came over the waterfall, Cloud Peak began. It wasn’t a steep climb at all, but it was long. Really long. About an hour into the incline the trail ended and boulders began. Lots of them, and many of them the size of buses. It wasn’t bad at first, but it got tiring jumping between boulders.
The incline got much steeper as we got close to the peak. I remember sucking air continuously as we neared the peak. It was a great cardio workout, but the peak was very near. As I summitted I thought to myself “that really wasn’t bad for a 13 thousand foot mountain, I could do something bigger”. I think at that moment mountaineering got into my blood.
Cloud Peak summit area is beautiful, and flat. I found a flat spot, cracked open some energy bars, and sat and enjoyed the view. What a view it was! The entire area is ragged rock and small, ice fed lakes. The view to the north is an amazing 1,500 sheer drop into a glacier lake. I’ve never even since seen such an amazing view from the top of anything.
After spending a half hour on the peak, Joel and I concluded that our day was wearing on quickly, and we needed to get down. So down we went, and fast. My knees began to pound. Boulder hopping is MUCH more difficult going down than up. With each boulder the pain grew worse. By the time I exited the rock fields my knees were throbbing.
When we arrived back at camp at Misty Moon, my knees needed a break. We packed up, rested, and then had to keep moving. It was mid afternoon and we still had 7 miles left to walk out to our car.
I don’t remember much about our trip back to the car, other than experiencing pain. When you’re out in the wilderness, there’s no way to get out other than to walk. So I grit my teeth, tried not to complain, and tried to keep up with Joel, who was really booking it. It was good he was, it got us out faster, and kept me from taking too many breaks.
The sun set, and just as the forrest began to darken, I saw the trailhead and our car. What a welcome sight!
Overall, the trip was amazing. My only regret was that it was so short. 30 hours just isn’t enough to really take in the beauty of the Bighorns and Cloud Peak. I’m sure I will come back, and I’ll jump at the chance!