Wow, another year gone by in what felt like a flash. I feel like I was cheering happy New Year just yesterday, yet here it is only a few days away until we ring it in again. 2016 was a year full of highs and lows. I learned a lot and pushed my personal boundaries in new ways. There were also some devastating losses and testing moments. As the year comes to a close and I look forward the next one to come, I like to look back and remember some of my favorite trips. These trips stand out for different reasons, including the company, the destination, the challenges or the simply the landscape. Below are my ten favorite trips of 2016, with a mini back story for each. What was your favorite trip this year?
This mountain had been on my list for a while, but I found it intimidating and though it would be a few years until I climbed it. Well the stars aligned and I found myself headed up for an early season climb. We didn’t see another soul and route was in prime condition. We reached the summit in perfect weather and I gained a lot of confidence in my alpine climbing skills.
This peak had long been at the top of my list, but what made it memorable was that I climbed it with good friends. This mountain has an interesting and unique route that circles the mountain, giving you 360 degree views as you climb. It was great to spend time with close friends while checking off a beautiful and dramatic summit.
We combined this trip with a visit to La Bohn Lakes and spent a glorious 4 days in the mountains, where we saw only a handful of other people and had all of our campsites to ourselves. Tank Lakes is the stuff of calendar photos but difficult enough to reach that the masses stay away. It is in a remote area with dramatic scenery full of craggy peaks and alpine lakes. I’ll definitely be back.
Teton Crest Trail
Of all the awesome backpacking destinations in the country, this one might just have the most bang for the buck. The trail stays almost entirely above tree line and the views get only improve as you approach the iconic Tetons. Although we went early season, the trail was snow free and the weather was ideal. This is a trip is a life list must-do for any backpacker. Apply for permits early!
Capitol Reef National Park
This trip was special because I got to spend it with my brother and sister. For me, it was also the last of the “Big 5” Utah National Parks to visit (the others are Bryce, Zion, Arches and Canyonlands). This park is small but gorgeous and there are plenty of places to explore, not to mention probably the most spectacular night sky you will ever see.
Loowit Trail, Mount St. Helens
This trip was my first time leading a group on my own after becoming a qualified backpack leader with the Mountaineers. The trail is unique because it circumnavigates the volcano, traveling through the blast zone from the 1980 eruption. It gives hikers the unique opportunity to see the mountain from all sides. There were steep gullies to navigate and broad open land full of wildflowers. The trip went well and I got to build on my leadership and organizational skills.
For a long time I had wanted to do a solo overnight trip and by March I was tired of snow and ready to get outside. Ancient Lakes is in the desert and remains snow free most of the time. Not only did I camp by myself, but there was no one else in whole area, which gave it a feeling of remoteness, although relatively close to the trailhead. It was a great experience to go by myself and gave me a real feeling of freedom. If you are thinking of trying a solo trip, this is a good place to start.
Big Chiwaukum & Snowgrass Peaks
One of the nice things about being a peakbagger is that it takes you to places you otherwise may never go. Most people have probably never even heard of these two peaks but they are worth visiting if you like scrambling in remote places. This was an all-women trip with a great group of ladies. We camped at Grace Lakes and scrambled both peaks, spending three nights in the area. The Chiwaukums are worth visiting, even if you are not into bagging peaks. They are spectacular, remote and relatively unknown.
Pretty much every climber in the Pacific Northwest has this peak on their list. It can be seen from miles away and the summit is achievable even for beginner mountaineers. My friends and I went up with a less than stellar forecast on a weekday. Fortunately the predicted thunderstorms never came but the forecast kept the crowds away. We had a route that is usually overcrowded almost entirely to ourselves. The Pearly Gates were the highlight with some steep ice climbing in between ethereal columns of rime ice.
South Early Winters Spire
This peak resides in the outstanding Washington Pass region and the South Arete route is popular for beginner alpine rock climbers. This was not my first time climbing this peak but it was my first time on lead. This was the first year I started to lead in rock climbing and it has been terrifying, challenging and rewarding. I led the whole route on this climb and it gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. My climbing buddies were great and the route was fun and beautiful as always.