First Winter Summit: Camel’s Hump

 

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The wind was whipping as soon as we were above the tree line.

This January I hiked to the summit of Camel’s Hump in the snow with my fiancee Tori. We’d hiked the mountain together before, but it was a first winter summit for both of us.

We dressed warm, in 3+ layers each on top. Long underwear and snow pants with wool socks on the bottom, and both wore our new boots.

We began our ascent at about 11:10 a.m. on well-packed trail in snowshoes. We decided after maybe half a mile to take off the snowshoes because they were heavy and the snow was packed enough from other hikers and skiers. Tori immediately switched to Snow Trax. I started on boots alone but was sliding a lot and soon put on Yak Trax. The Yak Trax held well for the entire trip. They shifted slightly and had to be adjusted twice.

The Snow Trax did not do so well. On the ascent, they repeatedly slid over Tori’s toes so that the traction springs were on top of her foot. They had to be reset at least a dozen times. There were similar problems on the descent, but not so bad.

We met a nice woman on the ascent, who was dragging an empty sled. She clearly hiked Camel’s Hump a lot, and knew the route well. It was reassuring to hear her say we were nearing the top, as the slope was getting quite a bit steeper. We got to the hut clearing, about a quarter mile below the summit – and still below tree line – at 1:05 p.m. There were about a half-dozen other people in the clearing – a pair of backcountry skiers with large backpacks, a group of snowshoers and some hikers. We opted to press on to the summit right away. I worried that if we stopped for a break, we’d lose our motivation to make it all the way up.

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Tori enjoys a rare moment of traction during the final stretch to the summit.

The hike to the summit was tough because it was far steeper than anything before and the deep, packed snow didn’t allow our Yak Trax or Snow Trax to get much grip. Tori’s continued to slip. Had we put on our snowshoes at the clearing until we broke through the treeline, I think our summit push would have been much smoother. Overall, though, neither of us slid backward substantially or got hurt. Trekking poles would have been a huge assist, but we made it without them.

As soon as we broke through the treeline near the summit, the wind blasted us so hard that I nearly fell over backwards. We stopped right away to put on our shells – we’d been down to base and middle layers because of the exertion of the climb. We also donned some ski goggles that really helped cut down on wind exposure at the summit.

The summit was beautiful – mostly rock with ice formations on it, and snow in the cracks. We got there at 1:25 and the wind again almost blew me backwards, which could have been a painful fall on the rocks. I stayed low to the ground after that. Tori took some pictures and we took a selfie – my phone died in the cold – and we headed down after five or ten minutes at the top.

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A cold-fingered summit selfie on Camel’s Hump.

We were back at the clearing quickly after that, and we ran into the woman who’d been dragging a sled up the mountain. She was hanging out in the clearing and struck up conversation again. She told us that she started hiking after a Lupus diagnosis to stay healthy, and she plays Ingress so she was up there key farming. We talked about how Tori’s dad plays, and laughed at them being on opposite teams. As we chatted, we remembered a Chai Tea we’d packed in my Yeti container. It was still hot, so we drank it quickly.

 

We brought the camping stove, and initially planned to heat up some chili at the clearing but we had both just eaten Clif bars and felt fine to descend right away. It was a bummer to have carried the pot, stove, chili and some chowder up the mountain only to bring it back down without enjoying it, but I was thrilled to have summited and didn’t mind continuing down.

We slid down much of the steep stuff in the early part of the descent on our butts (I later learned that the fancy term for this is glissade). It was a ton of fun, and surprisingly not painful.

My knee started to hurt toward the end of the descent, probably from the heavy pack and lack of base strength.

Great hike, now we’re both exhausted but happy to have done it.

Overview
Date: January 20, 2018
Objective: Camel’s Hump Summit – 4,083 ft.
Route: Burrows Trail, 2,851 foot elevation gain, 4.8 miles round trip
Partner: Tori

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